No cameo for Ross

8-13-02, 3:25 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Adrian Ross, who is about to release a documentary on his life, has a producer's practiced eye.

Cut to Oakland. He can see himself doing what Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert does.

Pan Arrowhead Stadium. He can see himself as the starting middle linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Roll the video of the Broncos bringing Al Wilson over from Tennessee and get in a close shot of Ross starting a Mile High.

But Ross has only fantasized about starting here for his Bengals. And in no way does he consider the next two to three weeks an audition for right outside linebacker Takeo Spikes' job for next year as Spikes rests a partially torn pectoral muscle heading into his free-agent season.

With middle linebacker Brian Simmons expected to sign his six-year extension any minute now, Ross assumes Spikes will also get an extension later with the Bengals. If not. . .

"If they sign both, that's great and if they only sign one, then I'll be good to play, too," Ross said Tuesday. "But I think the focus is just on this year and the players we have on this defense right now trying to get into the NFL's top five. No matter who we have where."

Ross is signed up through 2004 at about a million per year, a linebackers owner's insurance policy the Bengals hope they don't have to use. They are the beneficiary of what Bengals President Mike Brown calls the best corps of linebacker the team has ever had.

"I haven't fantasized about one of these guys leaving and then I'm the starter," Ross said. "I just have always fantasized starting the whole year,

period. I've never had a chance to do that. In the case when Brian got hurt, I never fantasized that I would be starting at (middle linebacker), so it just happens and you don't think about it.

"I know I can play either spot and it doesn't matter to me,' Ross said. "What I do always wonder is, what if I start (at left outside linebacker) the whole year?"

The nice thing is the Bengals know he can play all three spots and he'll do more than prevent the ship from sinking. He'll replace Spikes Saturday in the second pre-season game, as he did last Oct. 14 against the Browns. That's when Ross had a team-high eight tackles as the Bengals gave Spikes a 24-14 victory while he mourned the death of his father back home.

Two years ago when Simmons suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener, Ross alternated with Armegis Spearman in the middle for the rest of the season. In the dying days of the Bengals' 3-4 defense in 1999, Ross started the first 10 games of the season."

Ross, 27, is comfortable with his role. Comfortable enough to sign that three-year extension last training camp. Mainly because of his relationship with Mark Duffner, the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach who plucked Ross from free agency when he came out of Colorado State in 1998.

Duffner has highlighted the 251-pound's versatility (he can also rush from the end spot), and has cultivated the Class of '98, which includes Spikes, Simmons, and starting left outside linebacker Steve Foley.

"Slowly but surely, I guess we're getting the recognition," Ross said. "Not for just the linebackers, but the whole defense. Our defensive line is pretty deep."

Ross is one of the club's genuine characters. He used to show up at training camp with orange streaks through his black hair for Bengal colors, but his more traditional 1950s cut this year seems to reflect his changing ways.

The man who starred in a MTV video a few summers back decided to produce his own documentary. He thinks it will be another vehicle to spread the word to kids. As a walk-on at Colorado State and an undrafted free agent in the NFL, the message is pretty clear: Work hard and you never know.

Ross is one of the more active Bengals when it comes to getting out into the community, so this video could be coming to a school near you. He's also active in his hometown of Sacramento, Calif., and he has spoken at the schools where his parents work in Houston.

Ross has Oliver Stoned the research. He's gone back to talk to the coach he had when he was eight years old, as well as his parents, and Duffner gets good play.

The last bit is getting Ross into a chair for an interview. But he did that for a reason. He wants to watch the entire video beforehand so he can see which points need to be emphasized.

He expects it to be finished some time next month. But he's looking for a title.

"It could be," he said, " 'The Mad Backer.'"

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