Friday, August 06, 1999

BENGALS NOTEBOOK


Carter will return kickoffs

BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        GEORGETOWN, Ky.— After the lone NFL kickoff Ki-Jana Carter returned, he got booed off the Cinergy Field turf even though he did what the coaches told him.

        Two years later, the coaches are telling the Bengals backup running back they'd like him to try returning kicks. Tremain Mack, who set two franchise records for kick returns last season, is expected to start the season on a commissioner's suspension. So special teams coach Al Roberts approached Carter last week about returning kickoffs.

        The 5-foot-10, 222-pound Carter, who still has a burst despite his injury history, has Roberts dreaming big.

        “With his speed and size, he should be brilliant,” Roberts said. “When we get him back there, we're going to play some games with him and let his running backs coach coach him the way he coaches him in the running game. He has to want to do it. He has to go back and take a look at it. He hasn't been exposed to it, but he's a beautiful kid who'll try anything.”

        Carter has missed practice this week with a burst cyst behind his knee and won't play in Saturday's scrimmage. But he has started jogging and is expected back Monday.

        “If they want me to do it because they think it helps the team win, I'd be selfish to say no,” Carter said. “I'm a team player. I just want to make sure everybody up there blocks because you see too many people in this league get blown up too much. ... It remains to be seen. It'd be nice to get a crack at it and do something with it. I want to get on the field.”

        Back in 1997, with the Bengals trying to protect a lead late in a game, they sent the “hands” kick return team on the field anticipating an on-side kick. Carter was back on the goal line and was instructed to slide and run down the clock if the ball went deep.

        The ball went deep, Carter caught it and ran nine yards before siding on the turf. The crowd booed, but coach Bruce Coslet backed Carter in his postgame news conference by praising him for following orders.

        “I returned (11) in college,” said Carter of his Penn State days. “But they never kicked it to me.”

        Coslet, a former special teams coach, sees nothing wrong with a starter or regular being asked to return kicks or punts. So he says it wouldn't be a surprise if No.1 back Corey Dillon or wide receiver Darnay Scott gets an opportunity, but not on a regular basis.

        “It's big, that's why they call it special,” Coslet said. “It establishes field position.

        BLACKMAN RETURNS: Right guard Ken Blackman returned to camp from his home in Florida, where he was tending to his ill wife. Blackman, recovering from an articular knee cartilage graft, failed his physical last week and was put on the active physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

        He's eligible to come off the list at any point during camp and will be re-evaluated Saturday and on a week-to-week basis.Trainer Paul Sparling will start putting Blackman through some on-field drills.

        THIS AND THAT: The NFL officiating crew that will work Saturday's scrimmage worked Thursday night's practice.

        • Coslet celebrated his 53rd birthday Thursday.

        “I didn't get a gift; we've stopped counting in our household,” he said.

       



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