BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals were informed today that wide receiver Carl Pickens has switched agents, but the club indicated the move has no bearing on his situation. Which, at the close of business, is still in limbo as the Bengals wait to hear from the NFL Players Association after the Fourth of July holiday.
Steve Zucker, the Chicago-based representative who secured Pickens two deals with the Bengals totalling nearly $35 million, had no comment on the change. Word is Pickens has signed with Hadley Engelhard of Atlanta, but Engelhard couldn't be reached for comment.
Pickens, the Bengals' all-time leading receiver, has waited for his release for weeks. His departure looked imminent when the Bengals told him not to report to late April's minicamp after the club got indications the NFLPA would settle a dispute with the NFL in which Cincinnati would be assured of keeping its franchise player tag if it released Pickens.
But the deal is apparently part of a global agreement between the league and the union, and the Bengals have been waiting word of a final settlement for two months. Meanwhile, Pickens, 30, is faced with going into free agency near the start of training camp next month, when most teams have used up almost all of their salary cap and roster spots.
SPEEDY SMITH: Pickens changes agents Bengals quarterback Akili Smith has hired a speed coach to work with him four days a week before the July 21 start of training camp. John Davies, a consultant who worked with Packers quarterback Brett Favre in Green Bay, had his first session today at Paul Brown Stadium after Smith's throwing workout. Davies coaxed Smith through a set of cones during some agility drills and worked with him on some 60-yard runs. He also had Smith do a variety of bent-leg situps. "It's not about 40-yard sprinting speed," said Davies, who has also worked at Clemson University and the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. "It's about functional speed, his acceleration getting out of the pocket. He's looking not just for now, but five seasons down the road. The people of Cincinnati are lucky to have this guy. I've never seen a guy more committed to bringing a winner to a town than this kid. He's a competitor. Brett Favre is the same way." Smith said today's session focused on form and opening and rolling his hips properly. Smith heard of Davies' credentials from three rookies during the Bengals' voluntary camp, free agent receivers Marvin Chalmers and Lavelle Boyd, and running back Curtis Keaton, a fourth-round draft pick. "I want to do whatever I can to get my team over the hump," Smith said. "I want to get quicker. I want to be a step faster. The only things I really have to improve on are mainly throwing on the run and making the right reads. And throwing it quick when I have to be quick. It might pay off for me, or it might be a bust. But I'm happy today."
NEW TARGET:The Bengals got Smith a new receiver when they signed college free agent Ben Clampitt of Western Washington. The Bengals need bodies with some wideouts hobbled by tender hamstrings, and the 6-1, 185-pound Clampitt is off a two-year run in which he caught 132 balls. As a junior, he was third in NCAA Division II receiving yards per game with 128.8 and No. 7 with 7.4 catches per game. He was No. 1 in yards per game for four weeks. Clampitt, cut in the spring by the CFL's B.C. Lions, spent his first two years in college at Puget Sound before looking for a pass-oriented offense. He took some kidding from Bengals specials teams coach Al Roberts when Clampitt couldn't name who holds the Puget Sound record for longest run from scrimmage. Naturally, it's Roberts wih 92.