BY GEOFF HOBSON
About all Scott Mitchell could do at Monday's workout was literally stand behind Akili Smith. And believe it, the Bengals backup quarterback was thankful he could do even that.
By today, Mitchell was a little stronger and able to take snaps from scrimmage.
"I've never been so sick in my life. It's a nasty deal, man," said Mitchell, who spent minicamp weekend in the hospital with bacterial pneumonia. "I haven't done anything for two and a half weeks. I could barely get out of bed."
Mitchell returned to Spinney Field wan and wistful on Monday. He threw a few passes, but trainer Paul Sparling said Mitchell probably won't be cleared for full activity until next week. On his first day back, Mitchell had appointments with the team's internist, as well as the playbook doctor, offensive coordinator Ken Anderson.
"It definitely puts me behind," Mitchell said. "Just to get to the flow of practice, the tempo. To get a feel for the offense. Just real basic things. Just calling plays in the huddle and the things you start to go through as you get into practice."
About two weeks ago, Mitchell, 32, looked forward to his first extended work with the team he joined back in March as a free-agent from the Lions. He's not sure how he got sick, but he thinks the drive from his training base in California to his home in Michigan in preparation for driving here for minicamp didn't help. Then, when he tried to catch up on his training, the roof caved in.
Mitchell didn't get truly scared until the doctors hooked him up with the infectious diseases people. They were thinking it could be meningitis until the antibiotics started to work their modern magic.
"The biggest thing is regaining his strength and endurance," Sparling said. "It's an illness that just wipes you out, and you need time to recover."
Mitchell plans to stick around Spinney for the rest of the first set of voluntary workouts that end Thursday. Then he'll put in some overtime with Anderson on the blackboard. Mitchell has been around long enough to throw 92 touchdown passes for three different teams, and although he's never called a play in the huddle for the Bengals with about 70 days until training camp, that shouldn't be too tough on a guy who's been a playoff quarterback.
"He's behind, but we can get that done," Anderson said. "The nice thing is, it's only early May. He's a veteran, he knows the concepts. Plus, I gave him some of these things (in March), so it's just a matter of going out and doing it. Some of the terminology and the reads are different."
For instance, Mitchell can recognize an inside blitz that's going to force him to throw the ball quickly or "hot," to the running back. But he doesn't know what this team calls it, so he has to learn Bengalese.
"Understanding plays and understanding situations, I understand that," Mitchell said. "Incorporating my knowledge into this system, that's the thing. It's communicating the play to people. It's red for this team, green for that team, blue for another team. But really, it's all (the same thing). These guys are already into it, so they're talking on a level where I'm just trying to tread water to keep up."
But between his workouts and his illness, Mitchell is right on pace with his weight. He's lost about 15 pounds since he signed and is only about five pounds shy of hitting his goal of 245 pounds by May 16.
BROWN ON AIR:Bengals President Mike Brown is the guest of Sports Talk host Andy Furman at 6:10 p.m. today on WLW-AM 700, which will again be broadcasting the club's games after a three-year hiatus.