The Cincinnati Bengals defense was dealt another blow Friday when the team placed starting linebacker Thomas Howard on injured reserve after he tore his ACL during a practice drill Thursday.
“It was just a freak thing that happens,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said of the injury to Howard, a seven-year veteran who started 15 games last year in his first season with the Bengals, leading the team with 99 tackles.
“I feel really bad for him,” Lewis added. “He’s a wonderful, wonderful human being and person, and he understands things happen for a reason. He’ll come out of this well.”
To fill Howard’s spot on the roster, the Bengals signed third-year linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy, whom they waived on cutdown day two weeks ago.
Lewis said the Bengals are lucky Muckelroy was still available on the waiver on the wire.
“Particularly at this short notice with the game in 48 hours,” he said. “No question we were fortunate. He had some workouts (with other teams) set for next week. He and his wife were headed back to Houston (Friday).”
A fourth-round draft pick in 2010, Muckelroy played 14 games as a rookie but missed all of 2011 with a ruptured Achilles he suffered in training camp. The University of Texas product played well this preseason, but the Bengals elected to keep undrafted rookie Vontaze Burfict instead.
While Muckelroy could play on special teams in Sunday’s home opener against Cleveland, either Dan Skuta or Vincent Rey are likely to start in Howard’s spot.
“We’ll be all right. We’ll be fine,” Lewis said. “It is what it is. It didn’t happen (Friday), it didn’t happen Saturday, it happened on Thursday. It caused a little bit of angst that you don’t want to have.”
Skuta, a fourth-year player from Grand Valley State with four career starts, played 18 of the 62 defensive snaps in Monday night’s 44-13 loss at Baltimore. Rey, a second-year undrafted player from Duke, only saw action on special teams against the Ravens.
“(Skuta) has good football aptitude,” Lewis said. “He has great intrinsic values, and he’s been a valuable guy in a lot of different ways. He’s one of your nuts-and-bolts guys.
“Vinny is so cerebral,” Lewis added. “He’s a very knowledgeable player. He’s going to add another really, really verbal, vocal guy into the mix. A lot of guys understand it and know it, but they can’t communicate it. Vinny’s a really good communicator.”
Making matters worse for Howard, who played all 62 snaps Monday night and registered one of the Bengals’ three sacks, is that he in the final year of his contract.
“It’s unfortunate timing,” Lewis said. “But Thomas is young enough. He might just have to take a hiccup for a second and move forward.”