Bengals offense won’t be at full strength vs. Texans

The Cincinnati Bengals receiving will be at less than full strength Sunday against Houston, with Tee Higgins ruled out because of a hamstring injury and Ja’Marr Chase’s sore back leaving his status in question.

However, Chase said Thursday he was mentally preparing to play this weekend and that has been his expectation since he started feeling “a little better” after his first treatment. He injured his back when he landed on it while trying to catch an underthrown deep pass from Joe Burrow in the third quarter of the Week 9 win over Buffalo.

Chase had an MRI on Tuesday, confirming it was only a bruise.

“I’ve got to be there for my teammates right now,” Chase said. “If I can go, I’m going to go.”

“In my head, I’ve said, I’m playing,” he added. “Until further notice and anything else, we’ll see.”

Higgins injured his hamstring in practice Wednesday and was held out Thursday and Friday. Defensive end Sam Hubbard also has been ruled out because of an ankle injury, but having two of three starting wide receivers banged up as the offense was just finding its rhythm is not ideal.

Chase has been known to be extra cautious with injuries, even encouraging Burrow to take more time to allow his calf to heal before the start of the season. However, with his back being an injury that won’t be made worse by playing, Chase is viewing his situation a little different than his hip last year or Burrow’s calf this year.

His only concern is making sure if he’s on the field, he is capable of playing at a high enough level to still contribute and help the team. Playing football with a back problem isn’t easy, even if it’s just soreness.

“I just want to make sure I can be able to provide,” Chase said. “I want to be out there. I don’t mind being a decoy, but at the same time, we’ve still got to get the ball in my hands and I’ve got to be able to make a play at the end of the day. If I can do that, I’ll be out there playing.”

Chase was limited Thursday and Friday after not practicing Wednesday. He didn’t think he would need a full practice to know if he could play Sunday – the rest was most important for allowing the back to heal.

The third-year receiver said he’s been applying heat and hoping his regular routine of sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber will aid in the healing process as well. Chase has been sleeping in his chamber, which pumps in oxygen, at night for the past year.

“I’m a little claustrophobic, but when I’m tired, I just go in there and fall straight to sleep,” Chase said. “It’s more of an oxygen thing, helps you breath better, helps with concussion protocol, migraines, injuries, a lot of minor things.”

Asked if sleeping in hyperbaric chambers is considered “normal” in the NFL, Chase said he would assume so “if you love your body.” He did some research on it and decided to get one last year. He believes Higgins just got one too.

“It’s just a regular little chamber, you bring your phone in. It just pushes in a lot of oxygen, that’s all,” he said. “It helps you get more rest, more sleep, more recovery, more oxygen pumping in your lungs.”

Perhaps the chamber will help his back heal quicker, but Chase said after his first day of treatment, when he got it adjusted, he had already started feeling better. Thursday was his first time moving on grass, and he said it “felt OK,” and he didn’t have “too much pain.”

Houston also is dealing with several injuries, as their practice reports Wednesday and Thursday were full of individuals who did not participate or were limited. Chase said the fact the Texans’ defense is banged up doesn’t make them any less capable. The Texans (4-4) are on the rise following an 0-2 start as well.

With Higgins out, the Bengals will be leaning on players like Trenton Irwin and rookie Andrei Iosivas to step up. Fellow rookie wide receiver Charlie Jones also was cleared to practice this week and could be an option but hadn’t been activated to the roster yet as of Friday after his third full practice.

“The threshold isn’t at three,” wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. “Just because you’ve got the three top receivers on the field at once, you still need guys that can come in and play at your ability if something happens, and that’s on us because they are watching how we do it. .... The more confident and ready they are, I feel even better about myself.”


Texans at Bengals, 1 p.m., Fox, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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