Jim Breech is the best kicker in Bengals' history. But he never kicked a 54-yard field goal like Neil Rackers did last Sunday when he made the second longest field goal in team history, and Breech thinks there is plenty more where that came from.
"I just hope he stays relaxed and keeps playing it like he has been because he'll have a great year," Breech said.
Breech made his weekly in-season visit to Paul Brown Stadium to check in on the kickers and punter Nick Harris, a reminder that the Bengals' all-time scoring leader with 1,151 points in 13 seasons also struggled his first two years in the NFL. In 1980 and 1981, Breech was just six of 14 between 40 and 49 yards while missing 13 of 39 tries. But he hit 17 of his last 22 attempts in the '81 Super Bowl season before drilling 14 of 18 in the 1982 strike season. The once excitable Rackers was 2-for-2 in the opener after a 4-for-4 preseason. That has followed two years in which he missed 20 of 49 tries.
"My second year in the pros," said Breech, when asked when it came together for him. "I'm laid back any way, but I realized if I could take the way I prepared during the week into the game, I was probably in good shape. I think that's the way it is for most players. It's more a mental development than physical. We know what Neil can do physically. He's got the great leg."
The always humble Breech went out of his way to say he can take no credit for how Rackers came back from the offseason more at ease.
"He's been kicking great all preseason, so (the 54-yarder with 5:43 left in a blowout) didn't surprise me," Breech said. "I was surprised they went for it, but I thought it was a good idea given the circumstances in the game. Now Dick (LeBeau) isn't going to think twice about sending him out for a long one. Neil has been telling me, 'I feel so relaxed over there on the sidelines and then when I get on the field,' and that's really the key. Once you relax on the field, you can do it."
Breech does have a 53-yarder to his credit from Oct. 6, 1985 at Riverfront Stadium, which also came in a loss, 29-20, to the Jets. Host Muhlmann, Lee Johnson and Doug Pelfrey also hit 53-yarders for the Bengals, but Chris Bahr's 55-yarder at Riverfront in 1979 is the club record.
"It doesn't bother me. I'm glad he made it," Breech said of Rackers' entry in the record book. "I never had the record, anyway. I was just glad I could make any of them."
Modesty, of course. Breech ended up making all nine of his overtime kicks and was the Bengals' MVP of Super Bowl XXIII on a 3-for-3 effort, and gave them a 16-13 lead with 3:20 left on a 40-yarder.
9-11 RECALLED: Dick LeBeau didn't do anything official with the team to remember 9-11, but he did mention it in the team's daily meeting Wednesday.
"We've asked our players to look in their hearts and acknowledge it as Americans, as all of us must," LeBeau said. "But collectively, officially, we're not going to do anything at practice or anything like that. It's a meaningful day for all of us. I think each one's feelings to that day are unique, and we've asked our players to receive it as such."
STUNTS AND SCREENS: Both quarterbacks for Sunday's game in Cleveland are listed as probable, although Browns head coach Butch Davis indicated Wednesday he won't make a decision on Tim Couch (elbow, forearm) until later in the week.
The Bengals' Gus Frerotte practiced Wednesday with his sprained right thumb after getting it pushed back during a third-quarter sack Sunday against the Chargers. He wore a small bandage around it, but didn't appear to have lost much velocity. . .
LOLB Canute Curtis (knee) didn't practice Wednesday, is expected to go some Thursday, will be full go Friday, and is expected to play Sunday. . .SS JoJuan Armour (ankle) is in the same category. . .
The two most questionable players are RB Brandon Bennett (ankle) and DE Vaughn Booker (knee). Which certainly will make the inactive decisions before the game easier than the ones last Sunday. You figure with wide receiver Danny Farmer (knee) already out, the Bengals probably have to activate backup linebacker Riall Johnson because of Curtis' status. If Bennett is out, look for rookie safety Marquand Manuel to be up. Like Johnson, Manuel was inactive against the Chargers. . .
Former Bengals cornerback Rodney Heath joined his third team in 11 days Wednesday when he signed with the Falcons following Ray Buchanon's four-game suspension. Heath, released by the Bengals Sept. 1, got signed and cut by Carolina last week. That means in 10 days in their ESPN game in Atlanta, the Bengals could be throwing to two ex-Cincinnati cornerbacks in Heath and Ashley Ambrose. . .