CINCINNATI (AP) — The black stool rested upside-down in A.J. Green’s locker — not a site the Bengals wanted to see coming out of their bye week.
Green was getting his injured right foot examined on Monday while his teammates returned from a week off that helped some of them heal, but not one of their most valuable players. Green hurt his right foot during a 37-34 win over Tampa Bay heading into the bye.
Green wore a protective boot last week and was sent for an exam by a specialist. Coach Marvin Lewis said Monday afternoon that the receiver won’t need surgery, but he gave no indication of when he might be able to play again.
The Bengals (5-3) will likely be missing their most indispensable receiver heading into a game Sunday against the Saints (7-1) at Paul Brown Stadium.
“Obviously it puts a lot of pressure on us as individuals because we know what he brings to the table,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “I mean, he’s A.J. Green. A.J. Dream is what we call him — it’s a dream to have him on the team.”
For now, the dream is gone.
Green leads the Bengals with 687 yards receiving and six touchdown catches. When the Bengals need the big catch at the end of a close game, Green is Andy Dalton’s top choice. His touchdown catch with 7 seconds left gave the Bengals a 37-36 win over the Falcons on Sept. 30. During the win over the Buccaneers, Green had catches of 23 and 11 yards that moved the Bengals in range for Randy Bullock’s 44-yard field goal on the final play. Green hurt his foot on the final catch.
Cincinnati’s offense has been depleted by injuries to its tight ends — Tyler Eifert is out for the season with a broken ankle — and injuries to both running backs. Joe Mixon missed two games after knee surgery, and Giovani Bernard has missed the past four games with a knee injury.
Now, they have to get by without Green.
“Hopefully through that time, whether it’s this week or next week or whenever, we’ve got an opportunity to grow and get better with other people,” Lewis said.
Green is always the focus of opposing defenses. Tyler Boyd has benefited from a lot of single coverage this season and leads the team with 49 catches, four more than Green. Now the Saints and other teams can focus more on him and the running backs.
“From a perspective of looking at their defense, it’ll change some of the ways they roll,” Uzomah said. “A lot of teams account for A.J., obviously, so we’ll expect that they’ll have something different lined up for us.”
The Bengals trail the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2-1) for the AFC North lead. They’re in the most favorable stretch of their schedule, playing the second of four home games during a five-game span. They play at Baltimore (4-5) the following week.
The Steelers beat the Ravens 23-16 on Sunday and host Carolina on Thursday night. The Saints knocked off the previously unbeaten Rams 45-35 for their seventh straight victory .
GIO, ROSS BACK
Bernard returned to practice on Monday, a sign he’s getting close to returning. Receiver John Ross also practiced. He missed three of the past four games with a groin injury.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (hip), guard Clint Boling (back), Uzomah (shoulder) and cornerback Darqueze Dennard (shoulder) didn’t participate in practice.
ADDING A RECEIVER
The Bengals put defensive end Carl Lawson on injured reserve with a torn ACL suffered against Tampa Bay. Receiver Auden Tate was promoted from the practice squad. The Bengals also signed long snapper Clark Harris to a two-year extension through 2020.
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