Friday, August 09, 2002

Bengals, Simmons near common ground

Bengals notebook

By Mark Curnutte,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Bengals moved closer Thursday to signing middle linebacker Brian Simmons to a contract extension, but they ran out of time.

        Simmons and Bengals executive president Katie Blackburn, who is negotiating for the club with agent Jerrold Colton, both were on a bus headed to the airport for a flight to Buffalo early Thursday afternoon. The Bengals open preseason play tonight against the Bills.

        “I would have liked to have finished it, but we simply didn't have enough time,” Colton said. “The Bengals want to keep Brian in Cincinnati for a long time, and that is much appreciated.”

        He said the two sides “got closer” and termed the two days of face-to-face meetings with Blackburn as “productive.”

        Colton said he expects to talk again by phone with Blackburn when the Bengals return home.

        Simmons, like fellow linebacker Takeo Spikes, is entering the final season of a five-year rookie contract. He and Spikes are the keys to the team's improving defense, and both players have said they would like to spend several more seasons with the Bengals.

        DREW FITS BILLS: Quarterback Drew Bledsoe will play the first quarter of tonight's preseason game against the Bengals.

        The appearance will be Bledsoe's first as a member of the Bills, who acquired him in a draft weekend trade from New England.

        The Bengals asked twice about a possible trade for Bledsoe and were told twice by Bledsoe agent David Dunn that Bledsoe did not want to play for Cincinnati.

        “Bledsoe is going to be a good challenge for us,” Bengals coach Dick LeBeau said. “He is the type of quarterback that you have to defend and be able to defend on a weekly basis.”

        Jon Kitna will start for the Bengals and is expected to play about a quarter. Gus Frerotte will replace Kitna and play the remainder of the first half with the first-team offense, particularly the first-string line.

        Alex Van Pelt backs up Bledsoe.

        Bengals running back Corey Dillon is not expected to play. He did not see action in last year's preseason opener at Chicago.

        T.J. Houshmandzadeh will get the start at one wide receiver spot for the Bengals, opposite Peter Warrick.

        The game also will feature the debuts of the first two offensive tackles taken in the 2002 draft. Mike Williams will start at right tackle for the Bills, and Levi Jones will play behind Richmond Webb at left tackle for the Bengals.

        Both of the teams' second-round draft picks — free safety Lamont Thompson of the Bengals and Bills slot receiver Josh Reed — will start.

        “They're going to be a formidable opponent, and I understand they played very well last week in their opening scrimmage against Cleveland,” LeBeau said. “This will be a good test for us to see where we are right now.”

        The preseason series between the Bengals and Bills is tied 4-4; the regular-season series is tied 9-9. But the Bengals lead 2-0 in postseason meetings.

        BAD-LUCK STREAK: The Bengals have lost their last five preseason openers, all on the road, including a 21-20 loss in 2000 at Buffalo.

        KICKING GAME: LeBeau is trying creative ways to prepare his kickers for live-game pressure.

        After Wednesday night's brisk practice, LeBeau lined up both Neil Rackers and Travis Dorsch for 35-yard field goal attempts. At stake: whether the rest of the team ran post-practice sprints.

        “Code red, Rackers,” defensive tackle Oliver Gibson yelled as Rackers lined up for his kick, which was right down the middle.

        Dorsch also made his kick, and many of the happy Bengals players headed for the rope line to sign autographs for fans.

        LeBeau said Rackers and Dorsch would alternate field goals and extra points tonight.

        STAYING HOME: The following Bengals did not make the trip to Buffalo because of injuries: wide receivers Chris Archie, Michael Westbrook and Danny Farmer; tight end Matt Schobel; cornerback Artrell Hawkins; defensive linemen Eric Ogbogu and Jevon Langford; offensive lineman John Jackson, and linebacker Steve Foley.


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