BY GEOFF HOBSON
It's been 414 days since Bengals cornerback Charles Fisher put on the pads. And he predicts when he returns to practice Wednesday he'll have that 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash that convinced the Bengals to take him in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft.
"At least," said Fisher earlier this week. "If not faster. I haven't run the 40 in awhile, but the last time I did I ran a 4.5 and I could barely push off with my left leg. I'm confident in it now."
You remember Fisher, don't you? Less than 15 minutes into his NFL debut in Tennessee on Opening Day '99, his left knee exploded as he cut across the end zone to cover Titans receiver Kevin Dyson. Fisher crumpled to the ground and the uncovered Dyson caught the ball.
Fisher, who tore three ligaments in the knee, is convinced he's had plenty of time to recover. While Bengals trainer Paul Sparling calls it a long-shot injury, he said he thinks Fisher can give it a serious go. But it's not a given.
"He can do it and he looks good at this point," Sparling said. "But it was so severe, you won't be able to tell until he starts doing the things he has to do on it. Will he be as fast? Will it swell up after he plays on it?"
The Bengals have three weeks to decide if Fisher is healthy enough to put on the active roster. If he's not, they can shelve him for the rest of the year on injured reserve or release him.
The club may have the luxury of activating Fisher. Middle linebacker Brian Simmons (knee) is a prime candidate for season-ending IR, which would open a spot for Fisher on the 53-man roster.
THIS AND THAT:
Left tackle Rod Jones gets a chance at redemption against Baltimore's highly regarded defensive line this Sunday. John Jackson, the starter the past two weeks after Jones got benched, has been ruled out with the pulled hamstring he suffered against the Browns. . .
CoreyFest still lives. Bengals running back Corey Dillon is mulling a request from ESPN to sit down for an "Up Close," interview next week. Dillon would fly to Los Angeles Monday night and come back Tuesday night in time for Wednesday's practice. . .
Word is the low-profile Bengals and their 1 p.m. Sunday game against the Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium will be covered by an ESPN crew headed by Sean Salisbury . .
Peter King, senior Pro Football writer for Sports Illustrated who used to cover the Bengals for "The Cincinnati Enquirer," is also expected in the Paul Brown Stadium press box. . .
The Bengals don't expect a sellout by 1 p.m. Thursday, blacking out local TV. . .