Neal ignores break

7-23-01, 9:35 p.m.

Updated: 7-24-01, 12:55 a.m.

Updated: 7-24-01, 1:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Fullback Lorenzo Neal appeared with a soft cast on his right hand at Tuesday's walk through after showing it to trainers Tuesday morning. But he didn't and doesn't plan to miss a snap with a small fracture.

In fact, after the walk-through he directed Akili Smith and Takeo Spikes in the trio's medicine ball workout.

"I don't know even know what happened or when," Neal said. "I just want it covered so it can take time to heal, that's why I went to them this morning. But I can still play with it. No problem."

Trainer Paul Sparling isn't sure if Neal will work in Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage.

DUELING PROPOSALS: The agent for Justin Smith sent a proposal to the Bengals Monday night, which the Bengals termed 'disappointing," and the club sent a response Tuesday morning. Jim Steiner's offer came on the heels of the Michael Vick-like deal reached by defensive tackle Richard Seymour.

The Seymour deal in New England could harden or heat the negotiations since the Bengals want no part of the two-tiered signing bonus.

Meanwhile, Smith, looking for more than the $8.5 million signing bonus the Bengals gave Peter Warrick last year, said from Missouri Monday night he has yet to reach the point where he'll step in and tell Steiner to get a deal.

Seymour, taken two spots behind Smith with the sixth pick by the Patriots, received the kind of signing bonus the Bengals had hoped to avoid.

Because this year's salary cap limitations prevent teams from giving their first-round draft picks the same amount of money as last year,

players are trying to get around this year's rookie pool with the future bonus.

Seymour received $4.8 million to sign this year and $3.2 million next year and his first three season salaries are another guaranteed $3 million, according to reports.

"It shows that type of structure is a way to do the contract and deal with the circumstances from this year's cap," said Steiner of the Seymour deal.

Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn said the Seymour deal doesn't mean Cincinnati has to do the same thing.

"There are different ways to get to the same number," Blackburn said. "The teams obviously don't like it because it makes the rookie pool meaningless. Just because one team did it doesn't mean we have to do it. But let's see what happens."

The Bengals' reported offer to Smith is a six-year, $17.25 million deal with a $7.5 million bonus, which could be harmed by Seymour's $8 million over two years.

But it's believed the Bengals have incentives in the package that double the total deal and give Smith's contract a higher value than Warrick's deal over six years.

Smith reiterated Monday he's not looking for much more than Warrick's bonus and that he's not bitter. But he's hoping the deal can get done by this week so he can play in the pre-season opener.

"It's business. A lot of the teams are having trouble signing guys," Smith said. "I think I should be able to (contribute) if I can get in there pretty soon."

THIS AND THAT: There were some helmets turned Monday when head coach Dick LeBeau extended by about 30 minutes the morning walk-through, which ended the supposed-to-be light session in pads with 10 plays in 7-on-7. Players were referring to it as "a subtle two-a-day" practice in pads during a training camp that isn't supposed to have two-a-days.

"Coach LeBeau is the smoothest guy I know," said veteran tight end Tony McGee. "He had us believing it was one-a-day, and then he kind of snuck it in before we knew it. But you know what? He's got so much respect around here that if he asks you to do something, you do it because you know it will help you."

Any more subtle two-a-days?

"There'll be more of those," LeBeau said. . . Rookie tight end Sean Brewer is day-to-day after suffering a grade one concussion in Monday's practice. . .LG Matt O'Dwyer is also day-to-day after missing Monday with an ankle that was not seriously tweaked Sunday. . .DT Glen Steele, who sprained his ankle running Fourth of July, has been cleared and will practice Tuesday. . .

DE Kevin Henry (elbow) could miss the first two pre-season games after last week's arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips. He figures he'll be out three weeks. . .

**

HORTON'S CAMP:** Ray Horton is having an interesting training camp, his first since moving from secondary coach to safeties coach. He's overseeing JoJuan Armour's move from linebacker to strong safety, as well as coaching the punt returners. Well, coaching every returner but rookie receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

"He's a natural," Horton said. "I haven't had to say a

word to him. I've told the other guys they need to do this, or to look at that. But T.J. just knows what to do. I really like him as a receiver, too.

" As a seventh-round pick, you're talking about value there," Horton said. "And it's not too big for him. He's confident-but-not-cocky, or whatever you want to call it."

The 5-11, 220-pound Armour, the former Miami University linebacker who was his college league's two-time player of the year, has returned from NFL Europe more comfortable as a safety. Armour is pushing Tremain Mack for the backup job behind Cory Hall, but Armour can be a variety of things, such as a linebacker on passing downs.

But Horton is now confident enough to use him in the defensive backfield.

"I was afraid to put him out there in games because he just wasn't used to the position," Horton said. "Now he's got more of a feel for it. The biggest difference is that as a linebacker, you've got four people behind you if you make a mistake. In the secondary if you make a mistake, the only guy backing you up is the guy waving his hand in the end zone.

"He's had to learn to play with some discipline," said Horton of a player who had carte blanche at Miami. "At safety, it's not just pin your ears back and go. It's pin your ears back, find out where they're running, and then go. We're trying to expose him to things he does well. I would say at this point, every spot is open."

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