Mitchell could be ready next week

9-3-01, 7:15 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Quarterback Scott Mitchell was right all along.

After a prognosis of missing six weeks with a high ankle sprain, Bengals trainer Paul Sparling revised the call Tuesday to two to three weeks.

Sparling said Mitchell suffered a sprain in the Aug. 30 pre-season finale of his medial ligament, which isn't as high in the ankle as previously thought.

Sparling still has

Mitchell out for Sunday's pre-season opener, but Mitchell is acting like he'll be ready.

"I ran the sprints after practice," Mitchell said. "Not at full speed, of course, and someone told me that was full speed."

Quarterback Akili Smith, now backing up Jon Kitna for the New England game, threw long Monday, two days earlier than expected.

"I figured I'd try it because I felt good," said Smith, recovering shoulder tendinities that wiped out three weeks. "I had no pain and I've got no pain now."

Wide receiver Danny Farmer (knee) has been upgraded to probable.

The Bengals revert to their weekly in-season schedule this week. They've got Tuesday off before reporting back to work Wednesday and Thursday for afternoon practices, Friday for a shorter morning session, and Saturday's walk through in Paul Brown Stadium.

THIS AND THAT: The Bengals tapped four players for their practice squad Monday and on Tuesday added the final member, rookie guard Alex Sulfsted. Sulfsted, released from the Chiefs after getting picked in the sixth round, is a local product from Mariemont who played at Miami of Ohio.

Third-year wide receiver Malcolm Johnson and first-year tight end Kirk McMullen made the squad, as did free-agent rookies Jeff Boyle, a defensive tackle out of Wyoming, and Chris Edmonds, an outside linebacker from West Virginia.

The 6-5 Johnson, on his third team in three seasons, caught three balls for 38 yards in the preseason. McMullen, who played in NFL Europe this past spring, had one catch for 19 yards.

The Bengals brought in rookie receiver Ken-Yon Rambo for a workout Monday, but the Ohio State product wanted to wait a day before signing and they sent Rambo on his way. Rambo, a seventh-round pick of the Raiders, could be headed back to Oakland.

"It was a great experience out there," Rambo said. "Just playing with two guys going into the Hall of Fame in Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, there was a lot to learn.". . .

Don't look for the Bengals to dip into free agency to grab a veteran safety like Carnell Lake. At least not this week. For one thing, the Bengals can't add anyone as long as they have to stick with four quarterbacks. But when Scott Mitchell gets healthy in the next few weeks, they could do something. Plus, if a vested veteran like Lake is on the roster Opening Day, the club has to pick up his entire year's salary. Plus, even though Lake is a Dick LeBeau favorite from Pittsburgh, they are looking for safeties with young legs. **

DILLON RESPONDS:** A livid Corey Dillon called an informal press conference in the team's aerobic room Monday and blasted a published report and the reporter that said the Pro Bowl running back is in violation of a court order stemming from last year's fourth-degree domestic assault charge.

Joby Branion, who works for David Dunn, Dillon's agent, said Tuesday a paperwork snafu has prevented the probation department in Federal Way, Wash., from finding out that Dillon has complied with the January order.

He also said evidence points to Dillon not having to attend a hearing later this month that could re-open the case once the proper form is filed.

"I'm in compliance with everything," Dillon said. "I'm doing my classes. If you want

to talk to the guy who runs the classes, I'm in compliance.

"If there's some paperwork missing that needs be filled out for this. . .that's what it is. . .That's bogus."

Even though Dillon and wife Desiree reconciled shortly after the Aug. 26,

2000 incident in which he has denied hitting her, the court stipulated he will donate $750 to a domestic violence center and attend domestic violence treatment classes in order to have the charges dropped.

Branion said the form needed is a questionnaire in which Dillon explains where he works, if he's had trouble with the law since the order, and if he's fulfilling the order's requirements.

"From what we understand, it's just some bureaucracy to take care of," Branion said.

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