Scott status uncertain

4-29-02, 9:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals prepare for this weekend's minicamp amid an ever-changing depth chart and medical situation that could have a wide-ranging impact on the upcoming season.

The big position move is free safety Cory Hall's switch back to strong safety, which could open up things for second-round pick Lamont Thompson to line up as the starting free safety Saturday.

But they are worried about the health of wide receiver Darnay Scott and the leg he broke two years ago. While working out on his own in St. Louis, Scott has been experiencing pain in his left shin and Bengals trainer Paul Sparling calls his status for the weekend, "uncertain at best."

It's the same leg in which Scott, the Bengals' most seasoned receiver,

shattered his tibia and fibula on Aug. 1, 2000 and wiped out his season.

"We're concerned because he's having pain in the leg he broke after not having any problems with it last year," Sparling said. "He's undergone numerous initial diagnostic studies that have proven inconclusive, so we'll have to take a good look at him when we see him on Friday."

Although mincamp depth charts are hardly written in stone and downplayed by coaches, one player who could be displaced is JoJuan

Armour, the incumbent starting strong safety. Armour won the job four games into last season when they benched Chris Carter and moved Hall from strong to free.

"I don't approve of it, but I know the coaches are doing it because they think it helps the team," said Armour before working out Monday at Paul Brown Stadium. "I think I'm best for the team, but it's my job to show the coaches that I'm right."

The 5-11, 220-pound Armour, the first Miami of Ohio player to win a regular starting job with the Bengals, is a solid hitter who finished fifth on the club with 77 tackles and contributed to the NFL's 11th-best run defense. But it was also the converted linebacker's first full season as a safety.

"If anything, he's getting better," said defensive coordinator Mark Duffner. "This is no knock on JoJuan because the guy plays hard, he hits you, and he's learning the position every day. Nothing is set. It's what we tell all the players. Everyone is going to be videotaped and the best players are going to play and it could be him."

Armour acknowledges Hall, "is an exceptional athlete who can play both safeties and corner," but he also knows he brings some qualities to the table.

"I thought I had a real good year considering it was my first season learning only that position," Armour said. "But I guess the coaches don't feel the same way, so I'm going to have to show them."

If Thompson lines up No. 1, that doesn't mean he's a lock. Far from it with veteran Darryl Williams and converted cornerback Mark Roman around. Plus, Hall has 23 of his 33 NFL starts at free safety. But he has just two career interceptions, while Thompson had 24 in his Washington State career.

Cornerback Rodney Heath and quarterback Akili Smith don't expect to be cleared for his weekend with their hamstring injuries. There's a chance defensive tackle Oliver Gibson (minor shoulder surgery), could be cleared.

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