BY GEOFF HOBSON
The irony isn't lost on Scott Mitchell.
In Friday's preseason finale, he'll take the majority of snaps for the Bengals as their backup quarterback against a Detroit team quarterbacked by the player who replaced him in Baltimore last season. Not only that, Stoney Case is running the club that Mitchell took to three playoff berths in the mid 1990s. Not only that, Mitchell is playing for the team that intercepted his last pass as a Lion back on Sept. 13, 1998.
Bengals cornerback Corey Sawyer took it 58 yards for a touchdown 2:06 into overtime to give the Lions a 34-28 loss and Detroit coach Bobby Ross the reason to turn to rookie Charlie Batch just two games into the season.
"I don't think the Cincinnati game was the reason," said Mitchell of the move that still baffles him and disagrees with him. "I never knew what it was completely. I've stopped speculating. That's all it is on my part. Yeah, I talked to (Ross) then about it. He said it was a lot of things. He said he felt the team had to go in a different direction. We'd been to the playoffs three of my four years there. I personally felt after two games into the season, especially with a proven player, I thought it was too early."
Mitchell is trying hard this week to file away the emotions and just think about the game. But he realized how hard that would be as he watched film this week and saw the lions on the helmet and the Detroit blue and the memories came flooding back.
"The last time I was there wasn't the greatest memory of my life," Mitchell said. "Just seeing all that brings it all back. You have to be really careful. I'm focused on where I am in my career and where I want to be and I don't want things in the past to affect me. Being too emotional can take away from what you're trying to do. But to say I'm not excited about playing the game and that I'm not pumped up about it would be a lie. But I can't let it get the best of me."
Mitchell also got lifed early last season in Baltimore, but Case struggled before the Ravens turned to Tony Banks. Batch responded in '98 with the fourth best rookie passer rating in history and had the Lions at 6-2 last season before breaking his thumb and missing five games. Injuries have followed him since. He's not expected to play Friday with the hopes the broken right knee he suffered in June has healed enough for him to play in next week's regular-season opener,
Mitchell says, "Charlie's a good player," and he still has plenty of friends on the team. But the second most prolific passer in Detroit history behind only the incomporable Bobby Layne is taking emotion out of it.
"You have to," Mitchell said, "so you can do your job."
FARRIS WAIVED: ** Less than 24 hours after they picked him up on waivers from the Steelers, tackle Kris Farris failed the Bengals' physical and reverts back to Pittsburgh. That no doubt jarred the folks in Pittsburgh, where he played in all four preseason games with a broken bone at the base of his index finger. But he missed all last season with a foot stress fracture and Bengals trainer Paul Sparling told the media a CAT scan showed the fracture had not healed completely. The Bengals now have 64 players left on the roster and need to cut 11 after Friday's game.
HALL FUMING:**Strong safety Corey Hall is still upset about the crack-back block Bears receiver D'Wayne Bates put on the back of his leg in the fourth quarter Saturday that may knock him out of this Friday's game with a mild high ankle sprain.
"The guy should be thrown out of the league. Just crazy," Hall said. "I was blitzing and I beat him. I was past him and he just rolled up on me. He said he was sorry, but we're sportsmen out there. We're trying not to hurt anyone. It was bad."
Bengals coach Bruce Coslet said he expects a fine. Hall said he expects to play soon. He emphasized that it's not like the severe high ankle sprains that hobbled fullback Nick Williams and receiver Craig Yeast last season: "It's already feeling much better today," Hall said. "I won't push it, but it doesn't feel that bad."
INJURY UPDATE:** Hall, listed as questionable, isn't the only defensive starter who might not play. CB Artrell Hawkins (wrist, foot, knee) is doubtful, as is LB Takeo Spikes (hip). DE Vaughn Booker (knee) is questionable. The only hobbled offensive starter is RT Willie Anderson (stomach pull), who is questionable.