Holmes salutes patience

11-27-01, 8:15 P.M.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

If Neil Rackers doesn't already know it, Jaret Holmes can tell him.

Most NFL teams have little patience with wayward field-goal kickers. Here is Holmes, who is 17-for-18 on pre-season and regular-season kicks, with his third NFL practice squad.

He is watching Rackers suffer through a 6-for-15 slump that has taken him to 50 percent on the year at 9-for-18 after wind-blown misses from 43 and 47 yards in Cleveland Sunday.

"It's rare," Holmes said Tuesday after getting word he'll stay on the squad this Sunday while Rackers gets another shot against Tampa Bay at Paul Brown Stadium.

"It's rare and I think he probably knows that," Holmes said. "It's great that he has an opportunity to kick for a team that believes in you so much. Usually a couple of misses and you're gone. They don't give you many second chances."

Holmes, who is 4-for-4 on regular-season field goals with the Bears and Giants, didn't get a second chance in New York. He hit his first two tries in this year's pre-season from 45 and 30 yards. But his 44-yarder wide right in the second quarter of a 17-14 loss to the Jets was his last kick before he got cut.

Which is why he didn't automatically think he would be activated when he watched

Rackers misfire on Sunday.

"You always hope," Holmes said. "But I've been around too long to guestimate what teams are going to do. I'm just going to sit back and wait and do my job in practice."

Which is the same mind frame Rackers has. A sixth-round pick a year ago, Rackers isn't thinking about getting a pink slip as he fights through a 21-for-39 start in the NFL.

"I can't really think like that," Rackers said. "I 'll go out to practice and won't get it done. For me, it's just a mental thing. I've got to do what I do. I can just come in and do my job.

"I don't know how to answer that," said Rackers, when asked if he's surprised at the Bengals' patience. But he won't change up his routine this week: "I'm just going to go out and play the wind more than I did."

The Bengals like the way Rackers kicks off, which is apparently what Holmes is still trying to show them he can do. Holmes, who has missed three field-goal tries in the last two weeks of practice, is working mainly on 50 yards and in.

"I'm a little older now," Holmes said. It's great seeing guys kick from 55 and 60 yards. But you don't get many of them. If you look at guys who have been around 15 years, maybe they've tried about 10 from 55 yards and above. I'm not worrying about making it from 58. I'm trying to make them from 50 and under."

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