Posted: 11:10 p.m.
GrahamGEORGETOWN, Ky. - This time Shayne Graham hit the 48-yarder.
Head coach Marvin Lewis proved he's always thinking when he called it out at the end of practice here Monday night. One shot from 48, the same distance from where Graham missed slightly to the left at the gun in Detroit Thursday night in the Bengals' 27-26 loss in the preseason opener.
Actually, there may have been more riding on the line on this kick than the last kick.
"It was throwing a bone out to us; a morale booster," Graham said. "If we made it, we get a little extra time off to relax (Tuesday), so that means something to the guys. It was a good chance for me to build my confidence and give everyone else a little boost."
Clearly Lewis was trying to cleanse Graham's mind. The second-most accurate kicker of all time banged field goals of 47 and 48 as well as from 23 and 39 Thursday before the miss. And he's hit enough to be the most accurate Bengals kicker ever.
But the fact his 39-yard miss against Pittsburgh at the end of regulation at the end of last season cost the Bengals the playoffs surfaced again Thursday.
"I hate missing them in front of my teammates and I hate missing them in games because the team feels it," Graham said. "This was something good because it put me out there with the adrenaline pumping and something on the line. It wasn't just a kick."
SmithSEE A DIFFERENT GAME: Defensive tackle John Thornton calls ends Robert Geathers and Justin Smith "our big money guys," and with good reason. They not only combined for 18 sacks last season, but they account for about $13 million under the salary cap this season.
"Any chance we can to free them up, we'll do it," Thornton said.
There are indications Smith and Geathers are going to have more freedom to move around a little bit during the course of a game, once they get the feel for the ebb and flow. It could mean they flop sides, putting Geathers on the right, or it could mean using some more inside slants, like how they blitzed Smith on Thursday night to sack Jon Kitna.
"What me and Rob have been talking about is to have the freedom to call out your own games," Smith said. "Having flexibility to move around, not always (aware) where me and Rob are coming from. It doesn't hurt to say anything now because I think in a game we're going to be doing so (many) different things that we're going to be on the same page and we can create something special here.
"We both can drop (into pass coverage); just really utilize both of our skills and try to get the most out of us. Instead of just leaving us sitting there and playing straight up down in and down out. Let's move around. Let's use everything we can to get the most out of both of us."
BrooksPICK CHAT: This is why the Bengals love Carson Palmer and why they are keeping the faith in middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
On Monday night, Brooks stepped in front of a Palmer pass, intercepted it, and took off the other way in frightening fashion. But Palmer called him back because he wanted to pick Brooks' brain about the pick.
"He wanted to know my view. He wanted to know why I slipped back to cover Chad (Johnson)," Brooks said. "It's a rule of our defense."
Without giving anything away, Brooks patiently explained that once he saw the formation, the number of receivers and where they were aligned, he read the rule that ends with "Read the quarterback's eyes."
"I just wanted to see what he saw," Palmer said. "Why he jumped that route from his point. See what happened. He knew exactly what happened. He's as athletic as anyone we have on defense. I'm excited to see him play. He's got a lot of pressure to perform. I think he'll live up to the hype and the pressure is everyone is putting on him."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
Running back Kenny Watson missed the night practice with the stomach flu.
Tight end Reggie Kelly got Monday off all day to rest the veteran muscles.
About 1,500 fans showed up Monday night. With two practices left (Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning) at Georgetown College, athletic director Eric Ward said attendance is probably going to work out to around the same as last year at an estimated 53,000. The daily count is off a bit, but there are a few more dates this year.