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Bengals content at No. 10 as Pats, Bills stalemate

4-9-02, 7:15 p.m.


While Bills General Manager Tom Donahoe stonewalled the club's annual draft luncheon in Buffalo, the Bengals went about Tuesday's errands preparing for next week's NFL Draft with no trade of any kind looming.

"I haven't talked to anyone or heard from anyone about a trade in a week," said Bengals President Mike Brown about talks with other teams 11 days before they pick 10th in the first round. "We have nothing on the table or any offers extended."

That would seem to mean he is leaving all the talking to Donahoe and Patriots director of player personnel Scott Pioli when it comes to the published reports about a trade for New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe. But it looks like they aren't talking all that much, either.

"We're frustrated with how the talks are going," Donahoe said Tuesday night between draft meetings in Buffalo as he responded to reports he is talking to New England. "We can't get anywhere and it's been frustrating for us."

Donahoe wouldn't say what his next move is, but he is an admirer of former Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake since his days with the Steelers and word is Blake could be in a Bills' uniform by this weekend if the talks continue to stalemate.

Then the question would be if the Patriots call Brown because they apparently haven't talked in some time. Brown refuses to answer questions specifically about Bledsoe, but trade possibilities also include interest in the 10th pick.

Apparently there have been no

calls to the Bengals about trading up or down in the first round. Brown has no plans to trade up beyond No. 10, but would listen to offers to drop in the round.

"We're pretty much focused on the draft and the one thing we know is we're going to get a good player where we sit," Brown said.

If Brown played it business as usual in the eye of the rumor mill, so did one of his quarterbacks. A day after being cleared by Dr. Angelo Colosimo to start jogging, Akili Smith didn't run from his belief that he can be the answer if the team gives him some snaps.

"I can't worry about Bledsoe or the talk," said Smith before vanishing into his daily meeting with offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. "I'm just trying to get better by spending as much time as I can with Brat starting from scratch with the playbook and reviewing everything."

Smith is surprised the Bengals are even thinking about drafting another quarterback just three years after they took him out of Oregon with the third pick. He figures the Cincinnati offense has been too tumultuous for a young quarterback to get much of a toehold in the NFL.

"You figure I've been through three different offensive coordinators in my three seasons," Smith said. "That's tough on a young quarterback. And when Bruce (Coslet) was here, the plays basically changed every week."

Smith has used the time to get immersed with Bratkowski and his review class. The sessions started last week with a three-hour marathon on Smith's first day back in town.

"It was great. I've never had more than a 45-minute meeting here," Smith said. "Since I've been back, the minimum Brat and I have met for is two-and-a-half hours. We've started with the protection calls and now we're going to start talking about route concepts and coverages, and what I should be seeing on a certain coverage."

Except for doing stretching exercises with trainer Billy Brooks and some upper-body lifting in the weight room, it's about all Smith can do given the shape of his rehabbing hamstring.

But Colosimo, who surgically repaired Smith's torn hamstring Dec. 26, gave him the go-ahead Monday night to do more things. He ran indoors in the gym on a rainy Tuesday for his first running on land since he bolted out of the pocket in the Meadowlands Dec. 16. He is also allowed now to drop back lightly and throw passes. While trainer Paul Sparling is saying there is an outside chance he'll be cleared to work the first practice of training camp on July 26, Smith has other ideas.

"By June 1," he said.

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