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Scott makes cautious return

7-21-01, 7:20 p.m.


GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Darnay Scott had no flashbacks. But he wanted no replays, either, when the Bengals' top wide receiver returned to pads Saturday for the first time in 355 days.

So in his first practice since breaking his left leg here on this same Georgetown College field, Scott took the advice of head coach Dick LeBeau and worked at his own pace.

Scott admitted the leg literally felt "shaky," and the eight-year veteran was actually nervous as he lined up against cornerbacks for the first time in a game situation since the Aug. 1 incident.

"Coach LeBeau told me to sit down if it got shaky and it felt shaky a few times," Scott said. "It felt cool on the routes, but when I stopped running, it started shaking and I sat down for a play or two and went back. I think it's because I was nervous."

But receivers coach Steve Mooshagian saw enough encouraging things to calm his own nerves. And cornerback Rodney Heath,

who saw Scott catch a ball in front of him on a square-out route, pronounced him as good as new.

"It's the first day, so everybody is a little rusty," Heath said. "But he's still got it. He's still quick. He takes up a lot of ground on his first five steps and he really knows how to use his hands to get past you."

Scott has spent the past month in St. Louis on a sprint program with Olympic coach Bob Kersee and his gold medalist wife Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and he says if there was nobody in front of him, "I can run all day.

"But when I'm across from a guy I'm trying to out think and he's doing the same thing to me and I got a little bump from him, it shook me a little bit. But I'm back on my feet."

Scott didn't appear to run any long routes in scrimmage action, but Mooshagian said he got plenty of work in seven-on-seven and thought he did some nice things considering he hasn't done any of this stuff in a year.

"His routes were a little choppy, especially on the outside cuts, but that's to be expected," Mooshagian said. "He caught the square-out, he caught a post (pattern). He got a good amount of work. It's going to get better. You figure he's got plenty of time with 30 days left in camp."

Scott, who turned 29 two weeks ago, figures it will take him another week to find his comfort zone. And the Bengals need him to find it because without his game-breaking speed, their passing game was dead last in the NFL last season.

And since the other 10 receivers in camp have combined for 128 catches and five touchdowns in the NFL, there's not much proven production. And consider Peter Warrick has 51 of those catches and four of the touchdowns.

"There's no question in my mind I can still go get the ball," Scott said. "I think once I get over all this stuff and get used to having a guy in front of me, I'll be back."

The Bengals would like him back at 200 pounds, which means he needs to lose eight. He usually comes in at 202-203 pounds and said, "I'll probably lose five right away. Hey, I'm a big guy."

When it comes to the Bengals' season, he's absolutely huge.

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