8-27-01, 9:40 a.m.
Updated: 8-27-01, 1:45 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals released two former draft picks Monday morning, as well as a former All Pro and a running back with a career average of five yards per carry.
But they still have to make moves with 14 players to get down to the final 53-man roster by Sept. 2. . They got down to Tuesday's required 67 by placing Florida A&M free-agent rookie tackle Freddie Moore (knee) on season-ending injured reserve.
The Bengals decided to finalize their kicking situation in sticking with incumbents Neil Rackers kicking and Daniel Pope punting when they released Richie Cunningham and Will Brice, respectively.
Also released were receiver Craig Yeast and quarterback Scott Covington, fourth- and seventh-rounders, respectively, in the 1999 draft, and veteran running back Michael Basnight. The move with Yeast indicates wide receiver Peter Warrick is going to get more than the seven punt returns he had as a rookie.
Also waived were free-agent rookies Ramondo North, a receiver out of North Carolina A&T who was also working at cornerback; Kenny Bryant, a cornerback out of Jackson State, and Kamal Shakir, an outside linebacker from Memphis.
Covington had the most curious training camp of all. As an afterthought in the three-man quarterback derby, Covington barely took any snaps and never played in the pre-season games. When he did play, such as in the intrasquad scrimmage and when Akili Smith went down with shoulder tendinitis midway through camp, he raised enough eyebrows that wondered which three were the top quarterbacks.
Covington wondered in retrospect Monday morning if it had been a waste to bring him to training camp at all.
"Then I could have had an earlier shot at getting with another team," said Covington, who has been looking for time since leading the University of Miami to a bowl win as a senior. "But I think I'll get a call within 24 hours."
Covington, who never complained, didn't again Monday. But he couldn't hide
the disappointment of not getting a snap in a pre-season game.
"It was incredibly frustrating," Covington said. "My snaps were limited, but I think players and outside observers, even coaches, would have a hard time saying I got outperformed. They'll see me again on the field, and I only say that in the spirit it's said. I think I will be on the field."
So does the 5-7, 165-pound Yeast. He left Paul Brown Stadium confident another club would pick him up at least as a punt returner and had plans to call his batterymate from the glory days at the University of Kentucky. Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch should expect a call after Yeast drives back home to Georgetown, Ky.
After a rookie season in which he returned two of 10 punts for touchdowns, Yeast had trouble holding on to the ball last year. His size limited him from scrimmage, where he had 27 catches and no touchdowns in his two seasons.
After playing just four snaps Saturday, Yeast knew the call was coming. The writing had been on the wall all offseason as the club moved to bigger receivers like Danny Farmer, Ron Dugans, Chad Plummer, and Malcolm Johnson.
Yeast was hampered by an ankle sprain his rookie year and the Bengals' quarterback problems last year, but he thought he pretty much got a fair shot.
"They brought in a lot of guys who were 6-2 and 6-3 and I expected it after Saturday," Yeast said. "Maybe I didn't get to show everything I've got, but I enjoyed my time here and hopefully I can get back."
The 6-1, 235-pound Basnight, who averaged five yards per carry backing up Corey Dillon as a rookie in 1999, bulled for 4.3 on his 15 carries this preseason after missing all last year with a broken wrist. But the club''s two most recent fourth-round picks, Curtis Keaton and Rudi Johnson, squeezed him out of a spot with even better yards per carry.
Cunningham, who had an All-Pro rookie season with the Cowboys in 1997, didn't exactly muff his chance, either. His first miss came Saturday night on a short 50-yard field-goal try. But even though Rackers missed a 45-yarder earlier in the game, his youth, big leg and 34-yarder at the gun two weeks ago to beat the Lions carried the day.
In another move Monday, the Bengals transferred injured fullback Nick Williams to the reserve/ physically unable to perform (PUP) list that allows him to return to practice the week of the Bengals' seventh game. Williams, who tore an anterior cruciate knee ligament May 6 in minicamp, can practice for three weeks before the Bengals must activate him, release him, or shelve him for the season on injured reserve.
The move may have ramifications for Clif Groce, the Bengals' starting fullback much of the past two seasons. The Bengals could be satisfied keeping Lorenzo Neal as the only fullback until Williams returns.