10-1-02, 7:45 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Rookie left tackle Levi Jones cuts no break in his first NFL start Sunday.
There's a chance he'll be blocking the blind-side of the Bengals' third starting quarterback in as many weeks if the media speculation is correct and Jon Kitna gets the call Wednesday to play the Colts.
Not only that, but Jones goes against one of the NFL's quicker defensive ends in Chad Bratzke, whose next sack will be the 50th of his career. And not only that, Jones will be straining to hear the snap count in the din of the RCA Dome.
"I'm a rookie," Jones said. "But I can't play like one Sunday."
He's playing because Richmond Webb took the last snap of his Bengals' career Sunday against Tampa Bay when he tore his pectoral muscle in the shoulder region and is to undergo surgery Wednesday to re-attach it.
The career of Webb, 35, a Hall-of-Fame candidate, could also be finished and the clock can start counting down the five-year wait to the Canton ballot.
"They took John Jackson away from me and now Richmond is gone," said Jones of one his veteran mentors who was cut in training camp. "I have to grow up in a hurry."
You think there has been no continuity at quarterback? Since Anthony Munoz retired in 1992, Jones becomes the Bengals' 11th starting left tackle. Webb and Jackson may be gone, but the Hall-of-Famer Munoz had some advice for Jones Tuesday.
"With it being indoors, you've got to prepare for it to be loud," Munoz said. "You have to focus
and hone in even more on what you're doing because of the noise. The big thing with him is to be patient. From what I saw of him in the preseason, he's the kind of kid who wants to do so well and tries so hard that he just goes after it sometimes, and you can't always do that. He just has to be patient and remember what he's been taught."
In keeping with the Canton theme, Munoz had no problem remembering the first opponent of his career in the 1980 opener against Tampa Bay. It just happened to be Hall-of-Famer Lee Roy Selmon.
"I don't remember being embarrassed, but there were some bad times and some good times," Munoz said. "I don't know of any rookie in the NFL, no one anywhere, who hasn't had good times and bad times. You just have to make sure you don't dwell on the bad times. You have to move past them. He'll be fine. He's got good feet. I'm anxious to see how he does. I'll be watching."
The crazy thing about the Webb injury is here is a guy who played all of his 184 games at left tackle and suffered what could be a career-ending injury at right tackle. He had to move when right tackle Willie Anderson compensated for his shoulder injury by pulling his hamstring.
His only appearance on the right side had been in one of his seven Pro Bowls with the Dolphins.
Webb has one year left on his . contract, but he's scheduled to make $4 million next year and that won't happen. There is speculation he wants to play one more year , but Monday he said he hadn't thought about it.
"I'll rehab it and see what happens," Webb said.
Munoz's career ended at age 34, also with a shoulder injury, when he tore his rotator cuff.
"It's a tough injury because tackle is all about grabbing, pushing and punching. It's hands," Munoz said. "And the shoulders absorb everything."
Munoz and Webb also have Jones in common.
"He's ready," Webb said. "He works hard. He's been watching. The only way you can get the experience is you need is to play."