Scott wonders at excitement

5-29-01, 6:10 p.m.

Updated: 5-30-01, 2:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

When he showed up for Wednesday's practice, Bengals wide receiver Darnay Scott couldn't believe the excitement his month-long absence has caused. Considering he's never been close to a 100-percent guy at voluntary camps, anyway.

Scott, talkative and accessible, told reporters he planned to show a week ago Monday before a boyhood friend was shot and killed that weekend in St. Louis. He said Alphonso Smith was like "a little brother to me.

"He came over to my house every day and we'd just chill out," Scott said, "Or he'd drive me around whenever we did anything. Then he got murdered and I just shut it down. It's been rough."

Scott said he thinks he deserves his $150,000 workout bonus because he's been working out in St. Louis, but he knows the Bengals will argue he had to be with the team to earn it. He said he won't fight the club and "it's not about the money."

"Just let me relax," Scott said. "I'l be a much calmer, cool guy if you let me relax. Don't try to force it on me. Why do you have to force me to be here? My thing is, if I come to camp in shape where I need to be at 200 pounds, catching the ball (well), things should be cool. Don't make it seem like the 150 grand or whatever it is is a bearing on me being here. That's what I don't like. The money is the money, man, but still, you can't just force it on me."

Scott's agent, Rocky Arceneaux, said Wednesday he has had discussions with the Bengals about the contract language regarding the workout bonus. Since Scott was limited because of his injury, Arceneaux believes he met the guidelines by reaching his current physical status with consistent offseason rehab in St. Louis. The Bengals say Scott had to be present with the team at the voluntary workouts to get the bonus.

"There was only so much he could do because he was coming back from a broken leg," Arceneaux said. "But he was doing it six times a week. He must have because he had to get to this point and he's come a long way. He just has to work on his cardiovascular. If he's running on an underwater treadmill in St. Louis, that has to be considered workouts."

Scott was clearly still shaken from Smith's death. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported 10 days ago that Smith, 27, was shot to death around 11:30 p.m. May 18 by an intruder into his home who was wearing a ski mask. The newspaper said an 18-year-old woman was shot in the ankle and that there were few leads and a suspect was still sought.

Scott, who had yet to appear at this month's previous dozen workouts, said he was about 205 pounds.

Although Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau said he planned to keep the rehabbing Scott off the field for much of the workouts, the club is anxious to monitor his recovery from the broken left leg that wiped out his 2000 season. Scott wanted to run against defensive backs Wednesday, but LeBeau said his plan all along has been to unleash Scott in 7-on-7 drills and team work at training camp.

Scott, who turns 29 in July, is fifth on the Bengals all-time receiving list and carries the hopes of an offense that finished last in NFL passing last season without his game-breaking speed. Scott has a history of showing up for about half the voluntary workouts, so the team became concerned when he didn't show last week.

"We cleared the air," wide receivers coach Steve Mooshagian said after Scott phoned him Tuesday. "I respect his feelings and I understand where he's coming from, but I also told him he needed to communicate better and let me know. I told him that's never been a problem with him and not to let it become one now. I told him we'll let bygones be bygones and to put it past us.

"He sounded distraught, as I imagine you would if you lost one of your best friends," Mooshagian said. "And he just shut it down. That's like Darnay. He's just not going to deal with anything else when he's going through something like that."

LeBeau is pleased with the camp's overall attendance, but admitted he wanted Scott around "for installation," of the Bengals' new offense.

Which probably means overtime for Mooshagian in June. Scott, Peter Warrick and second-round draft choice Chad Johnson are projected to be the top three receivers. But Johnson, as well as fellow Oregon State receiver T.J. Houshmanzadeh, hasn't been able to participate in workouts because his class doesn't graduate until June 16.

"I'm hoping we can get those three guys in here together for a day in June and give them a seminar," Mooshagian said. "We'll catch them up. It happens. Two years ago we had one day to get Carl Pickens ready for the first game."

After doing only individual drills at the mandatory May 4-7 minicamp, Scott said he felt fine except for some occasional awkwardness when he had to cut on his left leg.

Defensive captain Takeo Spikes has been the most vocal player about his teammates showing up for the 14 days the NFL allows teams to practice without pads before the start of training camp.

But he understands if a player has pressing personal obligations. He also knows the importance of Scott at these workouts.

"We've got guys, young guys, here and around the league who look up to Darnay," Spikes said. "A lot of receivers look up to him because he's played so well down through the years. He helps the younger guys. If we're going to turn this thing around, we need everybody."

**

CONTRACT TALK:** There is no rest for the negotiators.

Barely two weeks after locking up Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon with a franchise five-year deal, Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn is poised to contact the agents for the club's seven draft picks in the next few days.

The big question this year is how teams and agents are going to respond to the restrictions of the collective bargaining agreement that prevent contracts longer than six years. It's been a slow process with the Falcons reportedly the only team consistently making offers.

The Falcons got around only having six years to pro-rate No. 1 pick Michael Vick's signing bonus in their rookie pool by using guaranteed money.

Blackburn said she's not ruling anything in or out at this point.

"We're pretty much done crunching the numbers and where we want to be with each player," Blackburn said.

With the fourth pick last year and in this past draft, it's believed the Bengals have about $4.5 million in their rookie pool.

If the Bengals don't find anybody they like in the post-June 1 crop of players, they may have enough room under the cap to work an extension for Steve Foley and/or Adrian Ross, linebackers in the last year of their deals. They think it's too soon to go after the next big projects, linebackers Brian Simmons and Takeo Spikes and their contracts that expire after the 2002 season.

THIS AND THAT: FB Clif Groce (knee) has been cleared to practice Wednesday. . .The agent for DE John Copeland said his client was under the impression the voluntary workouts began Thursday instead of ending Thursday. Tim McGee said Copeland might end up cutting short a trip home to Alabama, which was planned before he re-signed with the club last Thursday. A signed contract is no problem. Copeland signed a fax copy last week to make it official and only needs to sign a hard copy for the records. . .

Paul Brown Stadium groundskeeper Doug Bradley continues to wallow in perfect weather. Since last week's installation of the Kentucky bluegrass game field, he's had it mowed every day. The only part of the field that has had some brown spots is the last portion that got installed, which is on the Bengals sideline.

" That's what the whole field would typically look like when you lay sod," Bradley said. "I've never seen bluegrass, Bermuda, anything, be installed green and stay green. We didn't put any water on it until (Monday) and that's unheard of."

This month's wet weather and cool temperatures continue to be the key ingredients for the new field.

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