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Bengals release Jackson

8-10-02, 9:15 a.m. Updated:
8-10-02, 9:45 p.m. Updated:
8-11-02, 11:55 a.m.


GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ The Bengals released their most senior player Sunday morning when they let go backup left tackle John Jackson before he ever took a snap in his 15th season.

Jackson, 37, who signed with the Bengals in 2000, was scheduled to practice for the first time this season Sunday after recovering from an angiogram that showed his heart to be normal. The arrival of No. 1 pick Levi Jones, a left tackle from Arizona State, had relegated the popular Jackson to third team. A Cincinnati prep product from Woodward High School who went on to start 13 playoff games and one Super Bowl with the Steelers, Jackson now owns a San Diego salon with wife Joan.

"We thank John for his contribution to our team the last three years," said Jim Lippincott, the club's director of football operations. "He played well and he showed lot of young players how a professional should conduct himself both on and off the field.

"He was a thorn in our side for a lot of years when he played for Pittsburgh and we are proud to have had him for a part of his long career."


SPIKES OUT AT LEAST TWO WEEKS:** Defensive captain Takeo Spikes is out two to four weeks and may miss the rest of the pre-season games with a strain of his right pectoral muscle. But Bengals trainer Paul Sparling said Saturday night he is hopeful he'll be back in time for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener.

"That's what we're shooting for, the first game," Sparling said. "It's likely he'll miss the next two games, and we'll see how it goes from there. He'll be able to practice, but he won't be able to have contact. And he'll obviously be able to keep his legs."

Spikes hurt his shoulder when he sacked Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe on the second series of Friday night's 24-17 victory in Orchard Park, N.Y. Saturday's magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI) revealed he has a mild to moderate strain and has nowhere near the shoulder tear that knocked out backup linebacker Armegis Spearman for the entire season when he injured it in last year's preseason finale.

Spikes has missed just one game in his four seasons and that came last Oct. 14 following the death of his father.

SIMMONS DEAL STILL HANGING: Bengals middle linebacker Brian Simmons watched Drew Bledsoe light up his defense Friday night and then he spent the post-game interview session getting lit up by reporters about a contract extension that is most likely going to be official later this week. On Saturday, both his agent and club officials took a break from the negotiations and don't expect problems wrapping it up.

"I feel pretty good about where we're at right now," said Simmons, who hasn't had time to sit down with agent Jerrold Colton to read the fine print. "I think we're right there."

"Right there," remains to be seen, but when it comes to money in the first year it's probably safe to start in the Joey Porter ($5 million) range and work up.

In typical blue -collar Simmons fashion, he put down his lunch bucket long enough to say the negotiations didn't take him out of his game.

"Truthfully, the only time I think about it is when I get asked about it," Simmons said. "The only thing I can think about is football because. . .if you don't do anything on the field, you don't get much of a contract. That's my only focus."

The focus of the Bengals' No. 1 defense Friday night was Bledsoe and he rocked a proud unit that is looking to jump from ninth in the NFL into the top three. Bledsoe showed why Bengals' fans clamored for the club to trade for him this offseason when he looked like his old mid-1990s self during the three series of his Bills' debut.

He strafed a sluggish secondary for 136 yards in missing just two of his 11 passes, and burned the Bengals

for touchdown passes of 31 yards to wide receiver Eric Moulds and 12 yards to Peerless Price on third-down plays.

"They did a lot of quick stuff," Simmons said. "We weren't able to get a lot of pressure on him. We got (two) sacks, but he pretty much knew where he wanted to go before he got the ball and he got it there quick."

Some press-box observers thought the Bengals' safeties, which included rookie free safety Lamont Thompson, were slow to react.

"It's going to take us a couple of games before we get into it full speed and not thinking as much," Simmons said.

Bledsoe lofted a 12-yard touchdown pass to Price over a three-man zone consisting of cornerbacks Jeff Burris, cornerback Kevin Kaesviharn, and strong safety Cory Hall three minutes into the second quarter.

Kaesviharn, starting in place of injured Artrell Hawkins, had a particularly tough night. On the game's first series, Bledsoe was looking at a third-and-two from the Bengals 31 when he found Moulds matched up one-on-one with Kaesviharn. Bledsoe threw a quick dart when he saw Kaesviharn giving him the cushion and then Kaesviharn let Moulds slide out of his tackle for the 31-yard touchdown. Kaesviharn had no safety help behind him.

"I overestimated the speed of Moulds," Kaesviharn said. "Not that he's slow, but I gave him too much of a cushion and that's something I need to work on. Then I missed the tackle."

The Bengals did get an interception from Burris in his Cincinnati debut as he ranged across the middle inside the 10-yard line to pick off a ball Bledsoe appeared to overthrow.

"It's always hard to prepare for a team in preseason when they have a new offensive coordinator," Burris said. "The mistakes we made can be corrected by next week. Not covering the right guy, not giving him enough room to play deep to middle. Field awareness."

Burris is having a Reunion Tour this week. The Bills drafted him in the first round back in 1994 and next Saturday he goes to Indianapolis, the team he left to join the Bengals in March.

"It was a seam route and it was just a matter of me being able to break on the ball," Burris said. "I was fortunate to be able to get to the spot in time. Drew has a strong arm and when I turned around the ball was there. It's always nice to get an interception in Ralph Wilson. It's a great atmosphere, but the only thing that matters is the scoreboard and we won there. That's the big thing."

Simmons gave it an it's-early-shrug.

"I knew we weren't going to come out and play our best game," Simmons said. "We've got to improve each game."



The Bengals lost wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (ankle), their best training camp receiver, with a sprained ankle early in the game and he's questionable for next week. So is defensive captain Takeo Spikes with a strained pectoral muscle. Backup running back Brandon Bennett (ankle) is also questionable. **

RUDI, RUDI:** Forget the quarterback derby for a second. Second-year running back Rudi Johnson and third-year running back Curtis Keaton are waging all-out for what looks to be the last roster spot at running back.

Both put their styles at the forefront. The 5-10, 233-pound Johnson pounded his way to 100 yards on 14 carries in showing why the Bengals think next to Corey

Dillon, he's the one back that is durable enough to be a feature back over an extended period of time. Many of his yards came after he made contact with the defense.

But the speedy 5-10, 222-pound Keaton also took a pounding and proved productive with 52 yards on 15 carries. He scored the Bengals' first touchdown when he bolted eight yards behind right tackle Willie Anderson and right guard Mike Goff.

Johnson broke up some of his teammates when he answered a reporter's question with, "I just to do what I do." What he does is bounce off people.

"I try to keep the chains moving, that's all," Johnson said. "It felt good to be out there. It was a little physical out there and I like that. North and south. North and south."

FREROTTE'S NIGHT: Bengals backup quarterback Gus Frerotte flashed his veteran resiliency after his first drive died with penalties and the second one ended with Bills cornerback Chris Watson's interception that Buffalo cashed for a field goal and a 17-7 lead with 5:56 left in the first half.

Frerotte thought he saw two

blitzers when the middle linebacker started nosing around and he tried a quick pass to wide receiver Chad Johnson on a sight adjustment to the blitz.

"I wasn't sure if he was coming or not," Frerotte said. "I have to watch the film on that one. It equals itself out. That's the way the game goes. You have to be smart and know when it's time to wait until you get a better shot."


LEVI's DEBUT:** No. 1 pick Levi Jones made his NFL debut in the second quarter when he lined up at left tackle with the first offense and then went the rest of the way. He did have a false start on his second snap and was later called for illegal hands to the face, but Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz thought he was one of the reasons the Bengals had 181 yards rushing.

"I thought he did a good job for as long as he played,' said Munoz, the analyst for Channel 12. "He was caught leaning a little bit on the pass pro and got overanxious. He got his hands knocked down, but I thought he did well in the run game. He gets off the ball fast and he's got quick feet."


BREWER RESPONNDS:** A year ago, tight end Sean Brewer was just beginning his year-long exile because of an injured groin. On Friday night, he was a major figure in the win with three catches for 42 yards. His 14-yard catch over the middle was quarterback Jon Kitna's first third-down conversion and his six-yard touchdown catch from Akili Smith

with 2:42 left in the third quarter proved to be the winning points.

On the first-down play, the Bengals' coaches surmised the Bills had a busted coverage, but Brewer made it work by getting in the middle quickly.

"It's a major step in his development in that he has to make the expected play,: said tight ends coach John Garrett. "He's got to get like that major league shortstop who consistently hits .275 makes every play asked of him.

"That first catch was a big one because it went for a first down and he had to stretch to go up and get it," Garrett said. "And the touchdown showed good concentration. We ran a bunch route (three receivers in the same area) and he caught it between defenders."

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