Smith won't play

8-25-01, 7:15 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Quarterback Akili Smith tried before the game, but he couldn't get any velocity on his passes and didn't expect to dress Saturday night against the Bills in the Paul Brown Stadium pre-season opener.

"It didn't feel very good this morning and it just didn't get any better," Smith said about 90 minutes before the club's third pre-season game.

Smith's case of tendinitis in his throwing shoulder officially turned Saturday's game into a showcase for the Bengals quarterbacks derby involving Scott Mitchell and Jon Kitna.

Mitchell becomes the third quarterback to start for the Bengals this preseason Saturday and he tries to become the first to lead them to a touchdown. Kitna coaxed out a field goal against the Bears Aug. 4 and

Smith couldn't get any points in his four series Aug. 10 in Detroit.

In a lineup move, Tremain Mack got the start at free safety when Chris Carter couldn't go because of a sore hamstring.

The pre-game buzz centered around the new Kentucky bluegrass field that was installed at PBS back in May.

"It's like comparing a Rolls Royce to a Pinto with no wheels," said punter Daniel Pope, who still has fresh memories of last year's temporary Bermuda field that got chewed alive.

Left tackle John Jackson called the grass, "nice, it's like day and night."

"It's a Big 10 field," said wide receiver Danny Farmer. "It's a little high, but it's nice. Big difference."

If there was any complaint, it was the grass was a tad too long. The field had been mowed Thursday, but rain combined with the deep roots to make it slightly longer than usual.

The Bengals showed up Saturday after training camp to find that equipment manager Rob Recker had done some locker re-arranging.

Last year, head coach Bruce Coslet alternated the lockers by offense and defense. This year, Dick LeBeau told Recker to take care of it.

"Most of the players wanted to locker by position," Recker said. "So we had to scramble a bit. I didn't move anybody off a corner locker because that's prime real estate. And it's not set yet because the roster isn't set."

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