BY GEOFF HOBSON- GEORGETOWN, Ky.
Cornerback Mark Roman is one of three rookies holding out in the NFL and the only non first-rounder. The Bengals are about $80,000 shy on the four-year average of the players drafted around him in the second round, and the LSU cornerback is insisting he won't be undersold.
At the moment, the Bengals aren't concerned. Robert Bean, their fifth-round pick out of Mississippi State is holding up just fine, thank you and is bidding to be the biggest impact second day draft pickup since they took Pro Bowl kick returner Tremain Mack in the fourth round in 1997. If 1999 second-round pick Charles Fisher had played like this at cornerback all year without blowing out his knee, they probably would have been delighted.
"He's a ball guy," said starting left cornerback Tom Carter. "He can play the ball and he always seems to be around the ball."
Of course, he's got a long way to go. Bean admits he has a tendency to go to the ball and leave his man ("I've got to stop doing that, but I'm getting better,"), but between Bean and rookie free agent corner Brian Gray, they feel pretty good about the depth behind Carter, Artrell Hawkins and nickel back Rodney Heath.
Are they kidding themselves becuase of the Roman stalemate?
"He's documented himself on film as a player," said special teams coach Al Roberts. "Now he's got to go with that. He's got to get better."
Roberts loves Bean because the rookie blocked 17 kicks during his last three years of college and then blocked an extra point in the Bengals' intrasquad scrimmage. But Bean didn't get near the Bills' operation on Friday night and left impressed with the speed of the pro game. Roberts went at him on the sidelines, telling him not to slow down on the rush.
"He got discouraged because they had a good operation and they blocked him," Roberts said. "You can't get discouraged. You have to go harder the next time. . .He said they were holding him and I told him they would do that. They aren't going to let a young guy get around the end. He wasn't thinking about mechanics. He was thinking about the Buffalo Bills and Ralph Wilson Stadium and all that stuff."
Bean, who had three tackles and two pass breakups Friday, said he should have had an interception but he didn't use a scooping motion to take it off the ground. He also thought he was trying to block kicks, but that he probably looked slow to Roberts.
"If they get a hand on you, you can't get there because the ball is gone," Bean said. "You have to make one move and go. You can't juke or fake or anything like that. A good snap, good hold and you won't get there if you don't keep being aggressive. You can't finesse."
MORE KICKS: ** Roberts isn't blaming kicker Doug Pelfrey for the blocked 29-yard field goal attempt that would have won the Bills' game on the last play. He blamed it on poor blocking mechanics on the left side of the line, but said he is looking for a quicker operation. Pelfrey says the tape showed it took 1.39 seconds for him to get the kick off. He says anywhere between 1.25 and 1.40 seconds is acceptable, but he wasn't looking for an excuse.
"Maybe it could have been a little quicker," Pelfrey said. "But I don't know what more I could do. I feel like there was a challenge issued in the offseason and that I've met the challenge. I'm hitting the ball well. I'm content with the way I'm hitting the ball." Asked if he felt there was a competition between him and sixth-round pick Neil Rackers, Pelfrey said, "They've charted field goals only once and I won that one."
HIGHWAY 71: Right tackle Willie Anderson, who wears No. 71, handed out some "Highway 71," hats to the offensive and defensive lines. On Tuesday here at training camp, Anderson is teaming with Cincinnati's Boys and Girls Club to host 71 inner-city children for the day.
INJURY UPDATE: The following players won't be ready for next Friday's game with Atlanta: S JoJuan Armour (groin), DL Michael Bankston (calf, knee), DL Tom Barndt (chest), RB Michael Basnight (wrist), C Rich Braham (knee), LB Alan Buckwalter (hamstring).
S Greg Myers (knee) is doubtful. CB Sirr Parker (hamstring) is questionable.
Rookie WR Ron Dugans looks like he'll make his debut because he's probable as he recovers from a sore hamstring. Also probable are LB Armegis Spearman (chest), S Lawrence Wright (chest), LB Canute Curtis (groin).