Gray set to be a Bengal

6-6-01, 4:30 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Cornerback Carlton Gray reached a deal with his hometown Bengals Wednesday contingent on passing Thursday's physical in Cincinnati.

Gray, a veteran of eight seasons, four teams, and 62 starts in the NFL, is expected to sign a two-year contract worth nearly $1 million.

He hasn't been a regular since he started 13 games for the 1997 Colts and his last interception came with the Giants in 1998. But the 6-foot, 203-pound Gray becomes the Bengals' most experienced corner with Tom Carter.

He went No. 30 in the second round of the 1993

NFL Draft to Seattle, 13 picks after Carter went to Washington in the first round.

Gray's dozen career interceptions are five more than those produced by the young quartet of Rodney Heath (3), Artrell Hawkins (3), Robert Bean (1) and Mark Roman (0). The Bengals usually keep six cornerbacks, but won't rule out going after others in free agency.

"Carlton is an experienced guy with a lot of athleticism and intelligence," said Jim Lippincott, the club's director of college/pro personnel.

Gray, who turns 30 at the end of the month, was a GTE Academic All-American as well as a consenus All-American at UCLA. His grandfather, Benjamin Hooks, is a former president of the NAACP.

He's the fourth local product on the roster, joining left tackle John Jackson of Woodward High School, defensive end Vaughn Booker of Taft High School, and cornerback Rodney Heath of Western Hills High School.

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