8-23-01, 11:05 p.m.
Updated: 8-24-01, 2:25 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Corey Moore, the newest Bengal, wants it known he's not the man the news reports suggest.
"I'm not an alcoholic, drug addict, or anything like that," said Moore after arriving in Cincinnati Friday. "I love my family to death. I'm a football player and I want to show the Bengals they made the right choice when they claimed me."
Moore, a linebacker cut by the Bills Wednesday and claimed by the Bengals Thursday, says he would love to get a sack against them Saturday. The Bengals plan to put him in his college position for a few snaps at defensive end, where he had 17 sacks in 1999 at Virginia Tech as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
"I can probably help them," said Moore with a laugh about the game plan. "I've got a handle on what Buffalo is trying to do."
Moore, Buffalo's third-round pick last year, knew his time was short in Upstate New York after a spring in
which he was shot in his car while sitting at a red light. That was a few weeks after he was charged with assault in a bar fight.
When Buffalo switched from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, Moore knew that it was three strikes and out for a 5-11, 215-pound pass rusher.
"Wrong place, wrong time," Moore said. "I'm glad the Bengals have checked it out and understood what was going on. I got off on the wrong foot with the new coaching staff up there, but all that is behind me."
The assault charge has been dropped and while the June shooting in his hometown of Brownsville, Tenn., was early in the morning, it was determined not suspicious.
"It was random," Moore said. "I was at a light in my car changing the radio and a guy walked up to me and pointed a gun. I took off and got shot. You survive something like that and you start thinking it was lucky that was all that happened to me."
Moore took a flesh wound in the leg and he missed the first week of training camp because of conditioning. He had one sack in the preseason, but the Bills couldn't figure out where to play him after a look at middle linebacker failed. So the Bengals are going to let him do what he did at Virginia Tech and line him up at end and just let him go the passer.
"I like going back to end, but I'm still learning linebacker," Moore said. "The 3-4 still suits me best, but I don't think my size had anything to do with it in Buffalo. I just think with the coaching change it wasn't going to work. I'm anxious to show these guys what I can do."
No, the Bengals didn't claim Moore so they could:
_Pick his brain about the Bills' pass rush for Saturday.
_Line him up to block a winning field-goal attempt on the last play of the game, which he did in Buffalo last season in his first NFL game. And spoiled Cincinnati's pre-season opener.
_Bring him in to scare another rush end, first-round pick Justin Smith, out of his 36-day holdout.
"No, it's just an opportunity to take a look at a guy who was a very unique college player," said Duke Tobin, director of pro/college personnel for the Bengals. "We want to see if we can find a niche for him. We think there has to be a niche for him in the NFL with his explosiveness and quickness."
Word out of Buffalo was that he just wasn't big enough against 300-pound tackles and got engulfed on the rush. He apparently sealed his fate with inconsistent special teams play.
But the Bengals want to try him at end in the nickel pass rush, where they already have similar-type players in Jevon Langford and Reinard Wilson locked in a fight with at least two others for that last defensive line roster spot.
"You can never have enough good players," said head coach Dick LeBeau. "If he can get to the quarterback, we'd have a spot for him. We hope to find that out."
Tobin said Moore's wound doesn't appear to bother him. The club's reports also indicate he was an innocent bystander.
"We researched him thoroughly when he was coming out of college and he's not too far removed from that," Tobin said. "He was an exemplary kid there. A team leader and effort guy."
Moore missed seven games last season because of an ankle injury and started the final three games at outside linebacker because of injuries.
THIS AND THAT: Starting right cornerback Artrell Hawkins won't play Saturday after being admitted to Christ Hospital in Cincinnati late Thursday afternoon with lingering tonsillitis. But trainer Paul Sparling is hoping he won't need to have the tonsils removed.
"We think we can turn it around using antibiotics therapy," Sparling said. "It's the kind of surgery you'd like to do during the offseason."
Still, if the tonsils need to be removed, Hawkins could be back for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against the Patriots. If he doesn't need the surgery, he is questionable for the Aug. 30 pre-season finale against the Colts. . .
The Bengals are going to be down two cornerbacks Saturday with Mark Roman also out with a bruised chest. So look for free-agent Kenny Bryant, a rookie out of Jackson State, to get plenty of work. Robert Bean figures to get the start at Hawkins' spot. . .
DE Kevin Henry (hamstring) is questionable. . .No talks on the Justin Smith front Thursday. . .
Jim Lippincott, the Bengals' director of pro/college personnel, became a grandfather for the first time this week when daughter Kelly gave birth to Evan James King in Atlanta: "He hasn't run the 40 yet, but he passes the eyeball test at seven pounds, four ounces and about 20 inches," Lippincott said. . .
RE-PETE RETURNS: With rookie receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (foot) sidelined Saturday, receiver Damon Griffin is going to return punts in his last-ditch effort to make the team.
But most of special teams coach Al Roberts' returners are on the bubble at receiver, such as Houshmandzadeh, Griffin and incumbent returner Craig Yeast. There's a possibility none of those guys will either
be on the team at all or on the 45-game day roster, which makes it tough on Roberts.
"There are so many things up in the air with all those guys," Roberts said.
Wide receiver Peter Warrick said he has already been told to get ready to return more puts than the seven he returned last year as a rookie, but Roberts is holding off for sure until he sees how the receiver spot plays out. But he very well could be the regular returner.
One of Warrick's returns went 82 yards for the "Bobby Orr Touchdown," which was the return Warrick skated across the PBS ice against Jacksonville Dec. 17, the last time the Bengals were in the building.
But Warrick won't get any returns on PBS' new turf Saturday or the last pre-season game. Roberts is ready to take him out of the wrapper for the regular-season opener. But he also doesn't want to overuse the team's slot receiver.
"Some he'll return, some he'll catch," Roberts said.
Warrick is looking forward to the added work and thinks he'll be better than last season simply because he'll have a chance to get into a groove with more work.
"That's what I do. That's one of my skills," Warrick said. "I don't mind it. I'll do it."
Warrick has been catching punts in practice and thinks he could start the regular season cold. But he wouldn't mind getting a shot to return one in preseason.
Cornerback Rodney Heath can also return punts, but Roberts is worried about the 5-10, 175-pounder getting exposed too much.
"Corners do return," Roberts said. "But usually they're the 6-foot, 190- 200-pound guys."