Not just another Joe for Cooper

10-18-02, 7:30 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Joe Germaine gave John Cooper probably his greatest thrill in nearly 200 victories as a college head coach and Cooper thinks he's got some magic left.

"If we can get Joe to play like he did at Ohio State, he'll definitely help us," Cooper said Thursday night from Columbus. "There's no question in my mind he can be a productive NFL quarterback."

Cooper, the former Buckeyes head coach now a personnel consultant for the Bengals, is one of the reasons they signed Germaine to the practice squad Thursday. Despite poor scouting reports from NFL Europe this past spring, where Germaine threw five touchdowns and nine interceptions for Barcelona. And despite two quarterback-savvy coaches in the Rams' Mike Martz and the Chiefs' Dick Vermeil giving up on him.

After the Rams traded Germaine to the Chiefs before the 2001 season, Cooper wondered if he has suffered a

lack of confidence. It was that confidence that fueled his poise and decisiveness in the pocket during OSU's last-drive score that gave the Buckeyes the 1997 Rose Bowl championship over Cooper's old school, Arizona State, and Germaine the game's MVP trophy.

"That's what Joe Germaine gives you," Cooper said. "Poise. He knows the offense. He can distribute the ball. He reminds me of Jon Kitna in the sense of his work ethic and leadership. When it came to intangibles, he may have the very best I ever coached."

Cooper didn't attend Thursday's workout, but Germaine impressed the Bengal brass with his accuracy, which has been scattered for their rotating quarterbacks that have completed 55 percent of their passes. The scouts in Europe wondered if he waited too long in the pocket to throw, but Cooper remembers a guy who made quick decisions.

"He doesn't have a rifle for an arm, I don't want to mislead you," Cooper said. "He won't beat you with his feet. But he's got good enough tools and enough smarts that he was the MVP of the Big Ten his last year. In the Rose Bowl, he went right down the field and scored on that last drive. I was afraid we almost scored too quickly."

In comparing him to his opposite number in that game, Jake Plummer, now with the Cardinals, Cooper thinks he holds up well: "He's not the athlete (that Plummer is), but as far as a passer, he's better. There's a difference between a guy who is a thrower and a guy who is a passer and Joe is a better passer of the ball."

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NO COMMENT:** As if to emphasize there are 10 games left, Bengals President Mike Brown isn't saying much these days about his coaches, off-field issues, or the future. He has apparently not discussed it with his coaches, either, because he has not offered any guarantees about the rest of the season.

Brown also has had no comment on the Hamilton County Commissioners' decision this week to seek a legal opinion on whether the club has violated the stadium lease because it has not fielded a competitive team.

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INJURY UPDATE:** The Vaughn Booker retirement talk figures to speed up again after the bye. Bengals trainer Paul Sparling said a medial collateral ligament sprain of the knee is going to sideline the left defensive end for about three weeks or so. Booker, who turns 35 in February, has already missed two games with various problems and missed time in others. He's in the third year of a five-year deal. . .

C Rich Braham had surgery

earlier this week to remove two loose bodies from his elbow and he expects to return to practice Wednesday. Braham played two games after his elbow locked up on him during a practice. . .

WR Danny Farmer, who returned last week from missing four games with a posterior cruciate knee ligament sprain, took some time off this week in practice to rest, as did fellow receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Ron Dugans, who have been nicked all season. WR Michael Westbrook also fought a hamstring twinge, leaving the club at one point with just two healthy receivers in Peter Warrick and Chad Johnson. . .

MLB Brian Simmons has been practicing with his pinched nerve in his neck and is expected to play next week. . .So is RG Mike Goff, who has missed the last three weeks with a deep cut in his knee but practiced this week. . .TE Sean Brewer (knee) is still questionable after missing the last three games. . .K Neil Rackers, who tried two straight on-side kicks against the Steelers, has a sprained thumb, but can kick. . .

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