5-5-01, 2:15 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals stunned Charles Fisher and the rest of the cornerbacks when they released him before Saturday's first practice of minicamp.
Fisher, a second-round draft pick in 1999, is now officially in the Ki-Jana Carter file. He never played a full quarter for the Bengals, tearing up his knee in the final seconds of the first quarter during the '99 opener and never dressed for another game.
Fisher passed Saturday morning's physical, but not the club's take on his competition at the position. By cutting Fisher now, the Bengals only pick up about $110,000 under this year salary cap.
"The Bengals were good to me. I can't say they were unfair," Fisher said. "But I think they could have let this ride out a little bit longer. I think I'm ready. I can jump higher and run faster than some of the guys we've got. I really thought I was going to put on a show this minicamp."
Fisher, 25, the 33rd pick in the '99 draft out of West Virginia, suffered one of the
most devastating knee injuries the Bengals have ever seen when he tore three ligaments.
"His ability level would be less than those that are out there," said Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel.
"It was just time to part," Lippincott said. "Personally and professionally, it was hard. He was emotional and I was emotional. We like him. He tried so hard to get back. What he's going to be able to do speed and quickness wise with the condition of his knee, it's time to really consider if this should be his profession."
Fisher said if he can't hook on with another club, he'll go into coaching. But he's not ready to do that yet.
"I disagree with them," Fisher said. "Not only do I feel like I could have competed with the other guys, but I could have earned a spot. I worked so hard to get to this point. I know I can say I did everything I had to do."
Now the corner spotlight is on the Big Five, of which there is no clear-cut starter among Robert Bean, Rodney Heath, Mark Roman, Artrell Hawkins and Tom Carter. Bean and Heath finished the season with injuries and Carter and Hawkins got benched.
The Bengals also waived rookie free-agent fullback Kalani Sitake of BYU after he failed the physical.