Kitna better as Covington arrives

12-20-01, 9:20 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Sunday has become a three wrist band game for Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.

Written on one band is the expanded package of plays for starter Jon Kitna. Written on another band is the streamlined package for backup quarterback Scott Covington, who stepped off a red-eye flight from California Thursday morning to practice for the first time in more than three months. The final wrist band has the really streamlined package for the emergency third quarterback, wide receiver Peter Warrick.

"We're fortunate because we've got quite a bit of carryover with Scott," Bratkowksi said. "We've also got a package for (Warrick) so he can at least call the play in the huddle if necessary and get us to the line of scrimmage.

"Some things (Covington) feels comfortable doing and some he wouldn't be," Bratkowski said. "Obviously it would be a lot smaller game plan."

After Thursday's practice, Kitna said his injured finger felt the best it's been since he injured it 11 days ago against Jacksonville.

But Scott Mitchell, who may have started in Baltimore, has been virtually ruled out of the game by trainer Paul Sparling with his rib cage injury on his right side. The best the left-handed Mitchell could throw

Thursday was three five-yard floaters in the locker room and he couldn't throw a fourth.

"I just don't see it for Sunday," Sparling said. "He's on a week-to-week basis."

Covington, released by the Bengals Sept. 10, signed a one-year deal after an all-night flight and then took every scout team snap as well as six or seven with the first team.

"It felt fine," said Covington, who worked out twice a day back home. "I've got pretty good recall of the offense."

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