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Bengal Bytes (12/17): Comeback kid

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Vontaze Burfict won't be fined for his hit on Ben Roethlisberger. The 49ers give Torrey Smith the day off. Who are the leading candidates for comeback player of the year?

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Bengals QB McCarron puts in extra work ahead of 1st start
Tuesdays traditionally serve as off days around Paul Brown Stadium. Many players take time away and rest before the practice week kicks up on Wednesday.

A.J. Green: It's Super Bowl Or Bust For The Bengals
A.J. Green may only be 27 years old, but the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver is already on pace for one of the great all-time careers at his position. Green, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft out of Georgia, has earned Pro Bowl honors every year of his career, with this year soon to be his fifth. He has amassed at least 1,000 yards in each of his first five seasons, the only player in league history besides Randy Moss to do so.

Report cites Burfict's agent as saying he won't be fined for hit on Roethlisberger
A day after Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger accused Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict of trying to injure him by diving at his knees and the back of his leg in Sunday's game between the teams, Burfict's agent told ESPN that the linebacker won't be fined by the NFL for it.

AJ McCarron can keep the Bengals afloat because of players around him
At the very least, we know AJ McCarron will be starting Sunday's game at San Francisco. But even with more positive news than originally anticipated about Andy Dalton's broken right thumb, there is a chance the Cincinnati Bengals will be starting their backup quarterback in the last two games of the regular season, too. Which brings about the question: Can McCarron keep the Bengals afloat until Dalton is able to return -- even if that isn't until next season?

Doc's TML: McCarron steps into the spotlight
Next Man Up goes back to work today, at least on the field. AJ McCarron is now Most Important Bengal, and will be for at least this week and next at least. Dalton's thumb will take 3-6 weeks to mend. So, possibly he's back for Week 17 v. Ravens, and almost definitely for Playoff Game 1, if The Men can get the 1st-round bye. For now, it's McCarron. How do you think he'll do? Look at it objectively, not emotionally.

'No moment too big for him'
Everyone from Mobile in AJ McCarron’s hometown and Center in A.J. Starr’s hometown to Tuscaloosa, where Corey McCarron walked-on while his older brother walked on water. "No moment," they keep telling you, "is too big for him."

Behind Enemy Lines

San Francisco 49ers WR Torrey Smith sits out practice to rest back
San Francisco 49ers left guard Alex Boone was diagnosed with a sprained right knee, coach Jim Tomsula said Wednesday. Like inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite and his left high-ankle sprain, Boone is "week-to-week" in terms of his return with only three games remaining in the season. Also, receiver Torrey Smith was given the day off after enduring back spasms Sunday in the 49ers’ 24-10 loss at the Cleveland Browns.

6 Burning Questions Facing the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15
The San Francisco 49ers ordinarily wouldn’t stand a chance against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Niners are one of the worst teams in the NFL, and the Bengals are one of the best. But, the Bengals don’t have their quarterback, Andy Dalton. He’s out for the season with a broken thumb.

Niner Talk: Assessing the Play of Jaquiski Tartt
This week's show answers your questions on the San Francisco 49ers second-round pick, the fallout from last week's loss to the Cleveland Browns and touches on some of the key offseason storylines for the 49ers.

Random Bytes

Joey Bosa and Paxton Lynch atop McShay's first 2016 mock draft
Ohio State's Joey Bosa and Memphis' Paxton Lynch are just the beginning of what's shaping up to be an intriguing 2016 NFL draft class. Here's Todd McShay's first attempt at predicting the picks.

Terence Newman, Vikings defense credit red wine for their success
So much for the Purple People Eaters. This Minnesota Vikings defense is the Purple Pinot Partakers. Yup, the Vikings are crediting their top-10 pass defense to the wonders of a little red wine, Minnesota's entire secondary told The Wall Street Journal's Kevin Clark. Earlier this season, 37-year-old Vikings cornerback Terence Newman told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that red wine is "the key" to his longevity. "Get it in your veins, baby," he said. "Keeps you strong." And apparently his teammates were listening.

Top 10 Comeback Player of the Year candidates
Carson Palmer, Tyler Eifert and Adrian Peterson lead a host of worthy candidates for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year honor. See who else makes the cut.

He Reminds Me of Me: Defensive Backs
This is a project of curiosity. With so many great players past and present, we thought it would be revealing to get some of the all-time greats at various positions to identify one current player apiece who reminds them of how they played in their heydays, to see if they noticed any kindred spirits. This is our defensive back edition, and these are the players that reminded them of themselves...