Bengals declare QB spot open

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals quarterback spot is no longer exclusive property of Akili Smith, the team's franchise quarterback.

As he watched Wednesday's practice, Bengals President Mike Brown said Smith will be involved in a training camp competition next year and it will most likely be with Scott Mitchell if Mitchell continues to play like he did two weeks ago.

"It's clear there is going to be competition here next year at that spot," Brown said. "We're not going to put all our chips on one guy. We'll have more than one here at that position."

Brown didn't mean to be funny, but he admitted the quarterback spot has been, "our Achilles' heel," since 1992, when the club drafted David Klingler, the franchise quarterback before Smith was taken with the third pick in the 1999 draft.

"It's gone on and on," Brown said. "When Jeff Blake was here, at times it was close, but it never quite got to the point where the quarterback was carrying the team, which is what you want."

Mitchell is a free agent after this season, but he has said he would like to stay and Brown sounded like he wants him after Mitchell engineered Cincinnati's most productive passing day of the season in a 16-13 loss in New England two weeks ago.

"If he can go out there and suddenly give us 200 passing plus yards, and the way we're running the ball, we're a competitive football team that quickly," Brown said.

Brown isn't giving up on Smith, but after watching him throw three touchdown passes in 267 attempts this season, Brown said, "we have to find a way to get back to a competitive level."

Mitchell shared the snaps with Smith at Wednesday's practice and said he could play Sunday against Arizona with the sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

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