Battaglia to miss 3 weeks

7-24-01, 7:50 p.m.

Updated: 7-25-01, 3:50 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Tight end Marco Battaglia undergoes arthroscopic surgery Thursday morning to repair torn cartilage in his right knee and will miss the next three weeks. The injury is a build-up of wear and tear on the knee and the club opted to get the procedure done as soon as possible.

WILLIAMS MAY BE BACK: Fullback Nick Williams, thought to be out for the year, arrived at training camp Tuesday fresh off a sterling knee exam that gives him hope to play by mid-season.

Williams, who tore the anterior cruciate knee ligament May 7 during a

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receiving drill at minicamp, started rehab here with the team Tuesday.

"The exam showed the ligament is tight," said Bengals trainer Paul Sparling. "There's no swelling, he has full range of motion, there's no instability and minimal atrophy. He looks very good for this stage of the game. It's not inconceivable, if needed, he could play by November."

SMITH UPDATE: It looks like the negotiations for first-round pick Justin Smith are at a two-tiered road block.

The Bengals called agent Jim Steiner's proposal "disappointing," and sent a counter offer Tuesday. Steiner said the sides, "have to stop debating and start negotiating," over the concept of a two-tiered singing bonus, and he anticipates waiting for more deals to be done near Smith's fourth spot in the round.

The two-tiered bonus is a device designed to get around salary-cap limitations restricting teams from raising last year's signing bonuses. For instance, Richard Seymour, the player taken two spots behind Smith, got an $8 million signing bonus split into this year and next year.

The Bengals don't want to do it because they want to keep the money in this year's salary-cap count and rookie pool and not push it into the future, where it would take money away from their veterans.

Steiner points to four deals that are already done

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in the first round using the two tiers: Michael Vick at No. 1, Seymour at No. 6, Dan Morgan at No. 11, Jeff Backus at No. 18.

"And Seattle has offered the same structure to Koren Robinson at No. 9," Steiner said. "If (the Bengals) think they can do it without doing that structure, I'd like to see it. But I just don't think it can be done. I think we're going to have to watch and wait (for more deals to be done)."

The Bengals argue Pittsburgh (at No, 19) and Oakland (at No. 28) didn't do it and that they can get to the same money by keeping the count in this year's salary cap and the integrity of the rookie pool. They figure to try and give Smith more than the $8.5 million bonus Peter Warrick got last year in the same No. 4 spot by doing what they've done in the past and combine bonus, an easy-to-hit incentive, and salary. The one objection could be the money is not all in bonus.

"We're just not bonding, but we're going to keep at it," Steiner said.

THIS AND THAT: Neil Rackers hit all but one of his field-goal tries from about 35 yards and Richie Cunningham had a stretch of three straight misses. . .LG Matt O'Dwyer (ankle) remains day-to-day after sitting out his second straight day Tuesday. . .Rookie TE Sean Brewer (concussion) sat out today's practice and is probable Wednesday. . .Rookie free safety Jared Lee (hamstring) is expected to practice for the first time Wednesday. . .Rookie G Jeff Chase (respiratory infection) practiced for the first time Tuesday. . .Rookie WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring) is day-to-day after sitting out Tuesday. . .

Sparling reports no players have needed intravenous fluids the past two 90-plus degree days: "They came in good shape and they're listening when we tell them not to just drink water on the field, but all day." . . .

BLAST FROM PAST: Former Bengals running back Ki-Jana Carter surfaced in Miami Tuesday for a tryout with the Dolphins. He has yet to hook on with a team since Cincinnati cut him last year with two years to go on what was then a record-setting $7.1 million bonus for a NFL rookie.

After the Bengals traded up to get Carter with the first pick in the 1995 NFL Draft, Carter suffered three-

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Dolphins running backs coach

Joel Collier, who is looking merely for a third-down back, said Carter looked better than he thought he would. Carter apparently didn't favor his knees that have had a torn ACL and been dislocated.

"There's a lot still unfulfilled," Carter told the Dolphins' media contingent Tuesday. "I don't have to play if I don't want to, but I've got a lot of stuff pent up. That's why I'm out here. People don't know how much you miss it if they haven't been in it. . . Until I m told I can't do it, I'm going to keep on trying."

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