BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals released popular veteran Doug Pelfrey this morning, replacing their kicker since 1993 with sixth-round pick Neil Rackers.
Pelfrey, a homegrown product from Scott High School in Northern Kentucky, was known as much for his work in the community as for his six game-winning kicks from 1994-96.
But changes in snappers and holders led to the worst season of his career last year, when Pelfrey missed a third of his 27 field-goal attempts.
Pelfrey and everyone else in town knew what was coming this morning when he met with special teams coach Al Roberts, coach Bruce Coslet and director of pro/college scouting Jim Lippincott.
"I wanted to compete more," said Pelfrey of the club's unwillingness to let him kick off. "But we don't write the stories, we just work here. And I don't work here anymore. . .I knew (Bengals President) Mike Brown doesn't draft guys, especially kickers, just to get rid of them. I knew it wasn't necessarily my job to lose. I knew a lot of things and it played out exactly the way I thought it would."
But Pelfrey made sure he left with the same grace and class he exhibits in his Kicks for Kids Foundation that generates about $250,000 per year. Pelfrey agreed to a news conference today at Paul Brown Stadim, which may be the first time in club history that a released player held such an event.
It was there that Pelfrey thanked the Brown family because, "they built the house I'm living in now because they payed my salary."
Brown said, "It was a hard thing to do. Not only was he a good kicker for us, he was as good a guy as you could possibly have around. His work in the community has been fantastic. We know he'll land on his feet somewhere."
Lippincott said the decision came down to three factors: "For the most part, Rackers was quicker, longer and stronger." It also hurt Pelfrey that the Bengals felt he couldn't kick off and Rackers can.
Among the teams interested in Pelfrey could be the Super Bowl-favorite Washington Redskins with Brett Conway fighting injury. Plus, Conway missed 10 of 32 field-goal attempts last season. Dallas is also a possibility. Carolina seems satisfied with Richie Cunningham, but Cleveland also could be interested.
"We're confident teams are going to be calling today," said Mark Rodgers, Pelfrey's agent. "He's a proven performer. Doug wasn't shocked. He's been prepared for this day since the draft. Now he's got a chance to get to a team who could be an immediate contender."
Pelfrey, who turns 30 next month, wants to kick at least six more years. He's concerned about getting signed so late in the preseason, but he also believes he'll get a call even though it could be "six weeks from now or at six o'clock tonight."