With Johnson back, Bengals near full health

CINCINNATI -- Minutes before the Cincinnati Bengals began their final walkthrough Friday morning in preparation of Sunday afternoon's game at Buffalo, defensive end Michael Johnson sprang up from his locker room chair, grabbed his helmet and bobbed his head as he bounced toward the door that led to the Paul Brown Stadium's playing field.

A song by rapper Chief Keef had just started blaring on the locker room's speakers, causing his excitement.

While the music and its thumping beats were the primary source of his enthusiasm at that moment, Johnson still had another reason to smile wider than he had all week: Finally, he had been cleared to practice again.

Michael Johnson Watch, as we termed it here Thursday, officially came to an end Friday. The fifth-year defender who missed last week's game against the New England Patriots because of a concussion, was back on the field. After 12 days of being unable to participate in practice, he was back in a full capacity. On Wednesday, he went through conditioning during an open period of the workout, but he wasn't listed that day as an official practice participant.

"He's progressed well through the week," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.

Asked to describe the Bengals' injury outlook with Johnson possibly back in the mix this weekend, Lewis used his traditional weather-analogy prognosis.

"Mostly sunny," he said, smiling. "The sun is creeping through."

Johnson was listed on Friday's injury report as questionable along with three others. Each of them had fully participated in Friday's workout.

Aside from players who are on the injured reserve list and will be able to practice again starting next week, the Bengals are at their healthiest point this season. If Johnson plays Sunday, it will mean the Bengals will play in their first game with a completely healthy roster.

"There's not many occasions where you have everybody going," Lewis said. "So that's good. We're in a good place, a good spot. We just have to keep going and moving forward."

Until last Friday, offensive guard Mike Pollak had been unable to practice all season because of a knee injury. But he finally returned from it and began going in a full practice capacity earlier this week. Cornerback Leon Hall appears to have healed from his hamstring injury which forced him to miss the last two games. Like Johnson, there is an expectation that he will play this weekend, too.

With Johnson on the field, the Bengals will have the defensive line depth that they had enjoyed the weeks they played the Packers and Browns. Wallace Gilberry, who replaced Johnson in a 1.5-sack effort against the Patriots, has proven to be a quality enough replacement for Johnson. In the event Johnson isn't cleared at the last minute, there still is a belief that Gilberry will perform well in his teammate's place.

Defensive line depth is exactly what the Bengals need this week as they face the conference's top rushing team. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller anchor a ground attack that few teams have had success stopping this season.

Here's the Bengals' full Friday injury report:


LB Michael Boley (hamstring)

CB Brandon Ghee (thigh)

CB Leon Hall (hamstring)

DE Michael Johnson (concussion)


OG Mike Pollak (knee)

OT Andre Smith (shoulder)