BY GEOFF HOBSON
Ken Anderson is putting down the towel for Akili Smith like Bill Walsh put down the towel for him 29 years ago and 42 yards away.
"That's how long the ball is in the air," said Anderson of the Bengals' perfect long ball. "But it's really a little over 50 yards. You back up seven yards and to drop it in over the receiver, that's a couple of more yards."
Pretty soon, maybe this week, the laundry cart will be brought out. Forty two yards away. Just like Walsh, the former Bengals offensive coordinator who became the 49ers Hall of Fame head coach, hauled it out for Anderson, the former Bengals quarterback now the club's offensive coordinator.
"Will any of them throw it in? Maybe not," Anderson said of his quarterbacks. "It's tough to hit anything from about 50 yards, never mind (a basket) that's three feet by three feet."
Smith has been superb with his throwing this spring. If there is any improvement needed, it looks to be with the long ball. After throwing the 15- to-25-yard routes so crisply, he seems to be pushing the long ball, almost aiming it instead of unleashing it, and is coming up a tad short at times.
He admits he needs to get some air underneath it, but he has no qualms about his arm strength.
"You've got to adjust to where the DB is," Smith said. "Say a receiver gets a clean release (from the line of scrimmage) and we want to throw the ball 42 yards. Now, the receiver has beaten him pretty clean, then the DB is going to make up that position with it in the air for 42 yards. Then the ball looks underthrown to your eye, but to our eye, 42 yards is the accurate throw. The thing is throwing the 42 yards with some air. A little loft on it."
Which is what they're working on at Spinney Field these days like Walsh worked on it with Anderson. The principles are dusty but durable. The flatter the ball comes out, Anderson says, the more precise the throw has to be.
"The farther you throw the ball down the field with the less trajectory, the less margin for error," Anderson said. "You want to give the receiver a little bit of room to adjust and to be able to go get it. His arm is plenty strong enough. It's a little bit about technique. We're trying to find out how he does it best."
Jeff Blake's middle name was "Trajectory." He threw the bomb here for the past seven seasons as well as anyone who ever played in the NFL. Smith wants to remind people this isn't Blakemania Part II.
"It's unfair to compare me because Jeff had such a tremendous deep ball," Smith said. "Nobody threw it like him. So please, don't compare me to what you had here in the past."
But Smith certainly has the zip to get it there. Just remember the 60-yard Hail Mary he threw into the end zone on the final play of last year's Opening Day loss in Tennessee.
"There's two things a quarterback doesn't want to do," said Anderson of the long ball. "You don't want to throw it out of bounds. You want to have a chance to make a play. And you don't want to overthrow it because we have big receivers and we want to try to at least give them a chance to go get it."