When the Cincinnati Bengals lost linebacker Rey Maualuga to a knee injury late last month, they were simply hoping to get by for three or four weeks with a slightly altered, but moderately effective new lineup.

They weren't looking for Maualuga's replacement to be Superman. A Clark Kent, one who could break past an occasional block and record an occasional tackle and maybe force an occasional turnover or two, was acceptable enough.

For the backup himself, though, that wasn't acceptable. Vincent Rey did in fact pull out his superhero's cape in the three games that Maualuga missed and put on a clinic on how a reserve football player can take advantage of an opportunity to shine. Through those three games, he recorded 30 tackles, three sacks and an interception.

Maualuga was not missed.

That's why, when Maualuga comes back into the starting rotation at middle linebacker next week, there is concern about what his playing time and his role might look like. Conventional wisdom says with Rey playing so well, he'll be sharing a lot more of the snaps. If that ends up happening or not, Maualuga said he isn't concerned.

"I know my strengths and what I can do. In that area, I'm not worried," Maualuga said. "I can only control what I can, see where I am and what they have me doing."

Maualuga, who sprained the MCL in his left knee against the New York Jets on Oct. 27, is staying in Cincinnati this week to continue rehabbing his knee and working on his conditioning ahead of next week's game at San Diego. With the Bengals' bye this week, many of his teammates are leaving town in order to rest up and spend time with their families.

Before his injury, Maualuga was one of the Bengals' best run stoppers. Through eight games, he had 51 total tackles, putting him on pace for the second-highest single-season tackle total of his career. He had 122 stops last season.

"Whenever you have something good going you don't want to have a setback, but this is something we sign up for," Maualuga said. "Unfortunately I got dinged. It's a rough sport. Did I wake up that Sunday morning thinking I was going to have an MCL sprain? No. It's a scary position to be in being carted off the field, but nothing too bad happened as far as a season-ending injury. I just have to strengthen my knee, come back and see what my role is."