Friday, September 17, 1999

BENGALS NOTEBOOK


Akili faces favorite team

BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bengals rookie quarterback Akili Smith is hitting the books, hoping to look good in front of the hometown team Sunday when the Chargers visit.

        “I was a Chargers fan in the winning seasons and losing seasons,” said Smith, a San Diego native. “Air Coryell, Kellen (Winslow), (Wes) Chandler, (Charlie) Joiner, Gill Byrd.”

        Smith was 6 when his mentor, Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Anderson, steered Cincinnati to a victory over the Chargers in the AFC championship game in sub-freezing weather.

        “Hey, I remember that, Smith said. “It was hard to see on the TV. But I remember I was mad they lost. It's going to be real strange because I grew up watching those games and now I'm watching on the other side. If I get the opportunity to play, I want a good showing.”

        Smith, who vowed to hit the playbook harder Monday after Sunday's limited relief stint, has been staying at Spinney Field this week until about 6:15 or so at night. He's putting in about an hour extra and feels he's got a better grasp.

        “I should have everything down pat,” Smith said. “I'm focusing on the game plan and watching some Charger film. After (Thursday night), I'll just strictly watch the Chargers because I know the game plan. ”

        HALL IN: Rookie safety Cory Hall will be the third corner on Sunday, in just his second NFL game.

        “I can match speed with anybody,” Hall said. “If I can be up in control, then I'm fine. It's matter of getting those jitters out about the off coverages.”

        JACKSON READY: Receiver Willie Jackson had his best game (five catches, 60 yards) since grabbing eight balls for 69 1996 for the Jaguars in Pittsburgh in 1996. But Carl Pickens is going to start this Sunday, and Jackson understands why.

        “This is Carl's team. I realize that. He's making all the money,” Jackson said. “I just have to be ready to make a play ... the more you play, the better you keep playing. I haven't had a lot of opportunity to be an every down player, but I know I can be.”

        THIS AND THAT: Fisher is expected to have reconstructive knee surgery this morning in Birmingham, Ala. ... .long snapper Greg Truitt had reconstructive knee surgery Thursday ... backup lineman Brock Gutierrez (ankle) is probable.

       



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