5-15-02, 5:55 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals haven't completed a pass of 50 yards or more in 34 straight games. Yes, Bill Clinton was president. Jeff Blake, who has been on two different teams since, was the quarterback. Cinergy was the field and 23 different players have caught a ball since Darnay Scott grabbed a 52-yard touchdown pass from Blake on Dec. 12, 1999.
But on Wednesday, quarterback Jon Kitna (by the way, the fourth different starting quarterback in those 34 games) literally rolled out the barrel. At the end of the voluntary session at Paul Brown Stadium, he asked the big wastebasket be placed 42 yards down field and five yards from the sidelines so he could try to loft about 15 or 16 balls into the thing. None went in, but a couple hit it.
The knock on Kitna has been his down-the-field arm. But that's not why he was doing it.
"It's an area I feel is a weakness for me, but it's not the arm strength," Kitna said. "It's the accuracy. It's the trajectory. I don't have a problem with the deep post or the deep crossing routes," yet he wants to improve on his touch with the "go," route.
When Ken Anderson was the quarterback and Bill Walsh was his coach, they placed a towel 42 yards away on the Spinney Field grass. Then when Anderson was coaching
David Klingler, they used one of former equipment manager Tom Gray's laundry baskets on the Spinney Astroturf. On Wednesday, assistant equipment manager Jeff Brickner pulled the bag put of the waste barrel at the PBS loading dock, made sure it was "half-way clean," and got it up to the practice field.
"The farther you throw it, the flatter the ball becomes and you need to get some air under it," said Anderson, the former NFL MVP and Bengals quarterbacks coach. "Even though it's still a longer throw, it's still a rhythm throw, a timing throw."
Anderson knew how to go down the field, because his career stats make a mockery of his image as a dinker and dunker. In 16 seasons, Anderson averaged 7.34 yards per attempt. Last year in the AFC, only Steve McNair and Peyton Manning went longer. Anderson admits he had the benefit of being with the same set of veteran receivers pretty much every year and was able to time up Isaac Curtis' Olympic sprinter speed with the more worldly strides of guys like Charlie Joiner and Chip Myers.
"You have to know their speed and a lot of it is technique on the receiver's part," Anderson said. "The quarterback has to know if he won at the line of scrimmage and if he has a step or two (separation). You're not just going to throw it up there because they're in man-to-man."
Kitna is also trying to treat it like a short pattern so that he goes through the same mechanics.
"I get excited and I let it go and it comes out too flat," Kitna said. "I'm trying to take it like I'm throwing a curl route. You don't get to throw a lot of (go patterns) because you never get them in routes and in practice they might call them, but the defense might take it away. And it's hard to ask guys to stay after and just run deep routes. You don't get a lot of that work."
But here's a memo to Brickner and his boss, Rob Recker: They better have the barrel ready because Kitna says, "I'll try to do it after most of the practices, weather permitting."
SCREENS AND DRAWS:** Speaking of Darnay Scott, there is a chance he could be cleared to practice as early as this coming Tuesday on May 21. Receivers coach Steve Mooshagian said Scott has told him the pain has pretty much gone away in his left shin as he continues to rehab with his personal trainer in St. Louis, but he first has to be examined here by team doctors. Scott missed minicamp and has missed the first two weeks of voluntarys with a pain in the lower part of the leg he broke two years ago. . . .
Mooshagian feels like all six of his receivers are capable of starting, but he thinks singling out two is a misnomer: "With the number of three- and four-wides we used, particularly at the end of last season, those guys are virtually starters, too. You'd almost like to see the third receiver get introduced with the starters if the fullback and tight end are going to get announced." . . .
H-back Nick Williams (hip) returned to practice Wednesday after missing minicamp and the first week of voluntarys. . .LB Chris Edmonds, the Parade Magazine High School All-American from Pittsburgh, expects to begin his experiment at tight end in Thursday's practice. . .
Head coach Dick LeBeau, both his coordinators, and several assistant coaches are expected back later this week after attending the NFL's coaching seminar in Houston. . .
REMEMBER MIKE REID?: Defensive captain Takeo Spikes has signed a new agent to work on what he calls the most important contract of his career and he hopes the two can make beautiful music together.
Spikes, waiting on an offer from the Bengals as he heads into the final year of his deal (he says he doesn't want to negotiate during the season), says his contract won't be hard to do or figure out. But he still wants some experience from a trusted friend.
So he has tapped his neighbor from Atlanta, Lonnie Cooper of Career Sports Management. One of the reasons Spikes turned to Cooper is because his motto is, "Don't hold back for anything. Whatever you dream of doing, you have to take the opportunity to get it."
Which is why Spikes is now taking piano lessons. Don't look for him to bolt to Nashville after playing
five seasons like another Bengals' Piano Man who fined tuned a Cincinnati defense, lineman Mike Reid. But Spikes vows on the first Bengals' first regular-season road trip (Sept. 14-15 in Cleveland), he'll play a song on the hotel piano.
"I don't know which one. I've only had one lesson," Spikes said. "Lonnie got that set up for me. I kept talking about it and he finally said, 'Here's the name and number, go do it.' He can get things done. I like how he makes sure his clients (one is NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Kendrell Bell) are well-rounded people. I think he can do some things for me after my career. He's already told me about broadcasting school."
Spikes likes Cooper's varied experience in making major deals. He is highly regarded in NBA circles, where he represents many of the league's head coaches, and he also represents several major league baseball players.
Spikes said he has been approached recently by Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn and she told him (as well as fellow linebacker Brian Simmons) that the club is looking at ways to keep both.
"I'm not going to get caught up in the hype," Spikes said. "They'll tell me how much they want me in the next two or three months if they give me a substantial offer. I'm not going to insult their intelligence and I hope they don't insult mine. And I'm just going to worry about playing and let it take care of itself."