Receivers derby, too

8-7-02, 1:20 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _Jon Kitna quarterbacks the Bengals in the first quarter of Friday's pre-season-opener in Buffalo and Gus Frerotte follows in the second quarter with both set to play behind the first offensive line.

But who they're throwing to provides as much interest in the 7:30 p.m. game at Ralph Wilson Stadium that can be seen on Channel 12 in Cincinnati, Channel 2 in Dayton, Ohio, and Channel 10 in Columbus, Ohio.

With Michael Westbrook (wrist) and Danny Farmer (hamstring) out, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Ron Dugans and Chad Johnson get a chance to move ahead in a receiver derby that has become as wide open as the quarterbacks race.

Houshmandzadeh, the best receiver in the first two weeks of training camp, lines up at the split end opposite Peter Warrick to start the game. When they go three wides throughout the first half, Warrick goes in the slot and is replaced by Johnson. Dugans, nursing ankle tendonitis,

probably only plays in four-receiver sets and he'll join Warrick in the slot.

Johnson is probably going to be the only one of the regulars who works into the third quarter when he moves over to split end. By that time, third-stringer Akili Smith will be the quarterback and Khori Ivy, off a 27-catch season in NFL Europe, will be at flanker.

"It's the most depleted corps of receivers I can remember going into a pre-season game," said fourth-year receivers coach Steve Mooshagian. "It's a good chance to get Chad in there to play another position. If there is one of those guys who can use the work, it's Chad. He missed so much time last year (four games with a broken left collarbone), the extra snaps are good for him and he's the kind of guy that hates to come out of there anyway."

Smith figures to quarterback the third quarter and maybe into the fourth with Scott Covington finishing up. They'll be throwing to college free agents such as Kwazeon Leverette (Syracuse), Darcey Levy (Pittsburgh), and Michael Slater (Murray State). The injury bug has even hit the rookie free-agents with Chris Archie missing the game with a colonoscopy.

"The first four guys are pretty much fighting for a spot in the rotation and the other guys are fighting for a spot on the practice squad," Mooshagian said.

Farmer is expected to resume practice Sunday and might be able to play next Saturday in Indianapolis, but trainer Paul Sparling has him earmarked for the Aug. 24 pre-season opener at Paul Brown Stadium.

Westbrook returned to camp Tuesday night for the first time after surgery on his broken wrist last Tuesday after spending some time with his family dealing with the death of an uncle.

**

INJURY UPDATE: ** These players are out of Friday's game, but hope to be back to practice Sunday: WR Danny Farmer (hamstring), LOLB Steve Foley (hip and groin), LT John Jackson (groin), LE Eric Ogbogu (calf), TE Matt Schobel (abdomen/rib cage), WR Chris Archie (colonoscopy).

CB Artrell Hawkins (knee)

is out and could also miss next week's game as Sparling works him in slowly with a sprained posterior cruciate knee ligament. DE Jevon Langford is out after spraining his ankle Monday and is expected back some time next week.

Backup RT Jamain Stephens, who complained of shortness of breath Monday, is also out of Friday's game after passing a battery of diagnostic tests at Cincinnati's Ohio Heart Center.

"Every test came back normal, but he has to take an additional test (Wednesday morning), so we figured it would be prudent to keep him out this week," Sparling said. **

TRADE TALK:** The Bengals weren't contacted early Tuesday evening by Washington about a trade for quarterback Patrick Ramsey. The Redskins' bid to deal their unsigned first-round pick reportedly fell through with the Bears as Tuesday night's deadline passed. The Bengals coveted the Tulane product and may have drafted Ramsey in the second round if he hadn't gone nine picks before. But they most likely didn't approach Washington about a trade because of a myriad of problems it presented.

First of all, the Bengals probably would have only given up a second-rounder in next year's draft instead of the first that Washington wanted. The ideal trade would have been Ramsey for Akili Smith, but trading Smith would mean the club would have to take a $3 million plus salary cap hit in 2002 and they don't have the room with Brian Simmons' agent in town Wednesday talking extension.

So that meant the Bengals would have to keep four quarterbacks on the roster this season if they traded for Ramsey and that would severely hurt them on the roster.

LEVI AND THE LEGEND: Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz stopped in at camp Tuesday to prep for his TV analyst's job Friday night. He planned to watch tape of some practices and last Saturday's scrimmage later this week and had yet to analyze No. 1 draft pick Levi Jones.

"From just what I've seen out here, he looks quick," Munoz said. "I like the looks of his feet."

It's the second time Munoz has seen Jones' quickness in person. When Jones flew back to Arizona from Cincinnati the Monday after the NFL Draft, Jones bounded out of his first-class seat when he saw Munoz board his plane.

"The lady out at the gate was all excited. She said, 'Our No. 1 pick is

on here,' so I went up to him and introduced myself," Munoz said. "I was back in coach. I'm retired, but he's still playing. He must have offered to change seats with me about three times. He said I deserved it and that he hadn't done anything yet. But I was with a friend of mine and we were going to talk. It was nice of him."

Jones smiled when he recalled the meeting after Tuesday's practice.

"He's first class and I'm just getting started," Jones said. "But he was with a friend and he really wanted to chat."

People here are calling Jones a first-class guy when it comes to handling himself with the coaches and media while showing all the tools on the field.

"Slowly but surely," said Jones, who'll be working mostly with the second line Friday. "I'm staying on guys longer and sustaining my blocks longer (the past few days)."

Jones had only a chance to say a brief hello to Munoz Tuesday, but there will be other times. If Munoz spots anything on tape. . .

"I need all the help I can get," Jones said. "Whatever he sees, I hope he lets me know."

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