8-13-02, 9:05 p.m.
8-14-02, 6:20 a.m.
Updated: 8-14-02, 2:10 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ A day after extending the contract of middle linebacker Brian Simmons, the Bengals stayed on defense to extend backup strong safety JoJuan Armour through 2004. Armour, 26, a Miami of Ohio product who started 11 of the final 12 games last season, came into training camp with a one-year deal. He started camp working behind starter Cory Hall at strong safety after Hall moved from free safety to make room for second-round pick Lamont Thompson in the starting lineup. **
KITNA SEEKS QUICK CALL:** When it comes to naming an Opening Day quarterback, Jon Kitna hopes it happens this coming Monday. Which would be eight days sooner than when he got the nod last year.
"I'm all for that," Kitna said Tuesday. "I've said it before, the earlier the decision is, the better. It's important for the team to know who the guy is and what he can do."
Gus Frerotte starts Saturday night in Indianapolis, a role in which Kitna took a slight edge over him during last Friday night's pre-season opener. But Frerotte has been impressive enough in practice that some say he has the edge. At the very least, it's a dead heat, the coaches are saying nothing and could decide to name the starter Aug. 26, instead, and Frerotte jokingly asked a reporter what he thought because, "they're not giving us a clue."
Frerotte threw an interception, but he also threw a touchdown pass against the Bills. He says he's looking for a mistake-free outing because, "that's what this offense needs."
Kitna didn't throw a touchdown pass, but he didn't throw any of the interceptions that hounded him last year, either, in crisply converting four straight third-down passes on his touchdown drive. He says his training camp has been "awesome."
"If it is that soon, then it's going to come down to how we play in Indy," Frerotte said after Tuesday's practice. "That means you have to prove yourself in a quarter. Sometimes that's hard to
do, sometimes it's not. It depends how the ball bounces. (The sooner the decision) the sooner you can gel, the sooner you can work exclusively with the first group. But if they make the decision now or later, whatever they want. I feel good about my situation."
So does Kitna, bidding to become the first Bengals quarterback to start back-to-back Opening Days since Jeff Blake started the 1995-97 seasons. He clearly has a better rhythm with his receivers this year and against the Bills he ran the playbook like a textbook.
"It's been awesome so far. Every day has been a blessing," Kitna said. "All I can do is give my best and let them decide."
Kitna thinks the extra eight days a quick decision would bring is going to help the quarterback better prepare for the 2002 long haul.
"I've done better with that this year," Kitna said, "because last year I put so much energy into winning the job I wasn't ready for a 16-game season."
Complicating matters is the injury-riddled receiving corps, although Danny Farmer (hamstring) might be able to surprise them by playing a series or two in Indy. T.J. Houshmandzadeh (ankle) is doubtful, Michael Westbrook (wrist) is out, and Ron Dugans (Achilles) is nicked but probable. Frerotte, bidding to become the Bengals' fifth Opening Day quarterback in as many years, will have the same guys Kitna has in the second quarter.
"You have to play smart and take care of the ball," Frerotte said. "That's what this offense needs. Mistake free and if you make mistake, you have to able to overcome it and come back."
BURRIS RETURNS:** Welcome to the Jeff Burris Reunion Tour, where the Bengals' new cornerback visits his first two stops in the NFL in the first two pre-season games. Friday night, it was Buffalo, the team that drafted him No. 1 in 1994. This Saturday night, it's Indianapolis, the team that sent him the message this offseason under new head coach Tony Dungy that they didn't want him.
"That was the nature of it, but that's the nature of this business," Burris said. "What they think of me doesn't define me. I'm not concerned with that right now."
The Bengals knew Burris was a solid player, but they have been pleasantly surprised with the level of his play and believe he's a better corner than the Colts thought.
"It didn't work out there," said Burris, who had an interception against the Bills. "Sometimes you go to a different situation, especially with this coaching staff we have here, and different situations create different opportunities.'
POSTS AND SLANTS: Backup RB Brandon Bennett is to meet with a foot specialist to look at his Turf toe. He has indicated his big toe only bothers him when he plays on AstroTurf, which is what he played on last Friday night in Buffalo and why he is doubtful for Saturday night in the Colts' dome. With the Bengals probably not wishing to expose Corey Dillon's tender foot to the carpet, that means Rudi Johnson and Curtis Keaton have the whole game to compete in their roster competition. . .
LOLB Steve Foley's MRI on his hip/groin injury showed no major damage, just low-grade stress,
and trainer Paul Sparling thinks a couple of weeks of rest will heal it. . .
The Bengals didn't wear pads Tuesday and WR Danny Farmer (hamstring) participated in everything for the first time, including team work. He's trying to talk his way into the lineup after not being scheduled to play until next week. . .
Neil Rackers appears to have an edge in the kicking competition. This time, rookie Travis Dorsch gets to go first in the rotation Saturday night for field goals and point-after-attempts.
ICKEY AND C.D. Two pretty good Bengal backs ran into each other during a break in Tuesday morning's skills session when Corey Dillon gave Ickey Woods a hug and a weather report.
"Last week, it was frying," Dillon told him.
"I'm with you," Woods said.
Woods, the cult hero who ripped up his knee twice after his 1,066-yard season propelled the Bengals into the Super Bowl 14 years ago and was done at age 26, said he and Dillon have become good friends.
"We'll go out every once in awhile and just sit back and talk about life," Woods said. "Not football, just life."
Woods may be the only guy in town who can go out with Dillon and be just as recognized.
"He's a Cincinnati icon. Ickey's the
man," Dillon said. "I think people see him not only as a great person, but a great athlete and when it's all said and done, that's how I want to be remembered."
Woods made his annual training camp trip Tuesday with his youth group from the Ninth Street Baptist Church in Covington, Ky., with 14 boys ranging in age from 17 to six.
"I work with them during the year and they look forward to this," Woods said. "Mike Brown invites us to eat with the team and then we go back after lunch and they really get a kick out of it."
Woods doesn't have much time on his hands these, all though he did run a camp with former Bengals cornerback Eric Thomas last month. He opened a new flooring business this past January in Sharonville, but he had time to catch the Bengals' 24-17 win Friday night in Buffalo.
'That was really encouraging," Woods said. "I'm looking for these guys to have a big year. I'm really pulling for them. It was nice to see all the quarterbacks go in there and play well. Get 60-70-yard drives and 10 to 15 plays. They haven't done that in awhile."
With Dillon 239 yards from becoming the team's all-time leading rusher, Woods reflected on the differences between him and his old backfield mate, current leader James Brooks.
"James was a little flashy, but he was as tough as nails," Woods said. "Corey is a big guy, a durable guy. I enjoy watching him play. If our quarterbacks can throw the ball deep this year five or six times a game and get those guys off Corey, it's going to open everybody up, including Corey. For the last six years, it's been if you stopped Corey Dillon, you stopped the Bengals."
Woods remembers how much help he had on the way to conquering 1,066: "We had a slew of receivers with Eddie Brown and Tim McGee and a great tight end in Rodney Holman. I was an unknown."