LaFell latest Bengals player dealing with injury

Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis not only said he thinks Brandon LaFell will be ready for the season opener, he stopped short of ruling the wide receiver out for Thursday’s preseason game at Detroit.

“I don’t know if we can play Brandon or not,” Lewis said. “I’ll make a decision before the game.”

LaFell, who did not participate in Tuesday’s walk-through practice, injured his right hand during Wednesday’s joint practice against Minnesota and has been wearing a wrap. He didn’t play in Friday’s preseason opener against Minnesota and only participated in individual drills Monday.

If LaFell ends up needing surgery to repair ligament damage, the recovery time would be around six weeks.

LaFell signed a one-year contract with the Bengals in March and is expected to start opposite A.J. Green.

Regardless of whether LaFell plays, he will continue to have a role with the team Thursday night as the seven-year veteran continues to mentor a receiving corps filled with youth and inexperience.

“Brandon LaFell’s a pro,” wide receivers coach James Urban said. “He knows how to practice, he knows how to prepare, he knows how to keep his body in shape. He knows how to sleep, eat. All the things that it takes to be a pro in this league for as many years as he’s played, he knows how to do it. He’s great in the room. He’s a leader. He’s a guy who’s been to the Super Bowl and won the Super Bowl and knows what it takes.”

A number of the young receivers made solid contributions in last week’s 17-16 loss to Minnesota, most notably undrafted rookie free agent Alex Erickson, who scored both Bengals touchdowns on a 3-yard reception and 80-yard punt return.

Rookie sixth-round pick Cody Core, who shared the team high with three catches against the Vikings, left Monday’s practice early but was back catching passes Tuesday.

Extra eyes: The NFL will use eight referees instead of the usual seven for all 16 preseason games this weekend as part of a continued experiment that began in Week 2 of the preseason in 2015.

The eighth official will be the labeled the middle judge and will line up 20 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. His primary assignment will be focusing on the center and guards with an emphasis on spotting defensive holding penalties.

“We want to see if we can further improve our coverage of the field and take advantage of having another set of eyes out there,” says NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino. “So we’ll use this experiment to gather more information and continue to study it.”

The league has used seven-man crews since adding the side judge in 1978.

Fisher fan club: Bengals tackle Jake Fisher, a Traverse City, Mich., native, said he has "about 100" friends and family members coming to Thursday night's game in Detroit.

“It’s stressing me out,” Fisher joked.

Despite growing up three hours north of Detroit, Fisher said he rooted for the Bengals instead of the Lions because he was a big Chad Johnson fan.

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