Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Bengals notebook

Don't hold your breath for Smith

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        GEORGETOWN, Ky. — The Bengals and Jim Steiner, agent for top pick Justin Smith, continue to trade proposals, but no progress has been made toward a contract.

        The Bengals on Tuesday countered Steiner's Monday offer, “but it didn't get us anywhere,” said Katie Blackburn, Bengals executive vice president.

        The problem is the signing bonus. Four of the six first-round picks who've signed, including Lions tackle Jeff Backus, who signed Monday night, received split bonuses.

        Teams are giving two-part bonuses because they expect a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which has been agreed upon but not signed, to be in place next year. The current CBA expires in three years, leaving teams only three years to spread out signing bonuses.

        For example, a $9 million signing bonus for a three-year con tract would count $3 million a year against a team's salary cap.

        “There's several issues involved,” Steiner said Tuesday. “We just have a difference of opinion of how the contract should be structured. Until we get that settled, I don't see much progress. Both sides have good intentions. We just are a little bogged down.”

        The Bengals reportedly have offered Smith a six-year deal worth $17.25 million with another $7.5 million to sign. It also contains incentive and escalator clauses with another $13 million.

        Smith wants $10 million to sign, $1.5 million more than Peter Warrick received a year ago. It would have to be split into two parts.

        SNAPS: Bengals quarterbacks had another day of sharing practice plays. Jon Kitna and Akili Smith had 13 each, and Scott Mitchell had 12.

        INJURY REPORT: Fullback Lorenzo Neal has a broken bone in his right hand but will not miss any practice time.

        “I'm good, I'm fine,” he said as he flexed his finger as proof before the afternoon practice.

        Rookie wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh has a mild hamstring injury. Guard Matt O'Dwyer (left ankle) and rookie tight end Sean Brewer (mild concussion) are day to day. Free agent guard Jeff Chase (upper respiratory) returned to practice. Free agent safety Jared Lee is expected back today.

        HAIRS TO US: Corey Dillon and linebacker Adrian Ross are wearing their hair in large afros. Ross has his colored with orange Bengals strips that give his hair the appearance of the team's helmet.

        UP NEXT: Bengals camp will be open to fans from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, Thursday and Friday. The team has skills sessions at 11 a.m. to noon and practice from 3-5 p.m. The annual intrasquad scrimmage is Saturday at 1 p.m. The complex is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.


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