10-17-02, 12:20 a.m.
10-17-02, 3:15 p.m. Updated:
10-17-02, 8:15 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The soap opera that is the Bengals quarterback derby took another turn Thursday with the signing of Joe Germaine to the practice squad.
Germaine, 27, who hasn't thrown a pass in a NFL game since his rookie year of 1999, caught the Bengals' eye in Thursday's workout with his polish, quick feet, and solid arm strength and accuracy. He got cut by the Chiefs just before the start of this season and he won't be active for games, so the depth chart of Jon Kitna, Gus Frerotte, and Akili Smith stays the same.
But if this 0-6 season of "The Young and The Scoreless," gets any worse and they want to make a move with one of the active quarterbacks before next year, the possible odd man out could be Frerotte because he's working on a one-year deal.
Both Kitna and Smith have two years left on their contracts and Smith's release before June 1 would be a hefty $3 million-plus hit on next year's salary cap.
"Just trying to figure it out. It's interesting. I don't have an answer for you," Frerotte said. "Just trying to keep the season going and not worry about next year until next year. If you worry like that, you can kill yourself."
Smith, the erstwhile franchise quarterback chafing at the No. 3 spot, doesn't understand the move.
"It makes you wonder even more," Smith said. "This has been tough being 0-6, sitting at third string and getting no reps for basically the second straight year. People are
screaming at me to get better, but how am I going to get better standing around?"
Bengals President Mike Brown says he's not using Germaine to send a message to a quarterback staff that has thrown two touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Kitna, the current starter, has thrown one touchdown and seven interceptions. Frerotte (1 and 5) and Smith (0 and 1) have combined for one and six.
"Around here, we don't have to send many messages," Brown said. "Everyone knows how it's gone. We're looking for a way to do better."
Asked about Smith's status, Brown said, "I don't know how the future is going to play out. What we do will be determined by how we do. We're going play by play."
Which is what Germaine has pretty much done since the Rams took him in the fourth-round in '99 and then traded him to the Chiefs just before last season for a sixth-round pick. He hasn't played since he completed nine of 16 passes for the Super Bowl champion Rams as a rookie, when he made his debut in Cincinnati and didn't throw a pass in the last minutes of the Rams' 33-10 win.
Germaine struggled this spring in NFL Europe, where he started all 10 games for Barcelona and compiled a 54.2 passer rating on 93 of 181 for 905 yards on five touchdowns and nine interceptions.
"I ended up playing behind some pretty good quarterbacks," Germaine said. "Kurt Warner and Trent Green in St. Louis and then Trent with the Chiefs. I'm just looking to keep the dream alive and hopefully get an opportunity."
Germaine has been making the rounds through the league. He came from New York, where the Giants worked out about 20 players Tuesday, but he has a good connection with the Bengals. John Cooper, his head coach at Ohio State, is now a personnel consultant here.
"John gave him a very good recommendation," Brown said. "He has a number of plusses. He's got good arm strength, he's got quick feet, he's smart enough. He's comparable in his accuracy to our guys."
It's a good fit for Germaine, who is familiar with the area after setting or tying eight Buckeye records. He's best known in these parts for leading Ohio State to a comeback victory in the Rose Bowl after the 1996 season.
In the locker room Thursday, he renewed his acquaintance with Smith from the '99 pre-draft hoopla of the East-West Shrine Game and the NFL scouting combine. Arizona State products Levi Jones and Victor Leyva went out of their way to talk to about home with Germaine, a prep star at Mesa.
"This is a great opportunity. It's a chance to work with some great guys," Germaine said. "You look around here at these players and you figure it's a matter of time."
Germaine is one of the only players the Bengals have brought in to work out since the season started. It's a common practice throughout the league to bring in free agents early in the week for a look. Just this past Tuesday, 17 teams brought in a total of 60 street free agents.
But Brown says the club hasn't had reason to go beyond the current roster.
"I don't think anyone is looking at the out-there list of players as the magic bullet to solve their problems," Brown said. "They see them as players when they have injuries and open spots. If we have injuries and open spots that didn't match up with our practice squad, then we would look out there and at (practice squad) players on different teams. We've had injuries, but have backed them up internally."
There is a school of thought that says even if you're talking about the bottom of the roster, bring in free agents just to give the current players a sense of urgency.
"There is that argument that we should be lopping off heads," Brown said. "They say, 'Things can't get any worse. Do something. Do anything.' I don't subscribe to that as an answer."
The Bengals went to Washington's practice squad three weeks ago to sign rookie tackle Reggie Coleman when Richmond Webb suffered a season-ending pectoral injury.
In order to make room for Germaine, the Bengals waived from the five-man practice squad former University of Cincinnati cornerback LaVar Glover, picked up off waivers from the Steelers several weeks ago.