Sunday, September 29, 2002

Bengals pass Bucs to Akili

Smith wants to 'get things rolling' vs. Bucs

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Just about everything that could have gone wrong early in Akili Smith's NFL career did.

        Some mistakes - such as the contract holdout that wiped out his 1999 rookie training camp - were his, he says. He started out behind.

        Many errors were not his. Think of how not to develop a young quarterback, and that's exactly what the Bengals did. That was then.

        This is now.

        Smith is not so young any more. He turned 27 in August. What he has learned in his first three-plus NFL seasons will be on display today when he makes his 17th career start against Tampa Bay.

        He has another chance to reclaim the position he lost almost two years ago. Smith has envisioned how he'd like his first game to go for his 0-3 team.

        “Bengals beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” he said. “I just want to get things rolling. My goal is to be at .500 come our bye week (Oct. 20).”

        Smith was promoted from emergency third quarterback this past week by coach Dick LeBeau. Gus Frerotte will be the third QB today while his throwing thumb heals. Jon Kitna is No. 2.

        Bengals coaches have no real plan. They're simply hoping Smith's combination of running and throwing ability can sustain some drives and improve the anemic scoring average of 5.3 points. It's desperation time.

        Smith is not being asked to win the game, which was the case two years ago when Smith was a second-year quarterback with four starts under his belt. Former coach Bruce Coslet and club president Mike Brown said the Bengals would go as far as Smith took them.

        The Bengals were 2-8 - Coslet quit at 0-3 - when LeBeau benched Smith.

        “The coaches that were here, they spoiled him a little bit,” right tackle Willie Anderson said of Smith. “It wasn't his fault. You can't come in and say, "This is your job and this team is going as far as you'll take us.'

        “That's too much for a guy. He should have been groomed better. Donovan McNabb wasn't getting told that. Tim Couch wasn't getting told that. (Daunte) Culpepper definitely wasn't getting told that, and look at the difference in the way those guys went. It's crazy.”

        Smith also started the 2000 season with two rookie wide receivers (Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans) and a weak left tackle (Rod Jones) that left Smith's blind side vulnerable. Coslet and then-offensive coordinator Ken Anderson kept Smith in the pocket, confining him to an offense that didn't make use of his talent and setting him up for failure.

        In the 2000 opener, Coslet had Smith throw 43 times. Corey Dillon ran the ball 12 times. The Bengals lost 24-7 to the Browns. That was then.

        This is now. Smith showed promise in his only 2001 start, Dec. 16, at the Meadowlands against the Jets. Playing in the offense of coordinator Bob Bratkowski, which is similar to what Smith used as a senior at Oregon, Smith threw for 35 yards and ran for another 20 in one quarter.

        “I love this offense,” Smith said. “It's a lot simpler to me.”

        In Coslet's offense, Smith had to check on as many as four receivers on any given play. Now, it's check one, check two and, if they're covered, run.

        Smith tore a hamstring early in the second quarter of the Jets game, an injury that required surgery, and was lost for the season.

        “He has matured,” Bratkowski said of Smith. “He understands, "Hey, this life, it doesn't always go the way you want to.' He's maturing as a man, which is helping him mature as a quarterback.”

        Smith says he has developed as a player.

        “You just have to find a way to relax,” he said. “You just have to know it is just football. If I can do that (today), I'm very confident we'll be able to move the football on these guys.”

        Anderson is looking forward to Smith's start.

        “It'll be a boost for the guys,” Anderson said. “Guys are eager to see what he can do. During the preseason, he did generate some excitement.”


Bengals Stories
- Bengals pass Bucs to Akili
Rehberg's challenge: Deny Sapp
Keys to the Game
Who's Got The Edge?
Bengals-Bucs by the Numbers
Bengal fans petition for help
Searching store aisles for a QB
Johnson cousins engage in family spat
Levi Jones' Rookie Journal
Mark Curnutte's NFL picks

Huggins' coaching status unclear
Send get-wells to Huggins
DAUGHERTY: Huggins needs to take timeout
Huggins' friends, colleagues stunned
Coles knows Huggins' plight
UC 35, Temple 22
UC football team somber despite victory
Ballpark could build up Reds
Sizing up Reds prospects for 2003
Pena guaranteed roster spot
Bowden brags about future pitchers
Reds axe Lefebvre, keep other coaches
Boone finishes iron-man season
Cinergy Field remnants go on sale
Expos 6, Reds 0
Reds Box, Runs
Diamondbacks repeat NL West title
Giants wrap up wild-card
Baseball Postseason Schedule
Miami 48, Akron 31
Ohio State 45, Indiana 17
Florida 41, Kentucky 34
Kalamazoo 27, Mount St. Joseph 13
Wittenberg 31, Thomas More 6
College Football Scores
College Update: From senior stars to freshman hopefuls
Enquirer Power Rankings
Pacers may open Xavier camp to fans
Football scores & game reports
How Enquirer poll teams fared
Ohio Football Scores
Kentucky Football Scores
Indiana Football Scores
Beechwood 24, Simon Kenton 20
CCD 42, Summit Country Day 7
Conner 22, Holmes 18
Edgewood 47, Fenwick 13
Newport 21, Garrard County 18
Purcell Marian 21, Badin 7
Scott 38, Campbell County 13
Woodward 20, Dayton Meadowdale 16
Public league's progress slow but steady
Ryle trying to match Elder with nation's No. 1
Holmes shows no Mercy to Oak Hills
Prep Spotlight on John Dixon
Boys cross country results
Boys golf results
Boys soccer results
Girls cross country results
Girls soccer results
Girls tennis results
Girls volleyball results

Return to Bengals front page...