BY GEOFF HOBSON
Reports of Bengals left tackle Rod Jones' heart attack were greatly exaggerated last weekend in New England.
He showed up for work Wednesday needing one more test to get cleared for practice Thursday and sounded like Red Sox great Ted Williams talking abut the Boston press.
"I'm pretty sure I'll be in there against the Steelers," Jones said. "Bad reporting. How could you get information? I was in the ambulance. How would you know?"
Jones still doesn't know what caused the pain behind his sternum and the shortness of breath during the final series of the 16-13 loss to the Patriots. But he knows enough from the doctors that the tests are inconclusive and that he won't take Sunday off if cleared.
"I like what I do. It's my job. I'm not scared to play," Jones said. "If it happens again, it happens. I don't plan on it happening again."
Jones' breath was so short that he could only walk back to the huddle in time to hear quarterback Scott Mitchell in mid-call of the play. When he trudged back to the sidelines after the drive, things started happening fast.
They cut off his jersey and shoulder pads and got him into an ambulance. When an asthma inhaler didn't work, they gave him oxygen and nitroglycerin and he began to feel well enough a half- hour after the attack to walk into the hospital.
Jones is one of the team's philosophers and a religious guy who started to think a little bit in his bed at Massachusetts General Hospital when things began to look good. College basketball player Hank Gathers and other athletes who died of heart problems during games came to mind.
"I've never had any asthma or allergies so it was a whole new experience for me and it was unsettling," Jones said. "I'm not going to look back. At that point, I wasn't looking far ahead. I was living in the moment. You think of all the options, all the outcomes, and none of them are bad."
Probably the toughest part of his ordeal was when he called his fiancee Sunday night and she was in tears telling him of the heart attack reports. Now they're sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner.
"I'm thankful for friends, fellowship, the little things," Jones said. "And being able to reach down and get ready for the Steelers."
LINE OF THE SEASON: Quarterback Scott Mitchell should be headed national with his one-liner Wednesday. When asked what percentage of his health would he need to play Sunday, Mitchell said, "Percentage? Simple majority rules. My chad is hanging."
Actually, Mitchell lives in Florida, but voted by absentee from Michigan. And by the way, he figures the sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee has to be about 20 percent.
He didn't practice Wednesday, but he said the knee is getting better. Trainer Paul Sparling said Mitchell is, "a longshot," to play and the doctors don't think he'll be able to practice Thursday.
But if he can take some snaps Friday, Mitchell thinks he'd be able to execute the game plan. Or maybe if he didn't take any at all during the week, but could move around game day, he could go Sunday.
That's how much faith Coach Dick LeBeau has in him.
"We'll give Scott a chance late into the week," LeBeau said. "He's a veteran guy. I think he deserves that chance.
"My feeling would be if he could move satisfactorily and have no problem getting set up and handing off and throwing and stuff like that, we'd probably go with Scott only because I think he's earned that," said LeBeau if he Mitchell didn't practice this week. "We play these guys twice a year. This is not a big, complicated game plan. The problem with the Steeler defense is getting a block (on them). You know where they're going to be."
Mitchell says he just doesn't know if he can play. If it was the Super Bowl, he said he'd play, "but I'm not going to do anything stupid."
The left-handed Mitchell planted his left foot and threw a few balls Wednesday. He thinks he can throw off the knee, but the problem will be tolerating the pain twisting and turning to hand off and dropping back to pass.
THIS AND THAT: RB Corey Dillon (groin) didn't practice Wednesday, but is expected to play. . .LB Takeo Spikes regaled the media with stories of eating raccoon for Thanksgiving while growing up in Georgia. . .The Bengals have a short day Thursday, practicing from 10 a.m. to noon in order to get back home for the holiday.
QUARTERBACK NOMINEES: The Bengals announced Wednesday their 10 finalists for the NFL Community Quarterback Award, a NFL volunteer recognition program funded by NFL Charities that plans to donate nearly $1 million to community organizations served by outstanding volunteers.
The finalists receive $1,000 grants and are invited to a Bengals' luncheon Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the Paul Brown Stadium West Club Lounge from noon to 1 p.m., to receive their checks and plaques.
The Community Quarterback Award Winner and two runnerups will be announced at the luncheon, with the winner getting a $10,000 grant donated in his/her name to their charity and $2,500 to each runnerup.
A national Community Quarterback Award, chosen from among the NFL's 31 clubs, will be named in December with a $25,000 donation to the winner's organization.
The Bengals' finalists: George Adcox, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati; Jerry Campbell, Friars Club; Linda Coley, Lighthouse Youth Services; Anjali Corattiyil, Stepping Stones Center; Charles Elsener, Senior Services of Northern Kentucky; Lee Hartman, Hope House; Mac Heidrich, Redwood Rehabilitation, Inc.; James Moser, Cincinnati Association for the Blind; Julie Schubert, Crossroad Health Center; Rev. James Shapelle, Winton Youth Place Center.