Armour safe(ty) in numbers?

8-28-01, 2:05 p.m.

Updated: 8-28-01, 9:55 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Converted linebacker JoJuan Armour needed a strong effort at strong safety Saturday night to stabilize his roster bid with the Bengals and he used good play along with good fortune to stake his claim.

Armour, the third-year pro from Miami of Ohio who wreaked havoc through middle America as a linebacker, is trying to convince the Bengals to keep 10 defensive backs because he's the 10th.

So far, so good after getting his longest look at safety on this continent.

With safeties dropping like names against the Bills (Darryl Williams and Chris Carter shelved before the game, Tremain Mack hurt during the game and Cory Hall thrown out of the game), Armour found himself playing the entire game.

"He had a solid performance," said defensive coordinator Mark Duffner. "He executed the defense, he

had a sack, he was commendable."

Duffner went out of his way to praise the secondary in Sunday's meeting because it played under such adverse conditions. The Bengals were also down to three healthy cornerbacks.

But it probably meant the most to Armour as he tries to show the coaches his free-lancing, undisciplined days as a hit man linebacker are over and he can play in the scheme. They sent him to NFL Europe this spring and he spent a lot of time on the field during Barcelona's run to the World Bowl.

"I think I played well. I think I showed them I'm able to make decisions, call defenses, and play under pressure," Armour said. "Tremain and I communicated very well together. That was smooth."

Armour expects to play Thursday despite sitting out Tuesday's practice with a hamstring he pulled slightly in the game and tweaked in practice Monday.

THIS AND THAT: Duffner expects DE Corey Moore to get a fairly long look against the Colts after the waiver wire pickup had only one rush opportunity Saturday night. . .

No movement on the Justin Smith front as his holdout hits 41 days Wednesday. At all. The sides are locked up again after agent Jim Steiner sent a proposal the Bengals feel pushes the talks backwards even though Steiner took guaranteed money out of the offer. The Bengals are apparently still concerned about inflated salaries in the later years that they feel can potentially turn it from a six-year deal into a three-year deal. . .

Groundskeeper Doug Bradley has mowed the Paul Brown Stadium grass three times (twice on Sunday) since Saturday night and plans to mow it again Wednesday. The players like the new bluegrass field, but some thought it was a tad long.

WILLIAMS RISES FOR OPENER: Backup safety Darryl Williams, left for injured reserve two weeks ago, expects to return for the regular-season opener after undergoing the "ideal ankle rehab."

In fact, Williams could play in an emergency situation Thursday against the Colts, just 17 days after he partially tore ligaments in his left ankle during an Aug. 13 practice. Williams had been in the mix to regain his starting free safety job from Chris Carter and he's a key player on passing downs.

"I just did what they told me to do," Williams said Tuesday as he pulled on an ankle brace before practice. "Personally, I don't even

really think I need this. This is just a precautionary measure."

Williams has started jogging on land after spending the past few days on an underwater treadmill. The Bengals would prefer he sit still until the Sept. 9 opener, which would be a day shy of four weeks from the injury. That's two weeks earlier than the best-case prediction following the injury.

But the Bengals didn't think they were going to have an emergency at safety Saturday night with Williams in street clothes. Mack hurt his shoulder, Hall got ejected, and Carter had to limp into the game after being scratched with a hamstring problem.

"He's the ideal guy because he did everything we asked and we asked a lot," said trainer Paul Sparling. "Cold whirlpool, electrical stimulation, jogging underwater, elevation, massage. He's been in here constantly."

So it looks like Williams, heading into his 10th season, will play in his 142nd game in the opener. That's out of a possible 145. He missed three games in Seattle with a bad hamstring in 1999.

"I like to think I keep myself in shape," Williams said. "I wanted to put myself in position to play and things worked out."

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