Holmes out; McNair improves

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Titans co-sack leader Kenny Holmes will miss Sunday's game with the Bengals after getting arthroscopic knee surgery Friday.

But Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair discarded his protective boot and threw again for the second straight day Friday with all signs pointing to him playing even though he didn't practice.

Also expected to play for the Titans is Carl Pickens, the Bengals' all-time receiver who missed the first game in Cincinnati earlier this year with a hamstring problem. Pickens has just eight catches and is the fourth receiver behind Yancey Thigpen, Chris Sanders and Derrick Mason.

McNair, who sprained his left knee and left ankle last week, also did enough rehab the past two days that club observers believe he'll start against the Bengals. But Titans coach Jeff Fisher says it will be a game-time decision.

Henry Ford, who has one sack this season, gets the start at right defensive end in place of Holmes. Holmes shares the Tennessee sack lead with left end Jevon Kearse, with eight, two of them coming last week against Philadelphia.

Tennessee hopes Holmes can take off this week and next week in Cleveland, but be ready for the season finale at home against the Cowboys.

DUGANS, PLUMMER MEET AGAIN: Bengals rookie receiver Ron Dugans always wants to know if you're watching practice.

Because he thinks he's doing pretty well. He thought he did well last week. And so did receivers coach Steve Mooshagian.

But Dugans was still inactive for the game against the Cardinals, a tough move to swallow for a third-round draft pick who caught the Bengals first touchdown of the season.

Not only has Danny Farmer emerged in front of Dugans as the third receiver behind Dugans' teammate at Florida State , Peter Warrick, and Craig Yeast. But Dugans welcomed an old rival to the receiving corps Thursday.

Chad Plummer, the former University of Cincinnati quarterback who grew up in Dugans' neck of the woods in Tallahassee, Fla., signed with the Bengals' practice squad after getting cut from the Colts practice squad Monday.

"He's a good athlete," Dugans said. "I went against him in track, too. I did everything. I ran some, jumped some, and he jumped too and did the hurdles."

The Bengals see the 6-3, 215-pound Plummer the same way they see the 6-2, 205-pound Dugans and the 6-3, 215-pound Farmer. A big receiver who can catch in a crowd.

Dugans thinks he's been doing that in practice.

"I know at one time or another everyone on offense has been struggling," Dugans said. "But I just don't think I've been playing badly enough to go from starting to being inactive. It's been a frustrating year, but I'm learning. I think things will sort themselves out. It's just tough when you think you can play."

Mooshagian said the decision to sit Dugans against Arizona was related to special teams because the Bengals needed receiver Damon Griffin to help on kick returns with running back Curtis Keaton sidelined with a sprained ankle. He thinks there's a shot Dugans could dress this Sunday.

"We're going to be very happy we've got Ron Dugans," Mooshagian said.

The receiving picture won't sort out until the injured Darnay Scott shows up next season without a broken leg.

Anything could happen. Scott could move from flanker to split end and Warrick could stay at flanker. Or Warrick could slide into the slot on third down, with Scott and Dugas/Yeast/Farmer on the outside. Or they could draft a speed receiver if Scott's leg doesn't come back with a 4.4-second 40-yard dash.

PLUMMER RETURNS: Plummer's not a speed guy, but those who know him think he'll be faster and more agile than his days at UC. Plummer has dropped about 15 pounds from the day Mooshagian timed him in the mid 4.5s in the 40 when Plummer came out of Clifton following the 1998 season.

Denver took Plummer in the sixth round of the '99 draft after he split his senior season between quarterback, flanker and split end.

"But Cincinnati was on the quarters system and I couldn't go out there until the training camp started," Plummer said. "I fell far behind everybody and couldn't catch up. I basically couldn't contribute."

Plummer was released by the Broncos Aug. 27, 1999 and picked up by the Colts a week later. He was active for four games, three this season, but had no catches.

Still, he said he gained valuable experience working out with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning during this past offseason and studying Pro Bowl receiver Marvin Harrison.

Quarterback? Plummer would like to leave that at the Humanitarian Bowl, which is where he led UC to its first bowl berth in four decades back in 1997. Plummer was the MVP of that game, finishing a season he started all 11 games at quarterback.

"I knew quarterback wasn't my best position," Plummer said, "but I did it to help out the team."

Plummer is still a recognizable figure on campus and why not? He left with nearly 2,000 total yards and Indy is only a two-hour ride. He made the trip often and now looks forward to settling in as the Bengals mull signing him up for next year after they look at him. They have mentioned to him about possibly playing in Europe.

"I like the town," Plummer said. "I like the environment."

Plus, he knows plenty people on the team. He knows Dugans from high school, played college ball with cornerback Artrell Hawkins, and played in college against receiver LaVell Boyd (Louisville) and linebacker JoJuan Armour (Miami of Ohio).

"He was a weapon, a Slash-type," Armour said. "Even though he was playing receiver, you had to be careful they'd pitch it to him and he'd throw it, or he might be behind center for a few plays. He's one of those guys good things always seem to happen when he touches the ball."

ROGER RABBIT: Bengals rookie offensive lineman Roger Roesler scampered all over the countryside Wednesday, but he got what he wanted in the end.

The Cardinals attempted to sign Roesler off the practice squad and had him fly to Phoenix after reaching a deal with his agent. But before Roesler signed, the Bengals offered a three-year deal.

With defensive end Vaughn Booker on injured reserve, Roesler is on the active roster for the last three games, which gives him a year of service in the league. He would have got that in Arizona, "but I wanted to stay here. I've learned a lot from Coach (Paul) Alexander."

**

BENGAL DONATIONS:** The Bengals have donated money to Georgetown College, the club's training camp home, for the Tigers' trip to the NAIA national championship game.

In a rematch of last year's title game in which Georgetown took a 20-0 halftime lead, the Tigers (13-0) attempt to avenge the 34-26 loss to Northwestern Oklahoma State (12-0).

The rematch is set for 1 p.m. Dec. 16 at Savannah, Tenn. . .

At last t Sunday's game against Arizona, the Bengals collected 4,559 pounds of food (up 580 pounds from last year) and $2,635 (up $261) in their annual canned food holiday drive for The FreeStore in Cincinnati.

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