5-31-01, 3:20 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals wide receiver Darnay Scott just can't understand the fuss over his absence from the Bengals' first dozen voluntary workouts and why the team won't pay his $150,000 workout bonus.
Heck, head coach Dick LeBeau doesn't even plan to use Scott and his mending broken left leg in 7-on-7 drills or team work until at least the opening of training camp.
And maybe not until later than that with the idea of protecting the club's fifth all-time leading receiver for as long as possible.
Certainly LeBeau won't expose Scott on Thursday, the last day the Bengals gather as a team before camp starts July 20.
Which frustrates Scott. But then again, Scott has never gone to all the voluntary workouts. Even when he had his break-out 1,000-yard season in 1999.
Yet it wasn't media harping that got him back to Cincinnati ("I never read the paper,"), but the barrage of messages from his own teammates that got his attention.
"Big Willie (Anderson) called me," said Scott as he held court at his locker for the media and some curious teammates. "(Takeo) Spikes called me. Peter (Warrick) called me. (Ron Dugans) called me. I'm saying, 'What is the big deal for me not being there this early?' Spikes says, 'We miss you Dog. We need to get you back.' Peter says the same thing.
"I feel real important (to this team) because a lot of the guys look up to me," said a baffled Scott. "I don't know why. I'm a crazy (bleep). . .Just me being here makes guys feel more comfortable."
Tight end Tony McGee thinks he knows why the two captains Anderson and Spikes – as well as the two highest drafted veteran receivers outside of Scott himself – Warrick and Dugans reached out to him.
"I think it just shows the new attitude here," McGee said. "There's a different set of expectations. There's no doubt in my mind that Darnay is going to come back and have the best year of his career. I have no doubt that he's going to learn the offense and be ready when the bell rings. That's just Darnay."
On Wednesday, the Bengals saw Scott for the first time in 23 days after
three weeks of not being able to find him. He was 205 pounds, three pounds lighter than the last time and just six pounds from playing weight. Receivers coach Steve Mooshagian pronounced him quicker running routes and smoother catching the ball than what transpired at the May 4-7 mandatory minicamp. He had no trouble completing the 12 "half-gassers," under 20 seconds in post-practice sprints he finished in time with the rest of the receivers.
"I ran routes like they wanted me to, but they're not letting me play against the other person on defense," Scott said. "Now what? I want to play against somebody. But as long as I get the work in they want me to do, running routes, I should be cool. What's the big deal?"
Scott's point is that he's been doing all that in St. Louis. His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, argues that since Scott has been limited in his rehab from the broken left leg that eliminated his 2000 season, he has satisfied the guidelines governing his workout bonus and is owed $150,000.
The Bengals dispute it, saying Scott had to be on site with the team during the 14 voluntary practices in addition to his workouts at home in order to get the money.
"We're discussing with Bengals' officials what's in the contract language," Arceneaux said Wednesday from his St. Louis office. "Our position is he's earned the money."
Scott says he won't fight the Bengals on the money (although it appears Arceneaux will) because "it's not important." LeBeau's point is what's important is that the team is together for these two weeks and that 14 days isn't too much to ask.
"True, true," Scott said. "But they know what I can do. I'm back on my feet, they know I can run again. The thing is the contact with the opponent. When they want me to get there, I'm ready. My mindset is where I'm ready to play."
Scott admitted there's a certain uneasiness about getting back into the routine of running against defenders, but there is no mental block: "I'm ready for it. It's in the back of my head. I got to get it out."
Since the Bengals began voluntary workouts early in Scott's eight-year career, he's preferred to spend most of the days at home. He had a similar plan this year in which he would alternate the four weeks between Cincinnati and St. Louis.
Scott had planned to be at the May 21 practice. But on the night of May 18, his boyhood friend, Alphonso Smith, 27, was shot and killed by a ski-masked intruder who entered his home and also shot an 18-year-old woman in the ankle.
According to that weekend's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis police were still seeking a suspect and a motive for the 11:30 p.m. attack.
Scott needed a week to pull himself together for the funeral of "my little brother," and to help his family.
"I've got to mourn. I'm sick right now," Scott said.
They called Smith, "Boogie," and he hung at Scott's home virtually all the time. If not, they'd be driving around.
They knew each other since their childhood days growing up tough and hard on the mean streets of St. Louis. Scott says it's not the first time a friend "has passed," but he also says it has nothing to do with him.
"I don't know what happened. I'm not trying to get that deep into it. All I know is they called to tell me one, two, three in the morning," Scott said. "How did that happen to him and he's with me every day? I was supposed to meet him out that night. I'm around town (saying) 'Where is this (guy)?' Nobody could find him."
Scott says the Bengals would never have trouble finding him in St. Louis, where he says he doesn't loll around and where he is consistently working out.
"I don't think I need any eye over my head to watch my every move when I'm working out," Scott said. "They know who I'm working out with and where. Why do I have to be here to prove that I'm working out?
"Don't make it seem like the 150 grand or whatever it is is a bearing on me being here. That's what I don't like. The money is the money, man. But still, you can't just force it on me. . .Let me relax."
Scott plans to jump into a rigorous running program next month with coach Bobby Kersee and his wife, Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee. He's already doing some light individual work with the Kersees each day, such as one or two sprints, and one or two cuts. He says he has been catching balls from an uncle, but Scott is anxious to put it on the line against "professional football," people.
Scott, who turns 29 in July, has two years left on a contract paying him $3 million per year. He knows the deal is up when he's 31, the same age of his good friend and former Bengals receiver Carl Pickens when he retired Tuesday.
Scott says he is putting in enough off-season time to extend the career, but he doesn't know if he'll be around after '02.
"I'll definitely play two more years. When my turn comes, I'll shut it down," Scott said. "I hope I leave the business before I get kicked out of the business. . .It depends how my body feels."
At least on Wednesday, Scott said his body feels great. He says he's going back to his old way of playing when he first came into the league and he "didn't care who was on the other side of the ball." He remembers how he broke his leg last Aug. 1 in training camp, when he was kind of "playing around, joking," when he held on to a downfield block for a long time and got a defender thrown on the back of his legs.
Now, "I'm cutting you short," when it comes to blocking, which means he'll do it quick and get out. In fact, that's his attitude for the upcoming season: "All out. Just balling all the way."
The body, the leg, the mind all feel the best they have in awhile.
"I'm ready to play and I think we're going to win some games," Scott said. "I'm not going to give a prediction."