Moore pass rushers

8-23-01, 11:05 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ No, the Bengals didn't claim Bills linebacker Corey Moore Thursday and switch him to his college position of defensive end so they could:

_Pick his brain about the Bills' pass rush, which just so happens to be at Paul Brown Stadium Saturday night.

_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. Moore, a third-round draft pick from Virginia Tech, spoiled Cincinnati's pre-season opener.

_Bring him in to scare another rush end, first-round pick Justin Smith, out of his 35-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."

The 5-11, 215-pound Moore, who came out of college last year as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year with 17 sacks, had trouble finding that niche

with the Bills and they cut him Wednesday. Word out of Buffalo is that he just wasn't big enough and he apparently sealed his fate with inconsistent special teams play.

But the Bengals want to try him at end in the 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."

LeBeau said Moore might play a snap against his old team. Tobin admitted, "We're going to get a limited view, but it will still be a view."

Moore was shot in the leg while he was in his car at a traffic stop during the offseason. Tobin said the injury doesn't appear to bother him and he's got a sack this preseason. The club's reports 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."

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