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Simmons, Bengals: 'Real close'

8-7-02, 8:00 p.m. Updated:
8-7-02, 11:00 p.m. Updated:
8-8-02, 5:15 p.m. 8-7-02, 8:00 p.m. Updated:
8-7-02, 11:00 p.m. Updated:
8-8-02, 12:00 p.m. Updated:
8-8-02, 5:15 p.m.


BUFFALO, N.Y. _ The only thing that was standing between middle linebacker Brian Simmons and a contract extension with the Bengals Thursday was a plane flight here for the club's pre-season opener against the Bills.

Both sides stressed there is no deal yet. But Simmons is satisfied enough with the offer that he anticipates it could get done as early as Saturday after the Bengals return home

"There's nothing to talk about yet because nothing is complete yet and I haven't had a chance to sit down with my agent and really talk about it," Simmons said. "It's real close. The structure of the deal is there and in place and I think both sides are happy with that. And for the rest of it, I think it's just little stuff here and there. I think for the most part it's a good deal."

After spending about six hours with Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn negotiating Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Jerrold Colton emerged upbeat.

"We probably would have been able to get something done if Brian and Katie didn't have to leave for the game," Colton said. "Hopefully we can pick this up when the team gets back and finish it up. I don't want to bother him tonight and tomorrow because he has to play."

Colton has had little time to talk with Simmons about the deal because of training camp. He spoke with him briefly after Wednesday night's practice in his Georgetown College dorm room, but ran up against the 11 p.m. curfew. After the Thursday morning walk-through at Georgetown, Simmons then had to travel to the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.

"We're pleased with the level of the talks," Blackburn said. "Both sides have worked hard to move in a positive direction and we hope we'll have something soon."

Simmons, 27, who along with Takeo Spikes has been at the heart of the Bengals' four-year long climb to last year's No. 9 defensive ranking in the NFL, is coming off a season he set a club record by an inside linebacker with 6.5 sacks. In 45 starts, he has 337 tackles, two interceptions and began last year's comeback against the Steelers with a 56-yard touchdown off a blocked field goal. Spikes, like Simmons, a No. 1 pick in 1998, also seeks a contract extension in the final year of his rookie deal.

WESTBROOK RESOLVED: It has been the most difficult of times personally and professionally for Michael Westbrook

Westbrook arrived back here at training camp Tuesday night for the first time since shattering the navicular bone in his left wrist 10 days ago. On Monday, Westbrook helped bury an uncle to whom he was close, John Westbrook, after he died suddenly of a seizure at age 40.

The sudden death came a year after he lost his father. He has been told these things happen in bunches and now he's hoping football season has stopped the streak.

"It was a rough week back at home," said Westbrook Wednesday of his trip to Detroit. "He was the kind of guy who would have wanted me to remember him, but to move on, too.

"I'm not the kind of guy who dedicates seasons," Westbrook said. "If I have a good season, it will be for him. I don't want to dedicate a season to him and then not have a good one."

But professionally, Westbrook remains convinced he can help the Bengals in a big way and says he's shooting to be back in time for the Aug. 29 pre-season finale at Paul Brown Stadium against the Falcons.

Trainer Paul Sparling has tentatively scheduled his return from surgery for the Sept 8 regular-season opener at PBS, but Westbrook thinks he can have a game under his belt by then.

"If I had done this during the season, I would have been right back

in there and probably wouldn't have had the surgery," Westbrook said. "But I didn't like the idea of two bones being separated and I had time to heal it."

Westbrook knows of what he speaks. He said he broke the right navicular in the middle of the 1999 season in Washington much the same way. He rolled on it and the force of his weight snapped the bone.

"I didn't know I broke it either time," Westbrook said. "This last time, I finished practice and then took a nap.''

In 1999, Westbrook ended up not missing a game despite wearing a cast the next week and didn't want to come out of the lineup during his career year in a season the Redskins won the NFC East.

"I'm not going to let a little thing like this stop me from helping this team," Westbrook said. "I'll be out there running routes soon and then I'll be catching the ball."

Sparling figures he can't catch a ball for another 10 days or so, but receivers coach Steve Mooshagian said he thinks Westbrook can run some routes next week.

Westbrook and Mooshagian don't think learning the offense is going to be a problem even though he's missed a week of meetings. Before Wednesday night's practice, Mooshagian planned to give him tapes and scripts of the practices he's missed so he can go through and match them up.


DILLON SHELVED?:** Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon hasn't played in the last two pre-season openers and don't look for him now after his foot got stepped on about a week ago.

"I'm not sure. We're going to watch his foot," said head coach Dick LeBeau before Wednesday night's practice. "I want to make sure he gets his carries in the pre-season, but we want to make sure his arch and his ankle are OK. We'll wait and see on that."

The first offensive line is expected to work the first half and the first defense will probably play about a quarter and a half. Neil Rackers gets the first try at a field goal and rookie Travis Dorsch is expected to alternate. Dorsch has been taken off punts in practice to concentrate on kicking and probably won't punt Friday, but LeBeau expects him to get some in during the preseason games.

KITNA GOALS: Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna gets the start and plays the first quarter against a Bills defense that has two superb linebackers in London Fletcher and Eddie Robinson, as well as an up-and-coming young secondary that has former Ohio State cornerbacks Antoine Winfield and Nate Clements.

"Any time you play a (Bills head coach) Gregg Williams defense, you

know you're not going to get standard coverages and those guys are young, but good players," Kitna said.

Kitna is looking for people to do things like get lined up right and to make the right sight adjustments on blitzes and he's expecting himself to make correct reads while also leading the team to between 75 to 100 yards in his one quarter.

"If we (score seven or 10 points), that would be awesome," Kitna said.


INJURY UPDATE:** The nine players not traveling to Buffalo: WR Chris Archie (colonoscopy), WR Danny Farmer (hamstring), CB Artrell

Hawkins (knee), WR Michael Westbrook (wrist), LT John Jackson (groin), DE Jevon Langford (ankle), TE Matt Schobel (abdomen/rib cage), LOLB Steve Foley (hip/groin), DE Eric Ogbogu (calf).

The probables are WR Khori Ivy (hand), RT Jamain Stephens (heart) and DT Glen Steele (lower back). SS Cory Hall sat out Wednesday night's practice with an intestinal disorder, but will play. ROLB Armegis Spearman sat out practice after having a tooth extracted, but will also play.

The last portion of Stephens' heart test came back normal Wednesday after he had shortness of breath Monday, and he could play.

STILL KICKING: The kickers rebounded from their scrimmage woes and had a terrific practice Wednesday night. Each had 30 field-goal attempts with one observer saying Neil Rackers missed one from about 48 and Dorsch missed two from about the same distance. Until the tape is graded, another observer thought Dorsch missed none and Rackers missed one. Whatever it was a strong effort by both.

"Both guys really hit it well," said Jim Lippincott, director of football operations. "Neil was drilling it down the middle and Travis might

not have always been down the middle, but he was in there. But I think we feel it's the games that really count."

Dorsch felt like he hit the biggest kick of the night. Right after practice, both were called on to hit a 33-yarder and if one missed, the team would have to run sprints. But both cashed to general whoops.

"It was my best day of place kicking," said Dorsch, who had it on his third day of not punting while he focuses on field goals. "I don't think there's anything wrong physically, but I'm in a tough situation mentally as a rookie kicker. But once I feel more comfortable kicking, I don't think there'll be any physical strain of doing both."

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