BY GEOFF HOBSON
BALTIMORE _ Akili Smith now has as many touchdown passes as concussions this season and that concerns a Bengals' team that saw its last franchise quarterback battered before he could pan out.
But after taking just six snaps during Sunday's 37-0 loss here to the Ravens, Smith is still resolved to end up like Boomer Esiason instead of David Klingler. After Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett lowered the boom on Smith with a shot to the chin that knocked him out for a few seconds during the second quarter with a mild concussion, Bengals trainer Paul Sparling said he was questionable for next Sunday's game against the Dolphins.
Sparling said Smith is to be re-examined Monday using a neuropsychology exam that is pretty much standard around the NFL. He said it was the mildest form of the three concussion stages.
If Smith is questionable, the Bengals thought Burnett's hit was more than questionable because they claim the play started when tackle Sam Adams went offsides. With Adams tying up right guard Mike Goff, Burnett looped through the middle from his end position and delivered the blow without getting a hand on him.
"I don't know what happened," Smith said. "I just remember getting hit. Being on the ground. Seeing stars. Stomach hurt. Throat hurt. It was a pretty good shot. "
Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson thinks he knows what happened.
"Sam Adams jumped offside," Anderson said. "It was a game with the tackle and end. He jumped offside, so he's already ahead and Mike Goff got held up on it. There was nothing he could do. The guy got a good jump and they didn't call it. A tackle-end game and he got picked and the referee saw it. I'm not complaining about anything, but for our quarterback to get hit like that and nobody touched the guy and the guy jumped offsides and it doesn't give our offensive line a chance to even get a guy on him."
Bengals quarterbacks are getting touched plenty. They've been sacked 16 times in three games, a pace that would result in a club-record 85 sacks. Anderson thought the only one the offensive line allowed Sunday was on the first series of the third quarter. Burnett beat him around the outside to sack backup Scott Mitchell from the blindside, which forced a fumble recovered by tackle Tony Siragusa at the Bengals 47.
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"That one was on me and that's really all I can speak for," Anderson said. "Poor technique on my part."
The Bengals planned to fend off Baltimore's aggressive front seven with quick screens and three-step drops to beat the pass rush. But on the Ravens' first sack of Smith, by unblocked linebacker Peter Boulware, Smith dropped back three steps but didn't pull the trigger in time to take advantage of the hole left by the blitzing Boulware.
But Smith had no shot against Burnett.
"It was a screen, but there were too many (defenders) in the box," Smith said. "It was a three-step drop and I tried to throw to (rookie receiver Ron) Dugans over there at (split end) and the next thing you know, it was an unbelievable hit."