8-16-01, 10:05 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ The agent for Justin Smith said Thursday night he expects to be in Cincinnati at some point this weekend in an effort to end the four-week stalemate with the Bengals.
Jim Steiner thinks the meeting will take place Sunday with Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn at Paul Brown Stadium. The summit regarding the NFL's fourth draft pick from Holt's Summit, Mo., lends a surge of hope in negotiations that have gone nowhere since training camp opened.
"It can't hurt," Steiner said. "I think everyone owes
it to Justin Smith to do whatever they can to get him into training camp."
It will be Steiner's second trip to PBS this year. He spent a night of negotiations there back in March when the Bengals made a bid for quarterback Elvis Grbac before he signed with the Ravens.
But the Bengals have a track record of getting contracts done in person, starting with the ending of Akili Smith's 26-day holdout in 1999 when agents Leigh Steinberg and Jeff Moorad closed the deal with Blackburn at Spinney Field.
They also got deals done with Willie Anderson, Peter Warrick and Corey Dillon after closed-door sessions on their turf.
Steiner made the trip with Grbac, but Smith won't accompany him to Cincinnati.
"We thought it was a good time to see if we could have a meeting and see if we can get it done face-to-face," Blackburn said.
The sides have plenty to talk about and plenty of ground to make up in the Smith talks.
There have been no negotiations since Wednesday, when each side rejected the other's proposal.
Steiner met with Smith and his family Wednesday night and said the Smiths are resolved, "to stay in this thing until they get fair-market value for being the fourth pick in the draft. Those are my marching orders."
Steiner said the Bengals rejected a deal that would slot Smith behind third pick Gerard Warren.
The Bengals argue Smith's proposal is based on him being the third pick and not based on the last three deals at the fourth spot that includes Warrick's incentive-laden $30 million plus total package.
They are also at odds over guaranteeing the second part of Smith's bonus and how hard the incentives should be to trigger Smith's escalators.