Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Rackers released as cuts continue

Ex-Panther Graham gets shot to kick

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Less than three days after he suffered a knee injury in the final preseason game at Indianapolis, kicker Neil Rackers was waived Monday by the Bengals.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis declined an Enquirer request for comment about Rackers' release Monday afternoon, when the club announced the move and the acquisition of former Carolina kicker Shayne Graham six days before the regular season opener against Denver.

Rackers suffered a 3-4 inch tear to the meniscus in his left knee - his plant leg - when exposed to the rush following one of three botched holds by punters Nick Harris and Travis Dorsch, said the Rev. Gregory Lockwood of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Riverside. Lockwood, a Catholic priest, is a long-time friend of Rackers' family and was Neil's first youth football coach in suburban St. Louis.

Rackers attended Mass at Lockwood's church Sunday and told him about the injury. The two men also spoke Monday evening, when Rackers was driving back to his home in the St. Louis area with his wife and infant son.

Rackers did not want to speak directly to the Enquirer, but asked Lockwood to do what he thought was right in terms of media coverage, Lockwood said.

"Neil was their guy all through camp," Lockwood said Monday night.

Rackers, who made 83.3 percent of his field goals in 2002, his third Bengals season, was 3-for-5 in the preseason and perfect on seven extra points.

The Bengals also waived defensive lineman Greg Scott and acquired rookie linebacker Keyon Whiteside on waivers.

Whiteside, who is 6-feet-0, 229 pounds, was the Colts' fifth-round choice in April and played in four preseason games. He had 18 tackles, including six against the Bengals at the RCA Dome.

That's where Bengals medical personnel told Rackers after the game that if his pain lessened over the weekend, he would be able to kick without having surgery, Lockwood said.

Graham played college ball at Virginia Tech and is a third-year NFL player. He went 6-for-8 on field goals in six games with Buffalo in 2001, and he was 13-for-18 last season in 11 games for Carolina.

Graham is reunited in Cincinnati with Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons, who was the Panthers' assistant special teams coach from 1999-2002.

Graham was not among the four place kickers and two punters the Bengals gave tryouts to on Sunday at their Paul Brown Stadium practice fields. One was Dorsch, waived later that afternoon by the Bengals.

Rackers was at the Bengals' facility Sunday to receive treatment on his knee, Lockwood said. Rackers kicked for Bengals coaches Monday morning and made all of his kicks, except a 55-yard field goal, Lockwood said. Lewis told Rackers afterward that he was waived.

Graham lost a battle in Carolina's preseason with veteran John Kasay, who has been Carolina's No. 1 kicker when healthy since the franchise's inaugural season of 1995.

Kasay missed the last 14 games of last season because of a sports hernia.

In the 2003 preseason for Carolina, Graham was 2-for-4 on field goals, connecting from 24 and 42 yards, and missing from 55 and 44 yards.

The Bengals also signed four players to their practice squad Monday: former UC tailback Ray Jackson, wide receiver Kevin Walter, defensive tackle Langston Moore and center-guard Thatcher Szalay. All four were waived Sunday.

Former Bengals safety Lamont Thompson and linebacker Armegis Spearman cleared waivers Monday.

New kicker

Name: Shayne Graham

College: Virginia Tech

NFL experience: Carolina 2002, Buffalo 2001

Career stats: 19-26 on FGs; 28-28 on extra points

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