LeBeau, Smith dispute report

8-13-01, 10:50 p.m.

Updated: 8-14-01, 11:30 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Quarterback Akili Smith and head coach Dick LeBeau were flabbergasted Monday by an ESPN report that said Smith refused to go back into Friday's 27-24 victory over the Lions.

Smith, who missed practice Monday for the second straight day with a bruised shoulder, was stunned to hear the news.

He said after the game and again Sunday that LeBeau offered to put him in for a series in the fourth quarter but that he wanted to go back to Scott Mitchell because he had the hot hand and Smith agreed.

"He'll clear it up for you fine," said LeBeau Monday in debunking the report. "I talked to him and we went back with Scott, but Akili could have gone in, and would have gone in in many circumstances. There's no way that he refused to do anything. Besides that, he's got a bummed up shoulder."

The plan had been for Mitchell to play the third quarter and Smith the fourth. But with Mitchell shutting up

Detroit's boo birds with play that brought the Bengals back from a 24-10 deficit, LeBeau wanted to give Mitchell a shot to win it and Smith agreed with LeBeau and told him to keep him in there because Mitchell had the momentum.

"That's just not what happened at all," Smith said of the report. "Like I said, I thought I was being unselfish and being a team player."

DOUGHTY SHELVED: Despite two conversations with LeBeau Monday, offensive tackle Mike Doughty found himself on the reserve/left squad list Tuesday morning eight days after walking out of camp.

That means Doughty is eligible to play only for the Bengals this year even in the likely event he gets cut.

Agent Frank Murtha said Tuesday morning that even though his client hasn't returned, he still wants to play.

"He just couldn't see himself banging his head against the wall with the Bengals like has for the last three years," Murtha said.

Murtha said the Bengals didn't drop the nuclear bomb and put him on the reserve/retired list, which puts him out all this year for every team.

"This is a couple of hand grenades in the shorts ," Murtha said. "I don't know how the scenario is going to play out."

COLD WAR GETS ICY: The Bengals called the agent for Justin Smith Monday and they spoke for the first time in about a week. The club then emerged discouraged about negotiations that appear to be backsliding.

Yet Jim Steiner, Smith's agent, said it showed progress that the sides spoke for the first time in eight days and that he's asking the Bengals for a slotted deal between Cleveland's Gerard Warren at No. 3 and San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson at No. 5, a player still unsigned.

"We're looking for market value and market structure," Steiner said. "We're not asking him to be treated (differently than) anyone else. I think I've got a pretty good feel what will happen at No. 5."

But frustrated Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn, who wondered openly what Steiner is trying to accomplish, said even if the sides resolve the guaranteed salary question other issues such as incentives and escalators are keeping the sides far apart.

"They had indicated incentives wouldn't be a problem and now they are hinting they want a No. 2 and No. 3 type of deal as opposed to what has been the

traditional No. 4 type of deal," Blackburn said,

referring to the last three No. 4 picks in Peter Warrick, Edgerrin James and Charles Woodson.

"At Nos. 2 and 3, the minimum performance bumps up the salaries automatically to a high average," Blackburn said. "In the fourth spot, the guy has to play well to get more than the base and had real incentives to perform well to get more money. And we're not looking to extend (a Nos. 2 or 3 structure) down to the rest of the round."

Steiner disputes he's looking for a No. 2 or No. 3 contract, saying the Bengals, "can't take bits and pieces of deals. You have to look at the big picture. Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 are done and only one (Leonard Davis) doesn't have a guarantee," Steiner said. "We would look at Davis' contract, but don't just look at the signing bonus. You have to look at the back side."

The Bengals want no part of what Arizona gave Davis for salary in the last three years, ranging from $6 to $9 million. The club argues those deals are bad for the player and the club because the player is usually let go.

Steiner argues he shouldn't be tethered to Warrick's deal at No. 4 last year, "because I know there were reasons they signed their first pick in June. Agents and club negotiators change and are different."

Blackburn said she called Steiner, "because, let's face it, I want to get the kid in here. But I don't know what they're trying to accomplish. We thought this was a case where the player would push the agent on the technical aspects. I'm not saying we expect the player to tell the agent to take a bad deal, but we feel this is a good deal."

The Bengals are still holding firm in their desire not to guarantee $4 million of Smith's $9 million signing bonus in annual salaries.

QB UPDATE: With Smith out and Jon Kitna's back spasms holding him out for another day or two, the Scotts lit it up Monday. Scott Mitchell and Scott Covington each took 10 snaps in seven-on-seven and combined for the first 20-for-20 session of camp.

Asked if more snaps helped him to be more effective, Mitchell said, "It helps you when you get into a routine and get into a rhythm." Mitchell, Kitna and Smith have been evenly dividing the work, which Mitchell has called "plenty," to get ready for the regular season.

FOLEY TALKS: Todd Newman, the agent for outside linebacker Steve Foley, said his talks about an extension for his client show the club has a strong desire to keep him off the free-agent market next year.

"Hopefully something can get worked out before the season," Newman said. "Steve likes it in Cincinnati, he likes the defense. He'd liked to do it. But they want a longer deal and we want a shorter one, so we're trying to work through it."

LEBEAU ON SMITH: Yes, LeBeau did hold out once. It was late in his career and he held out for about two weeks when the plan to hold out with one of his friends.

"We decided that we were going to hold out together," LeBeau said. "The first day we didn't go in. That evening I heard on the radio that my good friend had signed a very nice contract and reported to camp. So, I learned I pretty good lesson in that one. That's about all I remember about my holdout."

LeBeau has no qualms about saying it. He has no visions of Smith rushing the passer, simply because he's not here and there are other guys doing it that he has to get ready for Sept. 9.

"I have a lot of trust in our first-round draft choice," LeBeau said of the criticism aimed at Smith for saying on Draft Day he wouldn't hold out.

" I think he is going to be an excellent man," LeBeau said. "I think he's a man of character and I think he's going to be a very good player. I told you at the time that this is 2001, and things happen. When he signs his contract and comes in, we'll be ready to go. I, in no way judge any of them because this is 2001, and this is where we are."

OLD HOME WEEK: LeBeau welcomed old friend Dom Capers to camp Monday. Capers, the head coach of the expansion Texans, has no players yet. But he's relying on guys like LeBeau to let him prepare for next season.

Capers, as the defensive coordinator, LeBeau as the secondary coach and Marvin Lewis as the linebackers

coach, formed one of the most formidable defensive coaching staffs ever in Pittsburgh in the early '90s. All three could very well be NFL head coaches next season.

"No, not a bad staff at all," Capers said. "Dick's a very special guy. I knew what I would see before I got here. It's organized, it's up-tempo, it's enthusiastic. These guys are going to be a better team this year."

There has always been a

great debate who created the zone blitz, but Capers was gracious Monday in recalling how LeBeau worked on the zone scheme during the '80s in Cincinnati.

"We refined it in Pittsburgh," Capers said. "I think what we did was tailor it to the players we had. You can't put in a system that doesn't fit the players and I think that's what Dick is so good at. He adjusts to his personnel."

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