BY GEOFF HOBSON
Not many things came as advertised. But count Bengals rookie cornerback Robert Bean right there with supermodels and Broadway plays after his outing in today's scrimmage.
Wasn't Bean supposed to block kicks after blocking 18 during the last three years at Georgia Military College and later at Mississippi State?
So there was Bean blocking Doug Pelfrey's point-after-attempt as he roared around the left side.
Wasn't Bean supposed to be a guy always around the ball after making plays like going 73 yards with an interception for a touchdown in the 1998 SEC championship game and blocking a field goal in last season's Peach Bowl?
So after already knocking down one pass today, there was Bean intercepting quarterback Scott Covington over the middle on the scrimmage's final play to secure the defense's 24-13 victory over the offense.
With rookie cornerback Mark Roman locked in what is turning into a contract holdout more about principle than principal, Bean knows he's got a shot to push veteran Roosevelt Blackmon and rookie free agent Brian Gray for the job of fourth cornerback behind No. 3 Rodney Heath.
You've got to feel that a guy who spent all last week watching the snappers and kickers so he could get his timing down to block a kick already has a place on special teams.
"We're trying to distract them. Trying to distract them with a tipped ball," Bean said. "I got a good jump. (The offensive lineman) put his hands on me, but I dipped my shoulder and got around him. He's not watching the ball. He's watching me. I'm watching the ball, so if I can read the snap, I've got the jump on him. It's all about knowing their timing."
When coach Bruce Coslet called the team together after Bean's interception ended the scrimmage, he told them they had a lot of guys who could make plays. After the Bengals intercepted just 12 balls all last season, he had to have Bean in mind.
"I just read my man and did what the coaches tell me to do and that's to play him tight and stay on his hip," Bean said. "Stay on his hip, stay on his hip, and then as soon as he makes his break, stay with him and try to make a big play, or at least break it up. . .It's satisfying to make an interception, but I'm still going to try and block every field goal and punt I can."
BRAHAM MULLS SURGERY: **The Bengals may be without their starting center for the next month or so. Rich Braham, who is heading into the final year of his contract, went home today to discuss the possibility of arthroscopic surgery with his family and agent. Braham had originally opted to play with the aggravation of a swollen bursa sack in his knee that would be need to be drained once a week. But now the thinking is if he gets the procedure now, Braham would have six weeks to get ready for the Sept. 10 opener. After a couple of series today, Braham sat and Brock Gutierrez centered the first offensive line.
* NO SEPARATION:* If the Bengals are hoping one of their running backs is going to bolt out from the Gang of Four and make the decision easy for them, it didn't happen today. Brandon Bennett was the most effective as his reconstructed knee looked sturdy with 13 yards on just two carries. Sedrick Shaw looked elusive ripping off 12 yards on a screen pass. But nobody lit it up from scrimmage. Rookie Curtis Keaton still looks like he's trying to feel his way inside as he finds room to use his speed. He had five yards on five carries.
"I want to take a look at the film to see how they attacked the holes and why they ran where they did," said running backs coach Jim Anderson. "I want to see how they did in traffic. What they saw in regards to the hole. They played with recklessness, but in the framework of what we're trying to do."
BALL HAWK-INS:You don't have to tell right cornerback Artrell Hawkins he's only got three interceptions in his two NFL seasons and none since his rookie year despite 13 starts last season. So it meant something when he intercepted an Akili Smith pass after left cornerback Tom Carter deflected it.
"Right out of the tip drill. Hot off the press. A pick in the scrimmage. I couldn't have written a better script," Hawkins said. Told if it had been last year, he probably would have started running before he caught it and dropped it, Hawkins said, "Probably. Now I'm trying to be patient. Watch everything. That's what I'm focusing on this year. Getting the ball. That's how people at my position are judged."
* BANGED UP DEFENSE:* Either this is good for the defense or bad for the offense. The defense won big even though many of their stars were on the sidelines, including captain Takeo Spikes (strained shoulder), and defensive linemen Oliver Gibson (knee sprain), Michael Bankston (swollen thigh) and John Copeland (ankle), although Spikes, Gibson and Copeland most likely would have played during the regular season.
Adrian Ross filled in nicely for Spikes at weak outside linebacker with a sack, and Reinard Wilson played well in place of Copeland at right end. Wilson, the club's No. 1 pick in '97 who is playing his college position of defensive end for the first time in the NFL, is finally getting people excited. He had three tackles and a sack as he continues a very active camp.
"Reinard going back to defensive end is going to help him and this team," Coslet said.
* THIS AND THAT:*Pro Bowl kick returner Tremain Mack returned for today's scrimmage, but he'll be headed back to Tyler, Texas this Tuesday to finish up a class stemming from alcohol-related charges a few years ago. That will be the fourth day of camp he misses, but the Bengals have informed agent David Levine they won't fine him the maximum $20,000.
"He'll be fined, but that's between Bruce (Coslet) and Tremain," Levine said. Levine said there were paperwork problems, but the Bengals are going to stand with a fine because they feel Mack could have cleared up the matter during the offseason. . .
Coslet threw a penalty flag himself at the scrimmage when quarterback Scott Mitchell threw the ball into the ground when a screen pass blew up. Because of a rule change this year, that's now intentional grounding. Coslet asked official Phil Luckett if he would have called it during a game and when Luckett said he would, Coslet threw a flag and later joked, "Mitchell argued with me and I almost threw him out of the game. . .
Veteran receiver James Hundon, in an uphill fight with Damon Griffin for the fifth and last roster spot, won't go quietly. He stretched out-of-bounds to snare an 11-yard pass from Mitchell.
INJURY UPDATE:SS JoJuan Armour suffered a groin strain and is out two to four weeks. . .Bankston is getting a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test on his thigh tonight. . .Spikes, Gibson and Copeland are expected back to practice Monday. . .WR Darnay Scott (Achilles tendinitis) also missed the scrimmage, but could be back in limited fashion Monday. . .S Lawrence Wright may have a broken rib.