Saturday, March 13, 1999

Bengals close to signing Ball


Defensive line will have far different look

BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Bengals are on the verge of landing former Pro Bowl nose tackle Jerry Ball just a week after they signed Steelers backup nose tackle Oliver Gibson.

        Jeff Durand, Ball's agent, said late Friday night a deal is “better than 90 percent,” along and could be consummated by the end of the weekend.

        “I'm confident in saying that it looks like we're going to get something done with Cincinnati,” Durand said. “All that's left is for some fine-tuning and I would think if the Bengals come up a little bit that we'll have something by the weekend.”

        The sides have been dickering over the length of the contract, with the 34-year-old Ball seeking three years and the Bengals two. They seem fairly close on money, with something in the $2 million per year range.

        Bengals President Mike Brown has been an admirer of Ball's work against the Bengals while playing for the Lions, Browns and Vikings. Although Ball is heading into his 13th season and playing mainly on first and second downs, Brown knows he would give the Bengals a presence in the middle of a defense that allowed 10 100-yard rushing games last season. Ball led the NFL this past season with tackles for losses while playing for the Vikings.

        When the Bengals signed Gibson, Brown said the Bengals would keep pursuing Ball. Gibson can play both nose tackle and end, and has some experience playing both spots on passing downs.

        Whatever happens, the Cincinnati defensive line is going to have a different look than the Michael Bankston-Kimo von Oelhoffen-Clyde Simmons group that started opening day from right to left.

        If he signs, Ball would no doubt start in between Bankston and John Copeland, returning from a torn Achilles. Gibson also plans to push von Oelhoffen.

       



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- Bengals close to signing Ball

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