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Brewer looks to return

5-14-02, 4:35 p.m. Updated:
5-14-02, 7:20 p.m.


Sean Brewer, the Bengals' No. 1 tight end who has more NFL injuries (2) than starts (0), knows all about labels. He understands them. He just doesn't pay attention to the whispers that have branded him an out-of-shape bust.

That's the first rule of labels. They masquerade as facts. Just watch any cable network talk show.

Fact is, Brewer has worked hard enough to be scheduled to return to voluntary practices next week, in time to work in eight field days before training camp. Which is eight more days than he expected.

Fact is, Brewer has spent at least four to five hours a day in the training room for the past two weeks rehabbing a mild hamstring tear. That comes after a an entire rookie season he spent on injured reserve with a groin problem that entailed 10-11-hour days at the facility.

Fact is, the Bengals' training staff doesn't attribute his hamstring injury to being out of shape, since he did it during his five-days-a-week off-season regimen at the MVP Sports Center in California.

"You guys can write what you want because I don't care," Brewer said. " Tuesday after yet another rehab session. "As long as the people inside these walls see what I'm trying to do and that my teammates know I'm working, that's all I care about. I know it's not a shape issue. You watch the Olympics and see people who train for four years and they go out and pull a hamstring running a 200. Stuff happens.

"I mean, I was training hard, going beyond the call of duty," Brewer said. "Why wouldn't I? This is my one opportunity. Something I've wanted my whole life. I'm not going to let it get away."

Stuff has certainly happened to Brewer, the third-round pick in 2001 from San Jose State who entered a

media storm the minute he was drafted. Scouting reports surfaced that labeled the Bengals' tight end of the future as a cigarette-puffing surfer.

Brewer and one of his coaches did a good job defusing a mess they traced to another coach whom had a falling out with Brewer. But his injuries and that indelible first-impression label have conspired to keep the buzz going.

He knows the only way he can wash away the label is play and play well. He did what he could last season, he was required to attend every practice and meeting, meaning he had to show up at Paul Brown Stadium at 6 a.m. and leave at 4 or 5 p.m. to get in his workouts.

After agonizing over the lost season for nearly a year now, Brewer has finally reconciled it in his heart.

"I'm a positive person. I think everything happens for a reason," he said. "I didn't get thrown to the wolves. I was able to ease into the NFL and watch a whole season and talk to veterans. Maybe I'll end up playing an extra year because of it. That's the way I'm looking at it. It extends my career by at least a year."

But Brewer doesn't want to say much more than that until he can play. At 6-4, 260 pounds, the Bengals think he's a two-way threat as a blocker and speedy pass-catcher down the field.

Please, he asks, don't categorize him on the field, either.

"I don't want to be labeled as a guy who can stretch it, but can't hold his own against the defensive end," Brewer said. "And I don't want to be known as a guy who can get down and block, but can't make a crucial (catch). I see myself as. being able to do both and I think that's why they drafted me. I want to show why they drafted me where they did."

They drafted TCU tight end Matt Schobel last month virtually in the same place (67 compared to Brewer's No. 66), but he's perceived more as a receiver than a blocker. As fate would have it, Schobel has been hounded by a hamstring injury since last season and missed the final two workouts of last week's minicamp. Trainer Paul Sparling is hoping he'll be ready by next week as well, finally putting the Bengals' top two tight ends on the field at the same time.

"I've known of him and to watch him struggle like this kind of made me think a little bit," Brewer said. "I don't want to push it and try to come back too soon and then hurt it again."


COOKIE DOESN'T CRUMBLE:** Reds all-star centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr., sent two batch of designer cookies to the Bengals training staff this week in appreciation of the club letting him use the underwater treadmill to help the rehab of his injured knee. Paul Sparling and Billy Brooks passed them out to family and co-workers and called the Reds to say thanks.

"It's a touch of class," Sparling said. "Some people thought at first it might be a distraction, but it was far from it. He just came in and did his work with no questions asked. He already knew some of the guys, like Rodney Heath, and he just fit right in with them."

DRAFT UPDATE: The Bengals are holding true to their desire not to give out bigger rookie deals than last year because the rookie pool of money stayed the same. When they signed safety Marquand Manuel as the ninth pick in the sixth round, the $72,000 bonus matched the corresponding player in last year's draft, LSU quarterback Josh Booty. The total deal was higher

because the minimum salaries are slightly higher.

And when they signed Matt Schobel as the second player taken in the third round, the total was about seven percent higher than the deal Arizona defensive back Adrian Wilson signed last year. But, with Schobel's $700,000 bonus spread over the four-year deal, the Bengals' rookie pool number was $5,000 less than Wilson's number.

Position in the round is key. The man Schobel is backing up at tight end, Sean Brewer, was taken with the 66th pick last year as the fourth player in the third round. Schobel was the second player in the third round and got about $150,000 more to sign than Brewer. The major reason there is Brewer signed a shorter deal at three years.

Steve Dorsch, the father and agent of Bengals' fourth-rounder Travis Dorsch, said Tuesday he has countered the club's offer based on the seven-percent increase Schobel got over last year.

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