Smith back for camp

12-21-01, 3:30 P.M. Updated:
12-21-01, 6:05 p.m. Updated:
12-21-01, 11:30 p.m. Updated:
12-22-01, 11:35 a,m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The man who is to repair Akili Smith's torn hamstring next week thinks the Bengals quarterback can be ready for training camp. Bengals doctor Angelo Colosimo will perform the surgery Wednesday, the day after Christmas, which puts Smith back June 26. That's after minicamp and voluntary workouts, but three weeks before camp.

Quarterback Scott Mitchell and left outside linebacker Steve Foley won't make the trip to Baltimore when the Bengals play the Ravens Sunday. Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau made the call on Mitchell and Foley after Friday's practice in which Scott Covington continued to take the snaps afforded to the No. 2 quarterback in his work with the scout team and some with the first unit.

The left-handed Mitchell, who suffered an injury to the right side of his rib cage in Wednesday's practice, could still only flip the ball about five yards Friday.

Canute Curtis gets his second straight start in place of Foley, suffering from a disk problem in his lower back.

Colosimo says Smith's type of injury isn't new. But the concept of surgery is fairly new and the early results have been successful. He says it's a huge coincidence that two players on the

same team cornerback Rodney Heath tore nearly 100 percent of his hamstring off the bone Oct. 14 suffered the same injury.

Heath had his injury repaired by Dr. Bill Garrett, a nationally known hamstring specialist at the University of North Carolina who trained with Colosimo when they were at Duke. Colosimo is extremely familiar with the procedure and while some medical people have described it as a devastating injury, Colosimo says that was before the days surgery became more of an option. He thinks Smith has an excellent chance of getting back to
where he was before the injury.

"Surgery is the first step," Colosimo said. "He doesn't have a shot without it."

INCENTIVE TALK: Bengals President Mike Brown dislikes incentives, but in the salary cap age he knows it's pretty much a necessity. That still doesn't prevent the downsides of them, which reminds him why he doesn't like the 80 percent clause in quarterback Jon Kitna's contract.

If Kitna plays in 80 percent of the team's snaps this season, he gets $1 million.

But when Akili Smith and Scott Mitchell got chances to take away Kitna's snaps before they got hurt, eyebrows were raised.

"That's a lot of money, so I'm sure there's a factor in some it. A little bit," Kitna said. "It's human nature. I look at it like this. If God wants me to have it, I'll have it. If he doesn't, then I won't."

There are other things at work other than the incentive. Kitna's poor play contributed to the Bengals falling out of the playoff picture, giving them a window to gauge Smith's progress.

Plus, Kitna hurt one of his throwing fingers two weeks ago. And after Smith got hurt last week, Kitna couldn't nail down the spot for the final three games with two interceptions in the final 4:32.

"Jon's right," Brown said. "It's human nature to read into what is in

the best interests of both sides. It's not an issue of money. We'll spend it. The question is how. Whether you have another player, or reward a player or players who are deserving. Under this system, someone is going to get it."

The injuries to Smith and Mitchell have made it all moot. If Kitna doesn't get hurt, he should make it. He's missed less than a full game between a benching and the finger injury.

"No, not really," said Kitna, when asked if he would be mad about not getting the money. "I would be mad that I wasn't playing and the fact those are my teammates that I have gone to war with every week. It wouldn't surprise me."

**

MATCHUPS:** If the Bengals are going to beat the Ravens, they are going to have to do what the Steelers did in Pittsburgh's 26-21 win in Baltimore Sunday night: throw the ball.

In their effort to get their first pass play of more than 20 yards in the month of December, Bengals WR Peter Warrick has to take advantage of aging Ravens SS Carnell Lake and Bengals WRs Darnay Scott and Chad Johnson have to do at least half of what Steelers WR Plaxico Burress did to Ravens CB Chris McAlister.

During free agency, Cincinnati signed Bengals QB Jon Kitna, but they were in heavy hours before with Ravens QB Elvis Grbac. Bengals DE Justin Smith gets his first full-time shot at Pro Bowl Ravens LT Jonathan Ogden. If Bengals LG Matt O'Dwyer can do what Pittsburgh's Alan Faneca did Sunday, Ravens DT Tony Siragusa won't hear the end of it. From O'Dwyer. In his first MFL start, Bengals CB Kevin Kaesviharn hopes to disarm the big plays of Ravens WR Qadry "The Missile," Ismail.

OK, OK. Bengals ROLB Takeo Spikes vs. Ravens MLB Ray Lewis.

**

WARRICK VS. LAKE:** In the seven games before the bye week, Warrick had 35 catches. He's got 19 in the six games since and he's looking for his second touchdown of the season. With James Trapp nursing a groin injury, Lake is probably in the slot against Warrick. The Steelers converted 60 percent of the time on third down against 70 years of safety in the 34-year-old Lake and 36-year-old Rod Woodson.

JOHNSON, SCOTT VS. McALISTER: The 6-5 Plaxico Burress hammered McAlister for most of his eight catches for 164 yards, for one touchdown, five first downs and four on third-and-long conversions Sunday night in Baltimore.

The problem for the Bengals is they don't have a pass longer than 33 yards since the 41-yarder Scott grabbed against these same Ravens Sept. 23 and Johnson doesn't have a catch longer than 20 yards. Scott, in his eighth season, has had at least one ball of 50 yards every year he's played.

Duane Starks, the Ravens other corner, hasn't had a good year and he's playing with a broken bone in his left hand this week. Last Sunday, Steelers wide receiver Bobby Shaw got a step on Starks and shot past the late-closing Woodson for a 90-yard touchdown catch.

KITNA VS. GRBAC: Two caretaker quarterbacks who have done everything but take care of the ball. Kitna has thrown 10 interceptions in the six-game losing streak, threw two in the final 4:32 last Sunday when the Bengals needed a field goal for the win, and hasn't thrown a touchdown pass to a wide receiver in 19 quarters.

The Ravens have lost all four games Grbac has thrown more than one interception, including the three picks in Cincinnati. He's got 16 on the season, one less than Kitna. He went into last Sunday's fourth quarter with a 32.9 passer rating. The guy who makes the fewest mistakes is going to win this one.

SMITH VS. OGDEN: In the second game of the season, when Smith was a part-time player, the 270-pound rookie raised some eyebrows when he bull-rushed the
340-pound Ogden a few times. But thanks mainly to Ogden, the Ravens are only giving up two sacks per game despite having the league's No. 21 rushing game. The Bengals, coming off just their second sackless game of the season, may want to try putting Smith over RT Kipp Vickers a few times. Steelers linebacker Jason Gildon worked him for a sack last Sunday.

O'DWYER VS. SIRAGUSA: Forget Takeo Spikes and sometimes off-season workout partner Shannon Sharpe. These guys really don't like each other. The 370-pound Siragusa has called O'Dwyer the dirtiest player he's faced and O'Dwyer hasn't blinked in calling Siragusa a fat slob.

The Steelers hammered the Ravens for an unheard of 4.1 yards per carry on the ground as Faneca took care of the run specialist Siragusa. The Bengals' strategy back in September was to spread the field with multiple receivers on first and second down to get Siragusa off the field. But since that day the Ravens have pretty much kept Siragusa on the field early in the series no matter the alignment. "The Goose," must still be golden. The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 50 straight games and are ranked second in the NFL against the rush.

The Bengals' running game really missed O'Dwyer when he went out for the first four games after the bye with a sprained knee. Last week in O'Dwyer's second game back, the Bengals broke 100-yard rushing (120) for the first time since the game before the bye. **

KAESVIHARN VS. ISMAIL:** Kaesviharn's major concern is not giving up big pass plays that swing the momentum of a game. Now he goes against the walking tide-turner in Ismail. He has 15 catches of 20 yards or more and has a 20-plus catch in all but one game this year and 16 in his last 19.

SPIKES VS. LEWIS: Or maybe it should be Siskel vs. Ebert, or Spielberg vs. Lucas, or the Oscar vs. the Tony. Whatever it is, Lewis wants to show Jerome Bettis he's better than Spikes and Spikes wants to show the world the last time he played Baltimore (returning an interception for a touchdown to spearhead six turnovers), it was no fluke.

**

NUMBERS GAME:** All the numbers you need for this weekend, including 61 and 62. The first is the number of career interceptions for Ravens FS Rod Woodson, seventh on the NFL's all-time list. The second is the number of career interceptions by Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau, Woodson's position coach and later coordinator with the Steelers.

36 _ Consecutive games Bengals have lost on the road against teams with a winning record.

50 _ Consecutive games the Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher.

14 _ 100-yard games Bengals RB Corey Dillon has in his last 50 games.

6 -_ Consecutive games Dillon hasn't rushed for 100 yards, tying his longest in-season streak since he became the starter. From 10/17-11/21/99.

28 _ Touchdowns Bengals have allowed this season.

28 _ Touchdowns Ravens have allowed this season.

38 _ Sacks by Bengals this season.

37 _ Sacks by Ravens this season.

209 _ Average yards passing the Ravens allow this season.

192 _ Average yards passing the Bengals allow this season.

4,292 _ Career NFL passes thrown by Ravens backup QB Chris Redman (3) and No. 3 QB Randall Cunningham (4,289).

5 _ Career NFL passes thrown by Bengals backup QB Scott Covington (5) and emergency QB Peter Warrick.

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