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Bengals’ news-making bye had fine, suspension

The Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Chad Ochocinco tried to coax Terrell Owens into playing some one-on-one basketball after practice. Apparently, he wasn’t in the mood.

“He won’t play me,” Ochocinco said, walking away from his reality show co-host.

The Bengals had a lot more things to do than shoot baskets on Monday. They returned from a news-making bye week — Owens got fined, defensive end Antwan Odom got suspended — with little time to waste. They’ve got to fill in the defensive line, get the passing game going and get some confidence back heading into the rough part of their schedule.

The defending AFC North champions are 2-3 heading into a game Sunday at Atlanta (4-2), one they figure they have to win to stay in the division race. They trail Pittsburgh (4-1) and Baltimore (4-2), both of whom they’ll play in December.

If they don’t get themselves straightened out fast, those late-season games won’t mean much for them.

“We just need one win to get that feeling back, and guys start feeling better,” safety Chris Crocker said. “It affects everything.”

The passing game could use some confidence.

Carson Palmer threw two interceptions — one that a defender wrestled away from Owens, the other that went off Ochocinco’s hands — in the closing minutes of a 24-21 loss to Tampa Bay that sent them into their bye week with a lot of angst.

Ochocinco took blame for the loss and said he’ll do more trash talking when the Bengals get back from their bye, trying to inspire himself and the rest of the team. He was low-key on Monday, more interested in talking trash to Owens about their long-running basketball rivalry.

Owens was fined $5,000 last week for tweeting an hour before the Tampa Bay game, a violation of the NFL’s rules on social media.

The passing game could get a boost with receiver Jordan Shipley’s return. He got a concussion when Cleveland’s T.J. Ward hit him in the head on Oct. 3. Ward was fined $15,000. Shipley sat out the loss to Tampa Bay.

Shipley, a rookie who has excelled as a slot receiver, was back in practice on Monday. Coach Marvin Lewis said he’d been cleared to fully practice this week, making it likely he’ll be available at Atlanta.

“I feel great,” Shipley said. “Back to normal.”

The defensive line has an open spot with Odom’s four-game suspension, which begins this week. Odom was the Bengals’ sacks leader last season with eight in only six games before he tore an Achilles’ tendon. He fully recovered, but was limited this season by an injured left wrist.

Odom hurt his right knee late in the loss to Tampa Bay and was expected to miss the next two games anyway. He can work on getting the knee healed during his suspension.

“It comes at a good time,” Lewis said. “He’s injured, so it doesn’t really matter.”

The defensive line has struggled to get to the quarterback. Cincinnati has only six sacks, tied for second-fewest in the league with Buffalo and Minnesota. Tampa Bay has four. The Bengals’ main offseason emphasis on defense was to get more pressure out of its four-man line. It hasn’t worked out.

“We’d like to do a better job with our four-man rushes and our guys up front applying more pressure,” Lewis said. “We’re getting there, but we’re not getting the quarterback down. We’ve got to do a better job of that.”

Defensive end Jonathan Fanene might be back. He’s missed the last four games because of a hamstring injury, but practiced on Monday. He declined to talk about his health, saying he wants to see how the hamstring responds during the week.

“Jonathan is the heart and soul of our D-line,” defensive tackle Tank Johnson said. “He’s going to come to work every day and do his job, and guys feed off of him. He’s a playmaker, and we’ve been missing him out there and we’re excited to have him back.”