Free agency feels draft

4-18-01, 10:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

As the Bengals build toward the NFL Draft this weekend, free agency is not just on hold.

It will probably be in a different form as we know it when the Bengals get back into the game Monday.

The only thing the Bengals have done in free agency this week is not budge from their stance with Chargers cornerback DeRon Jenkins. They won't back off their demand for a right-of-first refusal clause in a one-year contract.

Depending on the players taken in the seven rounds spanning Saturday and Sunday, the Bengals could back off cornerbacks and wide receivers.

They could also scale back offers, as well as wait for teams to cut more veterans. Many in the league think there will be two more episodes of roster cutdowns involving veterans before training camp. One is after the draft and the other is after June 1.

"If we call the agent after the draft, he's probably going to say we're calling because we didn't get what we wanted in the draft," said Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel. "I think teams are going to think they're in pretty good shape because the veterans will be running out of spots."

SMITH UPDATE: The DUI trial of Bengals quarterback Akili Smith goes into its third day Thursday in San Diego Superior Court with the defense expected to present its side at some point. Tracy Foster of the San Diego City Attorney's office said the case could go to the jury by Friday.

Wednesday's session ended with the prosecution questioning the second of two police officers involved in Smith's Feb. 8 arrest in San Diego's Gaslamp District.

According to "San Diego Union-Tribune," reports, the prosecution argues that two blows by Smith that morning registered .13 and .15 in a state where .08 is the blood alcohol legal limit. Prosecutors also say Smith failed some field sobriety tests at the scene, where they allege he admitted having, "a couple of drinks of champagne."

The newspaper said Myles Berman, Smith's lawyer, told jurors in his opening argument that "breath testing is not an exact science," and indicated he would show that Smith's actions were consistent with those of a sober person.

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