Bengals RT Anderson expects to return from foot, knee problems

CINCINNATI -- Right tackle Willie Anderson insists he'll play for the Cincinnati Bengals again, even though a chronic foot problem and a knee injury have wiped out most of his season.

Anderson didn't practice on Wednesday, an indication he probably won't be ready for a game Saturday in San Francisco. The 32-year-old lineman hasn't played since Oct. 21, when he hurt his right knee in a victory over the Jets.

The Bengals (5-8) haven't disclosed any information about the nature or severity of the injury, leading to questions about whether it could threaten his career. Anderson revealed Wednesday that he suffered a bone bruise and a sprained ligament when teammate Reggie Kelly's helmet accidentally hit him in the knee while making a block.

"I'm tired of people saying, 'Willie's done,'" Anderson said. "I had a bone bruise that takes time to heal."

Anderson said it's different from the injury that center Rich Braham had last season. Braham broke a bone below the knee in the second game of the season and didn't play again, finally retiring. The Bengals had described that injury as a bruise, but Braham later said he broke a bone as well.

Anderson, in the first year of a five-year contract extension, said the two cases are different.

"I took a helmet to my knee," he said. "That can happen to anybody. Before then, I was fine. My foot is what it's going to be. It's going to be the same way. I've had three or four doctors just recently tell me I should be fine and should be able to continue playing and just take care of it once I'm done playing football."

The 12th-year veteran expects to be able to play for several more years.

"I'm 32 now," he said. "I see myself playing until I'm 35, 36 years old. There's nothing about 'Willie's done.'" My commitment is still to this team to play three or four more years."

There's no telling whether he will play against this season. He has missed all or most of the past nine games, with Stacy Andrews taking over his spot. Anderson said his knee injuries have healed, but coach Marvin Lewis has been noncommittal.

Asked whether it would be wise for him to skip the last three games since the Bengals are out of contention, Anderson said, "I don't know. That's something to take up with Marvin. I have a job here and I'm an employee. I do what I'm told."

Anderson has been chosen for the past four Pro Bowls and won All-Pro honors the past three seasons. He said it's been difficult to watch most of this one from the sideline.

"I've always prided myself on being able to play through pain and show up every week," Anderson said. "Now you've got young guys on this team who probably don't know a whole lot about my play. That's something that I want to show the young guys, the new guys: Willie's a pretty good football player. And I haven't been able to do that."

Anderson has been giving pep talks and pointers to teammates on the sideline during games, impressing Lewis.

"When you have the presence that Willie Anderson has, it means a lot," Lewis said. "It means a lot to the football team as a whole, the defensive guys and the offensive guys, because they don't want to let Willie down. I still feel that."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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