Smith next; Mitchell on deck

8-6-01, 7:45 p.m.

Updated: 8-7-01, 3:35 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _

While naming Akili Smith the starting quarterback for Friday's game in Detroit, Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau indicated Scott Mitchell will be the club's third starting quarterback in the Aug. 25 home opener against the Bills.

At Tuesday's news conference here at Georgetown College, LeBeau said the rotation against the Lions consists of Smith, Jon Kitna and Mitchell. He wouldn't say how long each will play, but Kitna played the first half in his start against the Bears.

Mitchell hasn't forgotten about the Bengals' pre-season plan to give the three quarterbacks in the race each a start.

And LeBeau hasn't either, although he said the decision to go with Mitchell isn't written in stone.

Mitchell, who completed two of his four passes during his stint in the third quarter Saturday night, admitted Monday he didn't think it was much of an opportunity to show his wares.

"Not at all," Mitchell said. "I think to really see what I can do, you have to put me in there with the ones. Playing with the second and third team isn't going to tell

you anything about what I can do. Unless they've already made up their minds."

But LeBeau indicated he hasn't made any decisions and would like to give Mitchell the same chance he gave Jon Kitna last Saturday and will probably give Smith this Friday.

"I think it's the only fair way to do it," Mitchell said. "If they're going to do what they said they were going to do."

Mitchell said until he works with the first team, "I don't think you can rule me out."

Mitchell said he wasn't concerned that he had only four passes in his 22 snaps.

"It's not so much throwing more," Mitchell said. "I think if I played longer I might have gotten into some kind of rhythm. That's the hard thing when you're playing with different guys all the time. It's hard to get a feel for what people are going to do."

Mitchell, who led the Lions to three playoffs in the mid-90s, isn't disappointed he might not get the start in Pontiac. He said he got that all out of his system when he played the Lions at Paul Brown Stadium last preseason.

"I don't think it matters that much to me any more," Mitchell said. "It's just been such a long time ago and so much has changed up there."

DOUGHTY LEAVES CAMP: After the Bengals refused to grant his request for a release, second-year tackle Mike Doughty left training camp Monday night and appears to be mulling retirement.

For the first time in his three seasons with the club, Doughty didn't play in a pre-season game on Saturday. John Jackson played the second half and overtime backing up starting left tackle Richmond Webb.

But Doughty's agent, Frank Murtha, said Tuesday his client had been told he would get playing time this Friday.

"That's not the problem," Murtha said. "Except as injury protection, we don't think they have Mike in their plans. I was hopeful they would release him now so he could hook on with another team. He walked out of camp knowing the consequences. He doesn't want his spot to hinge on one of his teammates getting seriously hurt."

Doughty, 26, a free agent out of Notre Dame, risks going on the reserve/left camp list that makes him ineligible to sign with another team. He has shuttled between the practice squad and roster since he signed with the team in 1998, but has yet to play in a regular-season game.

THIS AND THAT: On Tuesday the Bengals released strong safety Jared Lee, a rookie free agent out of Brigham Young. . .

RB Brandon Bennett said Tuesday he won't get the surgery that would shelve him eight to 10 weeks to repair the torn flexor tendon in his left pinky. Bennett said he also broke the finger early in Saturday's game on special teams, but belives he can play with the pinky taped to the next finger.

Bennett said the injury wasn't a factor in his first-quarter fumble since he carries the ball in his right hand. . .

There was no progress on the Justin Smith front Monday. The picks unsigned in front and back of the No. 4 Smith No. 2 Leonard Davis and No. 5 LaDainian Tomlinson are also still out. . .

DE Kevin Henry is expected to be cleared for his first Bengals' practice Tuesday. Henry, a free-agent from the Steelers, had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow to remove bone chips three weeks ago. . . TE Sean Brewer (hamstring) is doubtful for Friday's game. . .OLB Takeo Spikes (ankle) didn't work Monday, won't go Tuesday, but he is expected to play Friday.

BOSS ONLY WANTS WINS: With some wondering if Akili Smith is free-lancing a bit too much with his running out of the pocket, Bengals President Mike Brown made it clear he doesn't care how Smith moves the ball.

"I want to see him succeed and for a quarterback success is defined as winning

games," Brown said. "He got a boost off what happened Saturday. "He went in and did well and that had to make him feel better about himself. It made everyone feel better about him."

Brown thought Smith threw the ball well enough, given his passer's rating is now 95.8 after a 4-for-5 night good for 35 yards with a long of 18.

"If he can play like he did Saturday," Brown said, "he can be effective."

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