Andy Dalton was hoping his right thumb was just bruised when he injured it in the first quarter Sunday.
But after an X-ray, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback ended up with the hand in a cast and sidelined for the remainder of a 33-20 loss to Pittsburgh. Dalton said the thumb is fractured.
The extent of the injury – which occurred while making a tackle after an interception – is unclear, but Marvin Lewis said in his post-game press conference the team will move forward with backup AJ McCarron, and Dalton “will be out for a bit.”
Dalton said he will see a hand specialist Monday, as his team prepares for its next game at San Francisco without him.
“It’s disappointing, especially the way this season has gone,” said Dalton, who was 3 of 5 passing for 59 yards. “We still have a lot of football to be played and I’ll try to get back as quickly as I can.”
The Bengals had been relatively healthy the first half of the season, but saw four players head back to the locker room with injuries. Tight end Tyler Eifert exited with a concussion, safety George Iloka re-aggravated the groin that sidelined him last week, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict was on and off the field with neck and head injuries.
Dalton wasn’t thinking about the potential of injury when making the tackle on Stephon Tuitt, who picked him off at the Pittsburgh 7-yard line on a second-and-goal play from the 4 on the Bengals’ first drive.
Tuitt cut underneath Giovani Bernard to pick off a shovel pass, but only returned the interception 3 yards before Dalton tackled him.
“He just made a great play,” Dalton said of the interception. “For a guy that big to go down that low is a great play on his part.”
It was Dalton’s first injury since his debut as a rookie in 2011 when he missed half a game against Cleveland with an injured right wrist. Dalton said he’s never had an extended injury to his throwing hand.
AJ McCarron was solid for his first meaningful action, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns, but losing the starting quarterback so close to clinching the division title is a blow to the team. Dalton was enjoying his best season, entering the game with 3,191 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions to go along with a 107.4 passer rating.
“It hurts to see a guy like that go out with the season he’s having,” receiver A.J. Green said. “It hurts us too, because he’s our commander back there.”
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth said, “it’s a big blow,” but remained positive about the team’s future.
“We’ve got a very talented football team,” Whitworth said. “The only thing we can do is put our heads down, and have AJ come in there and play good ball and play great around him.”