3-3-02, 7:30 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
INDIANAPOLIS _Welcome to Plan B, 2002 style.
With Trent Dilfer in Seattle and Elvis Grbac in purgatory, the Bengals took a long look at the NFL Draft's top quarterbacks during Sunday's drills here at the RCA Dome.
The Bengals and Grbac haven't shut the door on each other and agent Jim Steiner says Cincinnati is his first choice But with Steiner advising his client to step back and take a breather after a hectic weekend during which he lost his job in Baltimore, Cincinnati officials are examining one of their many off- season quarterback scenarios.
They are also moving forward at other positions and have scheduled a visit for a week from Monday with Bears cornerback Walt Harris. The Jets picked up a potential Bengals' addition when they lured safety Sam Garnes crosstown from the Giants Sunday.
If they can't secure a free-agent quarterback who isn't an upgrade over Jon Kitna, the next step is taking a shot at Tulane's Patrick Ramsey, LSU's Rohan Davey, or Illinois' Kurt Kittner in rounds two, three, or beyond, and ease him in behind Kitna and Akili Smith. Davey didn't work out Sunday because of a rib problem, but Ramsey and Kittner apparently helped themselves with good efforts Sunday.
And, with the Bengals getting a very favorable rehab report on Smith's recovery from hamstring surgery, Bengals President Mike Brown can also see sticking with the status quo as Plan C.
"We could even just go in with Akili and (Scott) Covington behind Jon and that might be better than people think," Brown said. "We got a good medical report on Akili. They expect him to be ready for the start of training camp, which is the first time we've been hearing that."
Still, Sunday's workouts did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the Bengals for this quarterback class: "It's deeper than I thought," said Jim Lippincott, the club's director of pro/college personnel, as he emerged from the dome.
Fresno State's David Carr and Oregon's Joey Harrington won't be available to the Bengals at No. 10, but any shot that Harrington had of sliding on Draft Day ended decisively Sunday when some combine observers felt Harrington went spiral for spiral with Carr in his showdown of sorts against the consensus No. 1 pick. Top prospects rarely work here, never mind top quarterbacks, so it was a bonus for scouts when both threw in the drills.
"We don't expect Carr or Harrington to be available to us," Brown said. "But after the first round, there could be a guy or two at two, three, or maybe later that we like. There are some interesting kids. From what went on today, you'd have to say it's a group of strong arms."
The Bengals have a connection with Ramsey, a smart (3.5 grade point average), good size (6-21/2, 219 pounds) who works out once a week
at Tulane with former NFL quarterback and coach Zeke Bratkowski . Bratkowski, father of Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, has kept his son up to speed on Ramsey.
"He speaks very highly of him," Bob Bratkowski said. "He's extremely intelligent, he's a great learner, and he takes to coaching and he's able to transfer it into action. He's also got the physical tools."
Ramsey comes from the same hometown as former Bengals safety Tommy Casanova and his best friend growing up in Ruston, La., is the son of former Colts quarterback Bert Jones. But Ramsey has made a name for himself in the last two months with his post-season play that has jacked his draft status.
"I feel that way," Ramsey said. "Every team I've talked to here has told me I really helped myself (in the all-star games) and my interviews have helped."
Ramsey also hopes losing a dozen pounds helps speed up what he calls "my pocket movement." Sunday's drills didn't have anything to do with movement, but Lippincott was impressed with the accuracy: "Anywhere he needed to put the ball, he put it there."
Whether all this means Ramsey is going late in the first round, top of the second round, or middle of the second round in the Bengals' range is anyone's guess. Duke Tobin, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel, believes Ramsey and Kittner have the potential to be drafted by the end of the third round.
"They both have the intangibles and they've showed they've got the tangibles," Tobin said.
He didn't want to talk about the 6-21/2, 240-pound Davey because he chose not to work out. Although coaches grumbled about that as they left the building, it shouldn't hurt Davey since the prospects are told when they arrive here that 90 percent of their evaluation is based on game film.
"I think the question going into the season this year was, 'Could I be consistent?'" Davey said. " 'Could I take the reins of the team and lead us?' and we won the SEC and reached all our goals."
The Bengals wonder about Davey's consistency, but he argues his only bad game this past season came against Ole Miss. They were impressed with his big game win over Kittner's Illini in the Sugar Bowl, but NFL coaches are concerned about a roundish body that has been known to put on weight.
But, "I like Davey because I think he's the most accurate guy," said Gil Brandt, the scouting guru of NFL.com. "That, and he wins games."
Davey has been trying to improve his footwork and ridding scouts of the impression that he's a flat-footed thrower, admitting he wasn't a kid who grew up at quarterback camps. He didn't start playing football until he was a sophomore in high school when the coach made him a quarterback after one throw down field.
"I've recently been getting the coaches for it," said Davey of the fundamentals. "No one's footwork is totally perfect. . . .I compensate for that with the balance, the strength, the ability to throw it down field with pressure around me. Not everybody has that."
Davey may have Daunte (Culpepper) Dimensions, but he's not the runner that Culpepper is. Plus, if there's a quarterback he admires in the NFL it's Oakland's Rich Gannon because of "how he attacks a defense."
The 6-2, 220-pound Kittner doesn't excite the scouts with gaudy physical skills. He's got a decent arm and pretty good speed, but his main selling point is his production in college.
"A smart player who knows his role in the offense," said Kittner of his strengths. "I think I'll be ahead of the learning curve with players."
That's because Kittner's college coach, Ron Turner, pretty much ran the same offense he ran when he was coaching the Bears.