Gipson shaken up by hit on Finley

Browns safety Tashaun Gipson never intended to do anything but tackle Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.

But it was the devastating hit from Gipson last Sunday at Lambeau Field that bruised Finley's spinal cord, a significant injury that will require a lengthy recovery.

Though he was not physically hurt, Gipson was left shaken by the play.

"I've been playing this game for 17 years now, and I've never been involved in anything like that," Gipson said. "It was a scary feeling, scary sight, just seeing a guy's body limp like that out there. You definitely never want to see something like that happen. To hear the latter effects of it, it's definitely unfortunate.

"All I can do is keep him in my prayers. I know he has family and he has kids. I've got kids. I know I wouldn't want one of my kids to see their dad like that. My prayers are with him."

Gipson said he reached out to Finley in the initial days following the hit, sending him a text message hoping to lift his spirits.

"I can't count on my fingers how many times I've watched that play over and over — just trying to see what really transpired for it to be this serious of an injury," Gipson said. "It was really just two guys going out there being physical. He's a physical guy and I pride myself on trying to be physical. We just clashed and it happened."

FOLLOW THE BIG GUY: Who's the first one on the field when the Bengals get the ball? Speedy A.J. Green? Maybe elusive running back Giovani Bernard? Rookie tight end Tyler Eifert trying to make an impression?

Nope. It's one of the big guys.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth sets the pace when the Bengals head for the huddle. Whitworth and defensive tackle Domata Peko were the team leaders during the NFL lockout before the 2011 season, setting up and directing voluntary workouts. Whitworth leads in other ways now.

"I just always believe in leading the guys out there," the 6-foot-7, 335-pound lineman said. "So I always sprint out and try to be the first one on the field and in the huddle. Just to show a little energy, a little 'get-up.'

"And also for me mentally, it kind of helps me to zone into that drive. I run out there and try to get my intensity, my level and my focus up."

His much faster teammates are glad to let him be the pacesetter.

"No, they don't try to beat me," Whitworth said. "None of them are running with me unless they want to be really tired after a while."

BURLESON'S COMEBACK: Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson broke his left arm in a one-car accident a little more than a month ago, and believes he is close to getting back on the field in a game. After the Lions host Dallas, they don't play again until Nov. 10 at Chicago.

"I think and hope I can get back after the bye," Burleson said. "Originally, we were looking at me being ready around Thanksgiving, but I'm going to be ahead of schedule — I think."

Burleson, who has been running to stay in shape, catches tennis balls and slightly heavier balls to strengthen the muscles between his left wrist and elbow. And, Burleson said he has kicked the habit of multitasking while driving.

Burleson said he crashed into a center median wall on a highway in suburban Detroit because he was distracted by plugging in his cellphone and preventing pizza boxes from sliding off the front passenger seat.

HOOPIN' IT UP: Safety Craig Dahl brought more than a knowledge of St. Louis' system with him when he joined the San Francisco 49ers this season.

He has everybody hoopin' it up on one end of the Niners' locker room, not far from his locker.

Dahl had a mini-basketball hoop hung from the wall, and players from offense, defense and special teams are loving it.

"It's a great addition," fullback Bruce Miller said.

While Miller claims to be the best player in the room, Dahl is quick to make something clear: "That's my court!"

Dahl also had a basketball hope in the Rams' locker room, but he purchased a new one upon his move to the Bay Area on a three-year contract in March.

"We can take a second to take our minds off things," Dahl said.

Running back Frank Gore is staying neutral when it comes to athletic talent aside from football, though he does get competitive when the shooting contests commence.

"I like it, it's fun," Gore said. "I don't know who's the best. It's a good addition."

INTERCEPTION SEAN: Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee had his second interception of the season in a 17-3 win over Philadelphia and leads all linebackers with nine since entering the league in 2010. The speedy Lee also has a knack for taking them back a long way, leading linebackers with 216 return yards in the same span.

He took the pick against the Eagles back 33 yards after getting a 52-yard return for a touchdown — the second of his career — against San Diego. Lee tied a franchise record with 21 tackles against the Chargers, but it was a hollow achievement because the Cowboys gave up 506 yards and the final 20 points after Lee's return put them ahead 21-10 in the second quarter.

Then again, just about any achievement is hollow in Lee's mind.

"Sean Lee has made 16, 17 tackles in a game and he comes off the field like, 'I didn't play very well,'" coach Jason Garrett said. "That's just the way he is. It's never good enough. The best players I've been around, the best teams I've been around have a bunch of guys who are like that."

Lee figured to be a tackling machine in the switch to the 4-3 defense, and has been after a slow start. He has five straight games with double-digit tackles, including a game-high 11 against the Eagles.

He probably remembers more of the plays he didn't make, even after the Cowboys became the first road team since the Chargers in 1984 to hold an opponent averaging at least 27 points a game to a field goal or less.

"I think it's naturally I've always seen the negative plays in a game and the plays that I haven't made, and that's what kind of fuels me hopefully to get better," Lee said. "I think that's since I was young I've always been like."

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