Geno Atkins to play in Denver despite sickle cell trait

Cincinnati BengalsPro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins has been a game wrecker in the middle. After hitting the 10-sack mark, Atkins became the first player in Bengals franchise history with multiple 10-sack seasons (12.5 sacks in 2012).

Ahead of the Bengals' pivotal trip to Denver to face the Broncos with a playoff bye on the line, there was some question about whether Atkins could play a full slate of snaps.

Atkins, 27, carries the sickle cell trait, a genetic abnormality affecting red blood cells. The condition is worsened at the high altitudes in Denver, sometimes causing dehydration or trouble breathing. It's the same condition that caused then-Steelers safety Ryan Clark to sit out a playoff game in 2011.

Luckily for the Bengals, Atkins won't have to sit. The defensive tackle played a game in Denver in 2011 without incident. It was his second career start. Coach Marvin Lewis said he talked to Atkins about that game this week.

"I asked Geno, you remember much?" Lewis said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He said, 'Yeah, you all left me out there 15 plays in a row.' And that was his second time ever starting. It's something we are conscious of. We will be conscious of him with it on Monday."

The Bengals said they will keep an extra eye on Atkins throughout Monday's contest.

"Basically the way he rotates anyway it's not that big of a deal particularly at that position," Lewis said. "He's aware, we're aware."

The Bengals clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs with a win. With AJ McCarron making his second start under center, the Bengals defense will be tasked with keeping the game low scoring. Making sure Atkins is fresh and on the field for pivotal downs is key to accomplishing that endeavor.

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