Saturday, May 04, 2002

Bengals notes: Annual quarterback battle begins

Kitna, Frerotte say controversy can harm team

By Mark Curnutte,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Bengals' quarterback situation was the main topic of conversation when players reported for minicamp meetings Friday night at Paul Brown Stadium.

        Coach Dick LeBeau said after the Bengals signed Gus Frerotte to a one-year contract Wednesday that Frerotte and incumbent Jon Kitna will compete in training camp for the starter's job.

        Meanwhile, former first-round draft pick Akili Smith on Friday said, “Don't forget about me.”

        Right tackle Willie Anderson, in his seventh season with the Bengals, isn't surprised.

        “We're starting to expect that every year,” Anderson said of the competition. “It's time for a starter to get it right. It's going to be the key to our success this year. It's kind of sad we have to go through the same thing as last year.”

        Kitna walked into the stadium with wide receivers Peter Warrick, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and said his approach this season would be different than 2001 — when he beat out Smith and Scott Mitchell.

        “My mindset is, "I'm the guy.' And that's the way I have to be,” Kitna said. “Last year, I felt like, during minicamp and training camp, I wasn't the player I should have been because I was too worried about the competition.”

        Frerotte said it's better for a team not to have a quarterback competition.

        “Jon said it's going to be hard for this team because we're going to go through four months of a quarterback competition, and that is hard on a team,” Frerotte said. “I've been through those. It is important for a team to have one guy in there, and after four months, we'll see who that's going to be.”

        Smith is recovering from a torn hamstring that required surgery in December. He won't be on the field this weekend. He said he has been hearing that he will be the third party in the competition once he is cleared to play.

        “Like I always say, I don't care who they bring in here,” Smith said. “When I find peace within myself, I'm not too much worried about who they bring in here.”

        TIGHT SPOT: Tight end Sean Brewer, expected to start this season, won't be on the field this weekend because of an injured hamstring.

        He has what he said is a “little bit of a tear” in a hamstring, an injury suffered during individual workouts at home in California. He had an MRI upon arriving Wednesday in Cincinnati.

        “We're going to take it easy in minicamp,” Brewer said. “There's no sense in blowing it.”

        Brewer is expected to miss three to four weeks but also said he hopes to get on the field later this month during voluntary veteran workouts.

        Rookie tight end Matt Schobel, this year's third-round pick, is still dealing with a hamstring injury he suffered as a college player at Texas Christian. He was expected to practice today but not run the 40-yard dash.

        MAN OF STEEL: For the second consecutive year, LeBeau greeted his players in a costume and with a song to set a theme for the upcoming season.

        On Friday night, he came out dressed as Superman and lip-synching Little Richard's mid-1960s hit “Slippin' and a Slidin.'” LeBeau wanted to hammer home a line in the song: “I been told, baby, you've been bold. I won't be your fool no more.”

        LeBeau told his players that the Bengals are going to be nobody's fool this season.

        Last year, LeBeau was in an Elvis Presley-like jumpsuit and mouthed the words to Spencer Davis' “Gimme Some Lovin.'”

        NO SHOWS: Lamont Thompson, the second-round free safety from Washington State, did not report because his agent, Michael Sullivan, wants a written guarantee from the Bengals that they will negotiate in good faith if the rookie is injured in minicamp.

        The Bengals give such written statements to first-round picks but no others. They say the league's collective bargaining agreement requires them to negotiate in good faith.

        Thompson is listed as the starter at free safety on the minicamp depth chart.

        Other players with excused absences from Friday night's meetings were running back Rudi Johnson (flight problems), guard Victor Leyva (White House invitation), defensive lineman Jevon Langford (personal reasons) and players participating in NFL Europe.


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