Smith next Cincinnati Kid?

4-23-01, 12:20 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

First-round draft picks in any sport are supposed to show up for the First News Conference with a rock-star entourage.

All Justin Smith showed up with here Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium was a duffel bag and a vow not to hold out. His linescore was no earrings, no airs, no holdouts.

And three tattoos that he designed himself.

"I was bored," he said.

And if no-nonsense, 9-to-5 Cincinnati hasn't adopted him yet, it will happen soon enough.

After peering into the Bengals' sprawling weight room, the workout wizard shrugged when asked his thoughts.

"The facilities can be good and all, but I'm not here to do office work," Smith said. "I'll probably be on the field more than I'll be in the office."

The business at hand is to revive a Bengals pass rush that seems to have disappeared with Halley's Comet. Except you know Halley's is coming back for sure.

But not only is the pass rush something Smith can

re-kindle, but also the intensity of a locker room dazed by defeat.

"You're going to be surrounded by professionals," said Smith, whose motor made him the fastest front 7 player in the draft. "People that have worked their butt off to get there. I think the mentality of this team is going to be good."

Told that's been a problem in the Bengals locker room, he shrugged. He said he won't change and while he might not be a rookie "piping up," in a meeting, he'll probably say it during the game.

"I'm not a cheerleader," Smith said. "I'm on the field kind of a guy. Lead by example."

They can use his confidence. The knock is that the huge NFL tackles can run it against him and his 270-pound frame.

"That was one of my strengths in college. Playing the run," Smith said. "When I was a freshman, I had 81 tackles. When I was a sophomore, I had 95. Last year, I had 97. Actually, that's my strong suit. I like playing the run. That's what football is all about. When people say I'm a pass rusher first, of course they always have to find a negative. They have to do that, but I can stop the run."

And he can do it from either end. He'll do what he did at Missouri, moving up and down the line away from the tight end side.

He says he can line up and pass rush from either end with either hand on the ground, and he can drop into pass coverage at times like a linebacker in a fire zone.

"I know the Bengals do a lot of that," Smith said.

As for keeping his weight, Smith says hell make time to lift during the season and says he'll put on a few pounds over his 270.

Smith's philosophy at getting to the passer is as simple and plain as his personality.

"It's probably 75 percent speed and the rest is technique and effort," Smith said.

He doesn't watch film of sackmasters. The only tape he watches is the offensive tackle he's playing against that week.

"I try to see if he's sitting back in a real deep set and I can go underneath him," Smith said. "Of if he tries to jam you at the line and you have to have real quick hands to get him off. I look at what kind of player he is and how he plays guys similar to me."

Smith, who grew up outside Jefferson City, Mo., says he's not a materialist. He does drive a 2001 truck, but he says he'll put away most of his money, in an old-fashioned savings account.

" I think this is going to be a good fit," said Smith of Cincinnati, which isn't exactly either glitzy coast. "I don't think I'm a coast guy. . .This is nicer than I thought it was going to be."

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