7-31-01, 8:45 p.m.
Updated: 8-01-01, 9:30 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau returns Saturday to the home of his easiest NFL interception at Chicago's Soldier Field. He just doesn't want any of his four quarterbacks to throw the duck Bobby Douglass floated to him back in the '70s when the Bengals open the pre-season against the Bears.
"I care about winning the game," LeBeau said. "I think it is a little more important to win the championship season games, but I think winning games is always important."
The Bengals haven't won a road pre-season game since they won in Detroit, 27-23, Aug. 8, 1997. But Tuesday's focus remained heavy on the quarterbacks after LeBeau named Jon Kitna to start.
"Give you guys something to write about. You won't have to ask me the
next three days," said LeBeau, who is starting to get just a little bit testy about all the QB questions.
That's about all LeBeau would divulge, although he did say Kitna would probably play more than a quarter and that no player would be restricted by a set amount of plays.
LeBeau continued to insist there isn't much difference between Kitna and Scott Mitchell while disputing media reports the club has interest in Denver's Gus Frerotte. Management is also denying interest. Kitna was the choice in free agency once Frerotte couldn't wrangle out a contract with Bengals. Frerotte eventually opted for the Broncos after visiting Cincinnati two days before Kitna back in March.
"There is not," said LeBeau when asked if there is big separation between Kitna and Mitchell. "I think it may begin to evident itself now that we get into full-scale competition, but they have done a good job. I am pleased with the quarterback competition for the first week of training camp."
As for the interception Douglass threw him back when LeBeau was playing for Detroit, he just shakes his head over the easiest of his 62 picks.
"Not a Bear or a Lion within 20 to 30 yards," LeBeau said. "And I knew it was coming because I could see his eyes and I'm thinking, 'What is he looking at?' And he threw it hard." **
WARREN SIGNS:** Now that the drat choice taken ahead of the Bengals' Justin Smith is signed, is Smith far behind? Probably. It's not known if No. 3 pick Gerard Warren's five-year deal in Cleveland contains a guarantee for the second signing bonus of $2.1 million, the sticking point in the Smith-Bengals talks. ESPN.com is reporting that Warren gets about $12 million in the next year with an $8.9 million bonus this year, $2.1 million next year, a $1 million roster bonus due Saturday, and a $210,000 salary.
INJURY UPDATE: Bengals trainer Paul Sparling's string of no intravenous fluid administered despite the suffocating heat this training camp came to an end Tuesday when defensive tackle Oliver Gibson and Lorenzo Neal needed help.
But Gibson gave it a heroic bid. He was flat on his back on the sidelines and came back to practice before sinking to one knee after a play and getting led off the field. Neal didn't cramp up until after practice in the locker room.
"O.G. was due," Sparling said. "He's dropped a lot of weight, he's in really good shape, and he was just dehydrated. . . .
LT John Jackson (knee) should be back to practice Wednesday and is probable for Saturday's game. So are WR Danny Farmer (hamstring), CB Rodney Heath (knee) and WR Malcolm Johnson (ankle). WRs Ron Dugans and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are still questionable with hamstrings.
ROMAN HOLIDAY: Yes, cornerback Mark Roman is alive and well and impressing people enough that the Bengals think he could eventually be a guy that swings between cornerback and safety. Not just right now.
Roman is the second-round pick from last year who spent about 36 hours here at the last training camp because of his 17-day holdout. That led to a disappointing rookie season that he's starting to erase with very physical play.
"I thought he did real
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But the jury is still out on his cover skills, "just because we didn't get to see him a whole lot last year," LeBeau said. "We want to take a look at him in space against guys and against the long ball. But I thought when we drafted him he could be a two-position player."
Camp wisdom has Roman as the fifth corner with the fine play of Artrell Hawkins and Tom Carter, but Roman is playing well enough to make it an uphill climb for veteran Carlton Gray. If Hawkins struggles in the slot in the nickel, the 5-11, 184-pound Roman could be an alternative because of his size and physical play.
"I'm not thinking about last year," Roman said. "The holdout is over and that's it. I feel comfortable, but I felt comfortable last year when I got settled. It's helping me I'm here from the beginning, no question, but I think it's just going to come down to getting a chance in the games.'
Roman and the rest of the cornerbacks could get all they want right out of the box against the Bears. Chicago has a new offensive coordinator, but is still sticking with a multiple, spread offense that heavily uses three- and four-receiver sets.