Barndt passes muster

7-20-01, 10:30 p.m.

Updated: 7-21-01, 10:45 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _Tom Barndt literally threw his hat back into the ring Friday after nearly throwing Tim Krumrie out of it.

When push came to shove while his Bengals' teammates checked into training camp here at Georgetown College, Barndt muscled his position coach enough that he's cleared for Saturday's first practice.

Barndt, the defensive tackle who played all last season with a shredded left shoulder, reportedly had the upper hand during Krumrie's famous workout the former Pro Bowl nose tackle takes on the road to scout college prospects.

"He's already been cleared by the doctor, but we wanted to make this part of his pre-season evaluation," said Jim Lippincott, director of pro/college

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scouting. "It's the first time I've seen somebody pick Tim up and toss him and Tom threw him to his left, which was the shoulder that's hurt. Now Timmy has lost some weight, but his strength is vastly improved."

Barndt is six months removed from extensive surgery that rebuilt a muscle that was hanging by strands. The Bengals signed the Vikings' Tony Williams to a four-year, $11 million deal over the winter to start in place of Barndt, but Barndt himself is just one season from a five-year, $11 million contract the Bengals gave him because of his solid work in Kansas City.

Barndt had just seven tackles last season in 14 games, but in the three previous seasons for the Chiefs he had 76 tackles, 77 assists and eight sacks.

"I'm not looking to make excuses," Barndt said. "But there's a difference when you're healthy and when you're not. I felt good out there with Tim. I had no pain. I've got all my range of motion. I think it's close to where it was. Maybe I can do 15 pounds more (of weights) with the other one, but I think it's going to turn out OK."

SMITH STILL OUT: After Friday's negotiations didn't budge, first-round draft choice Justin Smith was in Missouri when Bengals president Mike Brown convened camp Friday night with his annual address to the club. But Smith hopes his holdout won't be long enough to hurt him or the team.

"I'm a little surprised I'm not in there, but I really shouldn't comment," said Smith earlier in the day. "All I know is if only one first-rounder is signed, something isn't right. It shouldn't be a big problem (if the holdout is less than a week) because I know most of the defense, if not all of it. It hurts the team chemistry because we're not fully together, but hopefully this isn't going to go on."

With football time here, Smith

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has cut back on his famed weight-room regimen and is picking up his sprints and work with bags. He's leaving the heavy lifting these days to agent Jim Steiner.

Neither side is saying much, but it's clear they are dug in: The Bengals want to do a straight six-year deal that would probably give Smith less of a signing bonus than last year's No. 1 pick at No. 4, but more overall money.

Steiner is probably trying to get more up-front money with some of the creative methods the Falcons used to give Michael Vick guaranteed money despite a six-year contract.

SPECIAL HELP: Head coach Dick LeBeau is preaching competition at every spot, not just quarterback. But with receiver Peter Warrick asking special teams coach Al Roberts to return more punts, both return games are crowded.

Roberts has emphasized the importance by putting running backs coach Jim Anderson in charge of kick returners and safeties coach Ray Horton working with the punt returners.

Roberts sees Warrick, Craig

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Yeast and rookie T.J. Houshmandzadeh, among others, making a run at punt return while Houshmandzadeh and running backs Curtis Keaton and Rudi Johnson get a shot to unseat Tremain Mack.

Yeast and Mack were in the NFL elite two years ago, but fumbles doomed them last season. In an effort to improve play, Roberts wants to try the specialized coaching.

"With Jim Anderson and Ray Horton, I get another set of eyes," Roberts said. "I'm excited about that. The biggest thing is eliminating the turnovers. Don't put the ball on the ground. Catch the ball and finish the play. The coaches will be able to emphasize it by keeping a close eye on it.

"Peter Warrick said he wants to return more punts," Roberts said. "Well let's see it. I don't care he's a first-rounder, Yeast is a fourth-rounder and Housh is a seventh-rounder. Let's see who does it."

THIS AND THAT: The Bengals' brass will be worried that new left tackle Richmond Webb still has 15 pounds to lose to get to 325 pounds. He's lost five since the end of May camp and with three straight days of 90 degrees forecasted, he's confident the pounds will drop. At 34, the seven-time Dolphins' Pro Bowler realizes that's not as easy it used to be.

"It's not like I haven't been trying because I have been," Webb said. "As you get older, your metabolism changes, it slows up, but I should be OK. I like the heat. That's what we had in Miami and I hear it gets pretty humid here." . . .

DL Glen Steele (ankle), DE Kevin Henry (elbow), and FB Nick Williams (knee) were placed on the active/physically unable to perform list, which means they can pass a physical at any point and join practice. Same with free-agent rookie safety Jared Lee (hamstring)and rookie free-agent guard Jeff Chase (upper respiratory infection), who are on the non-football injury list. . .

With his father gravely ill with cancer, defensive captain Takeo Spikes was excused from Friday's meetings. So was FB Nick Williams. Williams is expected to go on the PUP list for the first eight games of the season and possibly season-long injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament.

RECK-ING CREW: Bengals equipment manager Rob Recker and his crew finished their record-setting week Friday as they transferred Paul Brown Stadium to Georgetown.

Recker and assistant Jeff Brickner

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orchestrated the major move Wednesday night, when a jam-packed 54-foot semi landed here with everything from socks to shoulder pads to five-and seven-man sleds.

Recker came up with the idea of putting the boxes of equipment on pallets and using a floor jack to load the truck. Then he had a forklift waiting at Georgetown to take it all off.

"We had about seven guys down here and we got it all off the truck in two hours," Recker said. "The driver said it was the quickest he ever saw a truck unloaded in 30 years of driving."

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