Rookie free-agent punter has shot to start
 
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Rookie free-agent punter has shot to start


Former Cornhusker Larson joined by locals Ayers, Johnson as undrafted signees

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Bengals signed 18 rookie free agents Tuesday, and two of them are local players getting a shot - albeit a long one - to play for the hometown team.

But there's one rookie free agent, Nebraska punter Kyle Larson, who has a legitimate shot at winning a starting job.

FREE-AGENT SIGNINGS
The Bengals announced Tuesday that they have signed 18 rookie free agents who were not drafted this past weekend. They are:

• Tyronne Armstrong, G, Pittsburg St. (Kan.)
• Nick Ayers, RB, Georgetown (Ky.) College
• Jamall Broussard, WR, San Jose St.
• Jeremiah Cockheran, WR, Hawaii
• Derrick Crawford, DE, Texas A&M-Commerce
• Mondre Dickerson, DT, Tennessee
• Eric Johnson, DT, Mount St. Joseph
• Ibrahim Khan, G, Simon Fraser (Can.)
• Kyle Larson, P, Nebraska
• Marlus Mays, WR, Northern Iowa
• Michael Powers, C, Penn
• Jonathan Pritchett, TE, Houston
• Scott Rislov, QB, San Jose St.
• Larry Stevens, LB, Michigan
• Alex Wade, FB, Duke
• Wendell Williams, S, Louisiana-Lafayette
• Michael Woolridge, TE, Eastern Kentucky
• Lance Young, WR, Iowa State

Larson went undrafted, though he averaged 45.1 yards a punt in 2003 and was selected to kick in the Senior Bowl. The Bengals staff coached Larson on the North all-star team in January. He will challenge incumbent Kyle Richardson for the punting job.

Richardson, in 11 games, punted 49 times for a 40-yard average and a 33.5-yard net average.

Larson, like the 17 others, signed two-year contracts and will participate in the voluntary minicamp, May 7-9, at Paul Brown Stadium.

The list includes two players with local connections.

Running back Nick Ayers is from Georgetown (Ky.) College, where the Bengals hold training camp. Ayers also attended Glen Este High School in Clermont County.

The other local player is defensive tackle Eric Johnson from the College of Mount St. Joseph. He attended Withrow High School.

The Bengals also have arranged for a number of unsigned players to work with the team during minicamp on a tryout basis, including Cincinnati native Jon Schall, a center from the University of Pittsburgh. He attended Turpin High.

MAKING A BID: Even though the Bengals drafted Michigan running back Chris Perry in the first round, veteran running back Skip Hicks is sending notice with his performance in Europe that he will challenge for playing time.

The Bengals running back, signed in the offseason, was named European Offensive Player of the Week. Hicks had 212 scrimmage yards, the most by any player in NFL Europe this season, in the Frankfurt Galaxy's 21-17 overtime loss to the Amsterdam Admirals on Sunday. Hicks carried 23 times for 74 yards and added seven receptions for 138 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown catch.

[img]
Bill Schoolcraft of Lancaster, Ohio works with PETRO Environmental Technologies from Blue Ash on tearing up the grass at Paul Brown Stadium Tuesday.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
Through four games with the 3-1 Galaxy, Hicks leads the league with six touchdowns and ranks second in both rushing yards (225) and yards from scrimmage (399).

Rudi Johnson is first on the depth chart at tailback. Johnson has said he will participate in minicamp, though he remains unsigned as a restricted free agent.

NUMBERS GAME: Perry will wear No. 26 with the Bengals. Cornerback Tory James, who wore that number last season, wanted the No. 20 left vacant by the departure of safety Mark Roman to the Packers. James wore No. 20 with the Raiders.

Perry's decision to wear No. 26 was made with the help of his maternal grandmother, Pearl S. Bostic. She said because the former Michigan running back was the 26th overall pick in the NFL draft that it would be a good number for him. There was a question whether Perry would inherit the No. 28 formerly worn by Corey Dillon.

Cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, the team's first second-round pick, from Florida, will wear No. 25.

Other numbers for veteran newcomers are: cornerback Deltha O'Neal, 24; guard Bobby Williams, 63; linebacker Nate Webster, 58; and safety Kim Herring, 22.

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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