5-7-01, 12:05 a.m.
Updated: 5-7-01, 1:45 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals quarterback Akili Smith knows he needs the work and he knows people know he needs the work. So worked the last practice of minicamp Monday morning despite a tender right shoulder.
"I needed to see this stuff and get some reps and understand the protections. I needed to get this day in," Smith said. "Kind of show the guys I want to be out there working with them, learning their tendencies and all that type of stuff."
Smith shut it down for the Sunday afternoon practice, opting instead for rest, ice and a ballcap instead of the helmet. He may end up resting his arm Tuesday, when the Bengals begin their veteran voluntary workouts, which go on Tuesday through Thursday for the rest of May. Trainer Paul Sparling says it's no problem and plans to treat it with ice and rest.
"All indications are it's just sore from overuse," Sparling said.
Smith is frustrated because he took two weeks off to rest the arm for minicamp after throwing at the facility for a month. When he returned last week, he was the only quarterback for a band of about a dozen receivers, tight ends and running backs, and he threw a slew of passes.
I can't be tired because I took two weeks off and then came back for a week and it's hurt," Smith said. "At the worst, it's just sore. I can't put my finger on it. It hurts in the back of my shoulder. I don't know if it's mechanical, or if I'm throwing all with my arm, or what. I'm just going to rest it."
Smith, a former minor-league catcher, tore his rotator cuff once during his baseball career. But he said this pain is nowhere near that injury.
VETERAN VS. ROOKIE: It's the oldest story in pro football. The wily veteran (in this case the team's oldest player in 36-year-old left tackle John Jackson) vs. the up-and-coming rookie, ably played by No. 1 pick Justin Smith at right defensive end.
Late in a hot day at the end of a second practice during the team portion of the workout, Jackson and Smith got into a shoving match and Jackson hauled off and threw a punch at Smith's helmet before head coach Dick LeBeau himself broke it up.
"Hey, this minicamp is more intense than last year's training camp," Jackson said later. "We're going at a different pace. A faster pace. A Dick LeBeau pace. I must have known something was going to happen. I taped up my hands today.
What Jackson knew is that things were getting a bit chippy, but he also said, "That was just football, nohing else. Nothing personal. He's a good kid."
As for Smith, he laughed.
"That stuff happens," Smith said. "I'm cool with that. I'd rather have him swing at me than not swing at me because it shows he's aggressive. I'm not going to swing on a teammate. But I'm cool with it. We're fine. Football players keep that stuff on the field. It doesn't carry over."
Smith remains the least conspicuous of No. 1 draft picks after a decade of choosing Draft Superstars such as David Klingler, Dan Wilkinson, Ki-Jana Carter, Akili Smith, Peter Warrick.
"I'm just a drafted player, it doesn't matter I was first," Smith said. "I'm just trying to whittle me a spot on the team and just go from there and play football.
Jackson does like the kid's approach.
"He's a blue collar worker. He's not flashy," Jackson said. "He just gets up and works."
Jackson's scouting report: "He's got great speed and I think his strength is there. I just think he needs to get more savvy and that comes with being in this league more than a few weeks."
QUITE A RECEPTION: Rookie receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh continued to burn up Paul Brown Stadium Sunday. In fact, the Oregon State duo, drafted in the second and seventh rounds, respectively, are one-upping last year's Florida State rookie receiving tandem of Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans.
In fact, there are some pockets of the club that think Johnson and Houshmandzadeh have moved behind Darnay Scott and Warrick as the Bengals' Nos. 3 and 4 receivers.
"Johnson is the second or third best route runner behind Darnay and Houshmandzadeh," said Jim Lippincott, the club's director of pro/college personnel. "His speed is top notch. He goes by our guys who we think are pretty fast – like (cornerback) Rodney Heath) _ as if they're standing still. He always seems to get separation and his hands are very good. T.J. has just been solid."
It probably helps that their system at Oregon State was run by Dennis Erickson, the man who tutored Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.
"It's similar, but they have their differences," said the 6-1, 200-pound Houshmandzadeh "Certain plays are not called the same, but it's the same concept, and then they have some called the same, but in different wording. It was fun. It's what we thought it was going to be."
The 6-1, 192-pound Johnson is a clone of Scott when he was coming out of San Diego State seven years, 329 catches and 34 touchdowns ago.
Scott has gone out of his way to help Johnson along, particularly on site adjustments on blitzes.
"Darnay has been keeping me in line," Johnson said. "He's been helping me out al ot, pointing at the safety and linebacker and telling me what I have to do on the blitz. Other than, it's the same offense from what we just left."
What's in a name? Johnson has two NFL cousins in Tampa Bay receiver Keyshawn Johnson and Titans cornerback Samari Rolle. Houshmandzadeh, the son of an Iraqi father and African-American mother, may be the first NFL player of Iraqi descent.
"I don't even know him," said Houshmandzadeh, who grew up mainly in the Los Angeles area. "He wanted to take my mother over there, but she didn't want to go."
Asked what he knew of Iraq, he said, "Saddam Hussein and that's about it."
THIS AND THAT:** Groundskeeper Doug Bradley says Paul Brown Stadium's new field will be planted beginning the morning of May 15. . .
University of Cincinnati kicker Jason Mammarelli, looking to secure a spot on the roster, left the minicamp Sunday morning. . .
What have the new facilities meant? In the old days, it would have taken all afternoon to find out the extent of fullback Nick Williams' knee injury. But with a magnetic resonance imaging machine in the stadium, the Bengals confirmed an ACL tear less than three hours after Williams crumpled to the ground.
Also, for the first time in club history the Bengals were able to do all physicals and medical and testing on site during the minicamp. . .
Middle linebacker Brian Simmons, coming off a season-ending knee injury, made a leaping interception of quarterback Jon Kitna during the team portion of practice.