CINCINNATI — Wearing his bright orange No. 14 jersey, quarterback Andy Dalton carefully threw spirals on a sunny, 40-degree afternoon Thursday, getting back into football after one nasty day of recovering from the flu.
He had a little catching up to do.
Dalton came down with the flu on Wednesday morning, forcing him to miss an important practice for a playoff game in Houston only three days away. He went to a hospital for treatment to help him recover quickly, and was back at Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday morning.
He still looked a little ragged.
"I saw him this morning," cornerback Leon Hall said. "I gave him a hard time about how he looked. He didn't look himself, to say the least."
Dalton said he was able to eat a little before his limited practice on Thursday. The weather was much better than earlier in the week, when there were wind chills in the teens. The Bengals don't have a covered practice field.
"It was a tough day yesterday, but I feel a lot better than I did," he said.
Dalton watched tape of the practice that he missed to get up to speed on the game plan. He took it easy while warming up during the first half-hour of practice that was open to the media.
"I can't try to do too much," Dalton said. "I've watched the film and I know what's going on. Obviously I would have liked to have practiced yesterday, but it didn't happen."
Coach Marvin Lewis declined to say how much the rookie was able to do in practice. He thought Dalton was up to date on the offensive plan.
"He's fine," Lewis said. "He'll go through the video. He's already been through it (from Wednesday). It's not a big deal."
The Bengals are trying to get their first playoff win since the 1990 season, when they beat the Houston Oilers. They've made the playoffs only three times in the last 21 years, losing their opening games in 2005 and 2009.
It'll be Dalton's second time seeing the Texans defense. Houston came to Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 11 and clinched the AFC South title with a 20-19 win behind rookie quarterback T.J. Yates' last-minute drive.
One of the intriguing matchups in that game involved Bengals rookie receiver A.J. Green and Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph, both of whom have been voted to the Pro Bowl. Joseph left the Bengals after last season's 4-12 finish, in part because he felt he had a better chance at making the playoffs with Houston.
Green had five catches for only 59 yards, including a 36-yarder off a pass basically thrown up for grabs.
"I think the first game they had a good battle," Hall said. "I have a lot of experience with J-Jo and know what he can do, and A.J. has come in here and done a lot of great things. He pretty much catches everything. Anytime you can watch two Pro Bowl players go at it, it is fun to watch."
Dalton is glad he's facing a defense that he saw only a month ago instead of playing a team for the first time.
"Anytime you get to play a team twice, you have a feel for what they do and how they play," Dalton said. "So, it's nice going into the first playoff game against a team we've played before."
Notes: DT Geno Atkins (Achilles) and DE Frostee Rucker (shoulder) also were limited in practice on Thursday. ... Lewis declined to comment on a report that Jacksonville is interested in offensive coordinator Jay Gruden as a head coaching candidate. ... Hall tore his left Achilles tendon in mid-November and is doing rehabilitation at Paul Brown Stadium. He's limited to stretching the Achilles and riding a stationary bicycle.
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