Bengals shaken by tragedy

11-19-01, 8:10 p.m. Updated:
11-20-01, 8:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Senior Kyle Fields played on the playoff defensive line at Madeira High School this past season. So it had to be more than a little bit of a lift when Bengals defensive captain Takeo Spikes brought along two of his starters, as well as rookie receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, for a visit Monday at University Hospital.

Strong safety JoJuan Armour and tackle Oliver Gibson also made the trip to see Fields, one of the people hit by a speeding SUV just outside Paul Brown Stadium while they walked to Sunday's Bengals game. Fields, in fair condition with a shattered leg broken in two places and cuts to the face, was with 20-year-old brother Ken when the SUV went through a red light at Second and Elm streets less than 90 minutes before kickoff.

"This is so much bigger than football," said Spikes, whose father died last month of cancer. "We wanted to let him know that we're with him all the way and that he's got a lot to live for and to keep the faith. I think he was happy to see us and talk some football."

Ken Fields, 20, was treated for a foot injury after it was run over and he's getting physical therapy. Scott Ashbrock, 15, of Mason died hours after the accident in which the driver is charged with one count of aggravated vehicular homicide and three counts of aggravated vehicular assault. The owner is charged with complicity on each of those charges.

Stewart Williams, 21, of Middletown, is in critical condition at University. Jami Henderson, 21, his fiancee, also of Middletown, was treated at the scene.

"It makes a football game seem so small, doesn't it?" asked Bengals President Mike Brown Monday. "It's

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just a tragedy and we send our thoughts to everyone involved. It must be a very difficult thing for the families."

Brown phoned Cincinnati police officer Jon Harris Monday morning and thanked him for what he called a heroic act. Harris injured his hand saving at least one pedestrian.

The first Armour heard of the accident was Monday morning when he arrived at the stadium. He went along for the trip in which the Bengals brought some hats, yearbooks, and an autograph football from the team.

"He's a fan. He was going to the game to support us," Armour said. "Now we're going to support him. He seemed in pretty good spirits. His father and high school coach were there. He's going to recover. It's just so sad. Here they were going to watch us play. And thinking of the young man that died, it's just so sad. It reminds you to live every day the best you can."

Armour said the Bengals invited Fields and the other victims to another PBS game. They didn't talk much about Sunday's 20-7 loss to the Titans, but they did promise a victory for the game Fields will attend.

"We were pretty disappointed about that and I don't think we wanted to make him any more disappointed," Armour said. **

THIS AND THAT:** The Bengals signed tight end Joshua Keur and guard-center Ray Redziniak to the practice squad Tuesday. The 6-4, 270-pound Keur spent 1999 as a rookie free agent out of Michigan State with Indianapolis. After 13 weeks on the practice squad, he was on the Colts' 53-player roster for the full 2000 season. Keur was inactive for 13 games, active for three and played in one. In the 2001 preseason, he had eight catches for 91 yards before the Colts waived him Sept. 3. Redziniak, 6-2 and 297 pounds out of Illinois, signed as a rookie free agent with the New York Giants back in April. He was waived Aug. 28, signed to Miami's practice squad Oct. 10, and released from the Dolphins' practice squad Oct. 22. . .

The Bengals and vice president Paul Brown were one of 20 teams scouting a recent workout at the University of California at San Diego put on by former Stanford quarterback Chad Hutchinson. Hutchinson has been in the farm system of the St. Louis Cardinals for the past three seasons as a pitcher trying to find his control and is eligible to sign a free-agent deal with a NFL club. Bengals President Mike Brown has chatted with Cardinals owner (and Cincinnati resident) Bill DeWitt about Hutchinson, but the club doesn't seem ready for an all-out pursuit.

GRASS UPDATE: Three tractor-trailer loads of sod have been placed in the middle of the Paul Brown Stadium field. PBS manager Eric Brown said two different fertilizers, including a root stimulant, were put on the new grass as well as water and a growth tarp. With this week's temperatures projected to be in the upper 50s, Brown said the key for growth before the Dec. 2 game at PBS against Tampa Bay is sunlight.

INJURY UPDATE: WRs Chad Johnson (collarbone), Peter Warrick (thigh), and Darnay Scott (ribs) are probable for this Sunday in Cleveland. . . .LG Matt O'Dwyer (knee) is out for Cleveland but will be back for either Tampa Bay (Dec. 2) or Jacksonville (Dec. 9). **

BATTAGLIA HEALING:** Marco Battaglia celebrated one small victory Sunday. Less than 24 hours after undergoing an appendectomy that ended his season, the six-year tight end made sure he got to the game in time to talk to his teammates. Then the doctors sent him home at kickoff. It was all Battaglia could do after missing the first game of his 88-game career.

"It was upsetting," Battaglia said. "I took pride in that streak. It wasn't like I played every game healthy. But I made it a goal to get down there for

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the game. I've got great teammates and I wanted to wish them good luck."

Battaglia first felt sick Friday afternoon and then when he woke up in pain early Saturday morning, he went to the hospital. It was a crushing blow for him because Battaglia, a second-round pick in 1996, was well on his way to topping his career-best 14 catches on 153 yards in 1999. He had 13 catches for 118 yards this year in the first season of offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's system that is better suited for his talents as a receiver.

"It's disappointing," Battaglia said. "We've talked how this scheme is good for me. Now I just have to concentrate on getting better."

With Battaglia lost for the season on injured reserve/non-football illness, he won't respond to speculation he's taken his last snap as a Bengal. He becomes a free agent after this season and there hasn't been a major move to keep him. He says he's already walking around after spending part of Monday at a mall with his family and plans to continue to rehab at PBS.

The Bengals replaced Battaglia on the roster with first-year player Kirk McMullen, signed off the practice squad, and he made his NFL debut Sunday. But when fullback Nick Williams returns off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) in the next week or two, McMullen could be ticketed back to the practice squad as the Bengals begin their experiment with Williams in Battaglia's H-Back spot.

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