Andy Dalton has cast removed, status uncertain for playoff game

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had the cast on his right hand removed after a visit to a local hand specialist on Monday.

But the starting quarterback's status for Saturday's wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is still unknown, coach Marvin Lewis said during a news conference Tuesday.

"We're preparing for AJ McCarron to be the starting quarterback," Lewis said, reiterating a point he made Monday. "Whether Andy's the backup or where Andy is [later in the week], we'll know down the line.

"Andy continues to progress well. He's doing what he's supposed to do. ... He'll be ready when he's ready."

Dalton, who broke the thumb on his throwing hand during a Dec. 13 game against the Steelers, told reporters just before Lewis' news conference that he's simply trying to listen to team doctors at this point.

"I'm doing treatments and rehab and trying to get back as soon as I can," Dalton said. "I'm going to let this process take care of itself and keep working and try to get back as soon as I can." In terms of his rehab, Dalton said he will be doing exercises designed to restore the mobility in his thumb. Although Dalton contends he doesn't think there is any muscle atrophy around the thumb, he still hasn't been able to move it in nearly four weeks.

Dalton said last week that he had begun going through conditioning exercises that allowed him to work on his throwing mechanics -- namely the movement of his hips and shoulders -- without a football in his hand. He doesn't want to look rusty when he does get a chance to play again.

The injury occurred when Dalton made a tackle during the last meeting between the Bengals and Steelers, and it forced McCarron into his first extensive NFL action. The second-year quarterback said Tuesday that his focus hasn't changed with the promising news about Dalton.

"Andy's deal ... I can't worry about things that I can't control," McCarron said. "All I know is focus on what I need to focus on. Andy's like a big brother to me. I wish him nothing but the best, a fast recovery. But at the same time, my mindset is that this is my offense right now and I've got to take it and go win."

Cincinnati went 2-1 in the three games started by McCarron, who threw two touchdown passes in Sunday's 24-16 victory against the Baltimore Ravens. McCarron has passed for 832 yards and six touchdowns while filling in for Dalton. He has not thrown an interception in any of his three starts.