4-21-02, 9:30 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals President Mike Brown offered a defense of incumbent kicker Neil Rackers Sunday. But he didn't include job security with it.
"It isn't all his fault. But still, we want to pick up in that area," said Brown after the Bengals picked Purdue kicker Travis Dorsch in the fourth round.
"I don't blame him for losing games for us. I don't think he has," Brown said. "But I think he knows more than anybody he has to do better. One way or the other, we have to do better. If he can do it, that's fine. If he can't, we want somebody who might."
Rackers ended his second season with two winning last-play field goals and fueled the Opening Day six-point victory over New England on a 3-for-3 effort. But in between, he missed five of nine tries from the 40s and missed an extra point against the Steelers that forced his overtime kick to win it.
Brown blamed the troublesome sand-based grass field at Paul Brown Stadium for much of Rackers' problems. In the building's two seasons, Rackers is 17-for-29 for 59 percent and 12-for-20 (60 percent) on the road.
His foes aren't much better at PBS (18-for-27) at 67 percent, and Brown is hoping that some field rehab after this spring's Billy Graham event at the stadium will firm up a field that has been plagued by sandy conditions.
But that's little consolation for Rackers, given the last time the Bengals cut a fourth-round pick was 11 years ago in Syracuse wide receiver Rob Carpenter.
"He doesn't have an easy job here. This field is a tremendous handicap for a kicker," Brown said. "When you're a kicker on a beach, and that's what we were doing here, that's hard because your plant foot doesn't stick and it would be like trying to hit a golf ball on a treadmill."
In lieu of drafting Tiger Woods, the Bengals are trying to fix the grass in between the hash marks by changing the mix underneath the sod and getting more dirt in there instead of sand.
"(We are) going to put in more soil," Brown said. "Something that will congeal that area greater than it has been. We still want it to drain, so this time it will be a mix of sand and soil, but this time more soil than what we had there before. And then they're going to put in thick sod that is soil-based and not sand."
All of which may be too late for Rackers, a guy that Brown admires for his decency, hard work, and his powerful performances in practices.
But. . .
"I think he's got a record and he has to run on that record a little bit," Brown said.