8-3-02, 7:25 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ The Bengals insisted last year that missed field goals didn't cost their offense any games. They can't say that now after Day 1 in 2002.
Incumbent Neil Rackers hooked a 48-yard try to the left and on the next series rookie Travis Dorsch pushed a 41-yarder to the right to decide Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage in favor of the defense, 12-7.
The Bengals are now looking at Rackers, with a 59 career percentage, and Dorsch, a fourth-round draft pick coming off a bad Thursday night practice who seems to be more comfortable punting.
But Bengals President Mike Brown said after watching the kicks that he doesn't anticipate the club working the waiver wire to try out another kicker. He believes they have two hugely talented feet who were successful in college and will be here.
The kicking game marred what would have been a nice day for everyone. The passing game rustled, the defense rebounded, no one got hurt and backup running back Brandon Bennett did another dead-on impersonation of Corey Dillon with a 47-yard cut-back run.
"If we don't have all the pieces right now, it's pretty hard to put them together in my mind what they are," said quarterback Jon Kitna. "What do you think we're lacking in?"
A reliable kicker.
"It was their first time really in this situation," Kitna said. "We get to be in it every day in practice. . .They've had great camps. I'm not going to stress about that at all."
But Brown and Kitna sure will if it doesn't get any better.
"If it had been a real game, I would have been disappointed," Dorsch said. "But I'm, trying to take something away from every kick,
good and bad. Nothing counts until we get to Buffalo. I'm going to do everything I can to be the best I can be that night."
Asked if he's getting any more comfortable as a kicker, Dorsch said, "My goal coming into camp was to be ready by Buffalo. I think as a team, that's our goal. . .I think we have a chance to be real good (on special teams) and when things come together, hopefully I'm in the mix."
Dorsch's kick looked like it would hook through, but it stayed just barely to the right of the upright.
"I definitely hit the ball how I wanted to hit it," Dorsch said. "I just pushed it a little bit. That's an easy kick. I'll come out and learn from it next time."
Rackers and Dorsch also matched each other in a kick-off competition that took place before the scrimmage. Rackers, who has greatly improved his hang time, was clocked at about 3.7 to 3.9 seconds. Dorsch was slightly better at 4.05 to 4.18 seconds.
"But the distance was about the same," said Jim Lippincott, director of football operations. "It was good competition. They both were impressive. Neil has worked at it, no question. The one question is when it gets hot like this, it's like baseball and golf. The ball carries well." <>
STEPHENS SITS: Backup right tackle Jamain Stephens sat out Monday morning's skills session after complaining of shortness of breath and has been scratched from Monday night's practice after a visit to Georgetown Community Hospital. As a precautionary measure, he'll be checked by a cardiologist in Cincinnati Tuesday. **
MORNING MOVES:** The Bengals extended Monday morning the contracts of backup offensive linemen Brock Gutierrez and Scott Rehberg through 2004 and cut rookie free-agent linebacker Jermaine Petty out of Arkansas. Gutierrez, the No. 2 center who has made seven starts since 1998, and Rehberg, a backup guard picked up in 2000 from the Browns, were both in the final year of their deals.
SLANTS AND POSTS:** All backup running back Brandon Bennett ever does when he gets into a game is produce and he did it again with Corey Dillon nursing a sore foot on the sidelines. On the second play of the scrimmage, he veered left against the first defense, saw the wall cave, and cut back right. Then he followed wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh's block on rookie free safety Lamont Thompson for a 47-yard run that set up the day's
"That was a Corey Dillon special," Bennett said. "Just cut back and go the other way. You know how quick and aggressive our defense is, so I just started heading the other way."
But Bennett was impressed that the 6-1, 220 pound Thompson hauled him down after he raced over from the other side of the field.
"That guy is going to help us," Bennett said. "Look at how big he is and he can run.". . .
Wide receiver Ron Dugans may get down at times for not having a bigger role on this club. But after Dugans made two catches for 30 yards (one was a 14-yarder on third and eight), quarterback Jon Kitna wasn't surprised.
"Ron is going to play in this league for as long as he wants," Kitna said. "He makes plays. He's not flashy, but he makes plays and he's good on special teams. He'll make a living in this league for a long time. He's someone I trust." . . .
The biggest pre-game ovation went to Dillon again, but linebacker Takeo Spikes (who also didn't play with a tender hamstring) and right tackle Willie Anderson were right behind. Anderson made sure he stayed about five yards ahead of Dillon in the post-scrimmage autograph surge so he wouldn't be engulfed: "Just like on the field. Staying in front of him."