QBs grapple for roles

10-22-02, 7:45 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Joe Germaine watched during his first practice as the Bengals' newest quarterback Monday, but no one had an answer how long he'll be No. 4. The only thing that is clear is that Jon Kitna is No. 1, No. 2 Gus Frerotte and his agent wish the NFL extends the trading deadline, and Akili Smith is perplexed at why he is No. 3.

, Which means everything, is status quo for the moment, but offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski isn't sure where Germaine is going to end up by the end of the season.

"We've got a long way to go," Bratkowski said. "You never know what's going to happen with him as we go. We talk a lot about (the quarterbacks) every day and right now we're going to stay where we're at and just go forward one week at a time and determine what's best at that point."

Germaine, the former Ohio State quarterback relieved to be working after getting cut by the Chiefs before the start of the season, hasn't been told what his role is as a member of the practice squad or what the time frame might be for his roster activation. The Bengals got their quarterback with the Super Bowl ring, but it

wasn't Drew Bledsoe (Germaine got picked in the fourth round by the Rams the year they won it), and Frerotte is wondering what happens if a contending team could use him down the stretch.

Like, say, the Miami Dolphins with old friend Norv Turner, after Ray Lucas threw four interceptions Sunday in place of the injured Jay Fiedler. But with the NFL trading deadline passing last week, Frerotte has few options.

"That's what my agent and I have been talking about," said Frerotte of Marvin Demoff. "The trading deadline is just so early that it's hard if another team could use you. The only way is if you get cut."

Frerotte says he won't go to the front office to ask for his release, but the Dolphins' situation interests him. Word out of Miami is that Turner, his former head coach in Washington and now the Dolphins' offensive coordinator, has no interest in Frerotte after a rocky relationship in the mid-90s. But Frerotte believes bygones could be bygones.

"I could get past that," Frerotte said. "Hey, I'm 31. Thing change. You get older. That's a long time ago."

Whatever, it continues to look like he won't turn 32 here with his one-year deal, and if they activate Germaine at some point this season, Frerotte might not have to ask for his release. Kitna shrugged with the addition of Germaine and said, "It sounds good to me. Another pair of eyes to help us out with what's going on."

Smith isn't so understanding. He's still looking for reasons why he's not the backup and getting the bulk of the remaining snaps instead of Frerotte, a one-year veteran who very well may not return like the guy Smith sat behind last year in Scott Mitchell.

Germaine has to sit as he learns the system, which he says has a pretty good learning curve because it's not all that similar to what he had in St. Louis and Kansas City. But playing behind Kurt Warner with the Rams taught him anyone can get a shot at anytime and an untried quarterback has to be ready when called.

"How to play the game," said Germaine when asked what he learned from Warner. "The most important aspect of the game is accuracy and that's what he demonstrated. Get the ball to the receivers in the place where they can get yards after catch."

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