BEREA — For the most part, Browns cornerback Leigh Bodden has defended Cincinnati’s Chad Johnson as well as anyone in the NFL.
Bodden, however, can’t stop Johnson if he can’t stop his back from hurting. The 26-year-old did not practice Thursday, putting his status in doubt for the teams’ rematch at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel said he hasn’t formulated a plan to play without Bodden, partially because he hopes Bodden will be on the field Sunday at 1 p.m. when the game kicks off.
“I haven’t thought about that yet because I’m anticipating that Bodden will be out there,” the coach said. “We’d have a couple of decisions to make if he can’t go.”
One-time starter Daven Holly and rookie Brandon McDonald are the leading candidates to fill in, but neither has proven he can play at Bodden’s high level against elite wideouts.
Holly has three seasons of NFL experience, largely as a backup, while McDonald has shown glimpses of brilliance over the last two months.
Complicating matters, Bodden plays the inside slot position against three-receiver sets, which is considered the toughest spot in the secondary.
“We could put Daven Holly inside or we have to find out about the additional workload for a young kid like McDonald,” Crennel said. “When you put a young kid inside that hasn’t had a lot of playing time, that’s a lot to expect from him.”
Regardless of if or where Bodden plays, all three defensive backs will be kept busy against Cincinnati’s talented trio of Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry.
The same goes for fellow cornerback Eric Wright and safeties Sean Jones and Brodney Pool, each of whom were victimized during the Browns’ 51-45 win over the Bengals in Week 2.
Johnson had 11 receptions for 209 yards and two touchdowns, while Houshmandzadeh grabbed eight passes for 69 yards and two scores. Deep-ball specialist — and police blotter regular — Henry was serving a league suspension at the time.
“Every week we have different sets of challenges,” Jones said. “We just have to continue to live up to them. We are playing better (than early in the year), but we must continue to improve.”
Linebacker Antwan Peek (ankle) and defensive ends Orpheus Roye (knee), Shaun Smith (back) and Robaire Smith (back) continued to be limited in practice.
Cincinnati native Peek vowed to play in his hometown, joking that, “I’ve got about 40 people coming to the game, so I have to play. You can’t have them come down wearing my jersey in the stands and not be out there.”
l Running back Rudi Johnson (hamstring) and cornerback Deltha O’Neal (illness) did not participate in the Bengals’ downtown workout. Safeties Dexter Jackson (calf) and Madieu Williams (quad) saw limited participation.
Roye not retiring type
Roye has been an injury-report regular for two-plus years with knee problems, but he has no plans on hanging his cleats up anytime soon.
“I’m going to have a good offseason full of rest and rehab, and I’ll be back better than ever next year,” the 6-foot-4, 315-pounder said.
Roye credits the defensive line’s improved depth for his ability to play through the pain.
“Depth helps you go a long way over the course of a season,” he said. “When you get a blow during games, it keeps your intensity up on the field, especially late in the year.”
Roye turns 35 on Jan. 21 and is signed through the 2009 season.
The Browns continue to pick up momentum, both on the field and on television. Their Sunday victory over the Bills drew a season-high 41.8 rating and a 60 share on WOIO-TV 19, according to the NFL.
The only market that drew a higher rating for any game in Week 15 was Buffalo, which popped a 46.4 for the same snowy game. Twelve of the Browns’ 14 regular-season games have been the most watched TV programs of the week in Greater Cleveland — the lone exceptions coming during the Indians’ run to the American League Championship Series.
My Fair Brady
Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe was Brady Quinn’s roommate at Notre Dame and stays in touch with the Browns quarterback. He says the emergence of Derek Anderson has complicated Quinn’s quest for stardom.
“There’s no doubt (Derek) has taken his game to another level,” Ndukwe said. “(Brady) wants to be out there. He’s a competitor and it’s tearing him up. He’s waiting his turn, whether it’s in Cleveland or somewhere else.”
Tuna back in water
Crennel’s former boss with the New York Giants, Bill Parcells, has agreed to take over the football operations of the Miami Dolphins. Parcells retired from coaching at the end of last season and had been working as a television commentator.
“If that’s what he wants to do, then I’m happy for him,” Crennel said. “He’s a football guy and he enjoys football. He loves the competition.”
Contact Brian Dulik at (330) 721-4059 or BRISports@hotmail.com.