11-27-01, 12:10 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals made a flurry of roster moves Tuesday morning, but none involved embattled kicker Neil Rackers.
The club activated fullback Nick Williams off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and released tight end Kirk McMullen to make room on the 53-man roster. They also released wide receiver Malcolm Johnson from the practice squad, possibly indicating they would like to re-sign McMullen to the squad if he clears waivers by Wednesday.
McMullen, primarily a blocker, played his first two NFL games the past two weeks after pass-catching tight end Marco Battaglia's appendectomy sidelined him for the season. Williams, who had reconstructive knee surgery May 24
after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament at minicamp, is to be tried in various roles with running back and tight end responsibilities. The club feels the 265-pound Williams has the size and speed to block and catch for both positions and he's been spending time in meetings with both groups, but it's unclear where or how he'll be used Sunday.
The moves leave the Bengals with two pure tight ends in Tony McGee and Brad St. Louis, but St. Louis is primarily a long snapper who plays pretty much only in three tight- end sets.
The moves also indicate Rackers gets another chance to redeem himself this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium against Tampa Bay after field-goal misses of 43 and 47 yards extended his slump to nine misses in his last 15 tries.
On Monday, head coach Dick LeBeau reiterated his belief that a strong Lake Erie wind Sunday in Cleveland knocked down Rackers' 43-yard bid in the first quarter.
"We have another kicker on the practice squad and there's no subliminal message there," LeBeau said of Jaret Holmes. "We're trying to get a good, young kicker an opportunity to show us that he can kick at this level."