Spikes patiently waits

11-02, 7:35 p.m. Updated:
8-12-02, 12:35 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Defensive captain Takeo Spikes won't play this week or the week after that and he may not play the rest of the preseason with his strained right pectoral muscle.

Which is news when you have never missed one of your 64 games as the Bengals right outside linebacker because of injury.

But maybe the bigger news is that Spikes applauds middle linebacker Brian Simmons' impending contract extension with the Bengals while he waits his fate. Both Simmons' agent and the club anticipate finalizing the agreement by the middle of this week.

"God bless 'em," Spikes said here after Sunday's practice. "I say God bless, 'em."

Spikes, who is also a free agent after next season, said he figures the Bengals have no more room to sign him under this year's salary cap and that it will have to be next year before free agency starts. And he says he'll give the Bengals a shot to sign him before the gates open March 4.

"I'll definitely talk to them before it starts," Spikes said. "My

first priority is to be here and we'll see how it goes from there."

Bengals President Mike Brown said last week that if the Simmons deal does indeed get done this week, the Bengals won't be able to do a comparable contract under this year's cap. Simmons' deal figures to average in the $3.5 million range with first-year compensation in the $5-6 million area. Spikes said he would have no problem with the club if it placed the transition tag on him, probably because it comes with a $4.5 million offer.

His first priority is actually more immediate. He's looking to get back on the practice field by this Thursday.

"I'll be back by the opener. I'm not worried about that," Spikes said. "My big goal this week is to be back on the field by Thursday or Friday, but I can't have any contact. It's like a hamstring, but the good thing is it doesn't take as long as a hamstring to get better depending on how bad it is."

A magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI) Saturday revealed Spikes received a mild to moderate strain of his right pectoral muscle after his sack of Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the second series of Friday night's 24-17 win over Buffalo.

"I slipped off him a little bit, so I tried to get a hand on him and pick him up," Spikes said. "I pulled hard and my arm was away from my body and all my strength came from just my arm." **

LANGFORD RELEASED:** On Monday morning the Bengals released backup defensive end Jevon Langford, their fourth round draft pick in 1996.He had 14 starts, including seven in 1999, but played in just three games last year.

**

SMITH STILL SELLING:** Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau said Sunday he could see several scenarios involving his quarterbacks, ranging from Akili Smith starting the third pre-season game against the Saints at Paul Brown Stadium to naming a starter for Opening Day before that Aug. 24 matchup opens the home season.

But Smith still thinks he's a distant third despite leading the Bengals to their winning points Friday night in Buffalo.

"I think I'm still No. 3 and I'll have to have an unbelievable game on Saturday to even get back in the race," Smith said. "But I'm happy that I'm even thought of now."

On Friday night, Smith showed no signs of the off-season surgery that repaired his severely torn hamstring. But it did get tender for the first time at Sunday's practice, where he missed the last half of the workout while he iced it.

"I always stretch, but the sun didn't come out today," said Smith with a laugh of the cloudiest day of camp.

**

INJURY UPDATE"** Cornerback Artrell Hawkins had his best day Sunday morning during his rehab for the posterior cruciate knee ligament he sprained back in May. Even though he worked only in the red zone part of the skills session, Hawkins felt his burst coming back. Trainer Paul Sparling has him scheduled to return Aug. 24 against New Orleans. . .

WR Danny Farmer (hamstring) participated in drills for the first time

this training camp in skills and

individuals Sunday, but he's listed as questionable for Saturday and probably won't play until Aug. 24. . .

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh and RB Brandon Bennett didn't practice because of sore ankles and are questionable. . .LOLB Steve Foley (hip/groin) returned for the first time since early in camp Sunday, but is questionable. . .DE Eric Ogbogu (calf) is also questionable.

It looks like rookie TE Matt Schobel (rib cage) makes his debut Saturday. He returned to practice after sitting out the pre-season opener. . .G-T Jamain Stephens (shoulder) is questionable. . .FB Jason Murray sat out Sunday with Achilles tendonitis in both feet. . .WR Chris Archie (colon) won't play Saturday.

**

SOMETHING BREW-ING:** It was fitting that Smith threw his first touchdown pass since November 26, 2000 to tight end Sean Brewer. That was around the last time Brewer caught a ball in a game before catching three for 42 yards Friday.

Brewer, the Bengals' 2001 third-round draft pick out of San Jose State who missed his entire rookie season with a groin injury, felt strange until he stepped into the huddle and settled down.

"OK, now we're playing ball again," is what he told himself, and he did when rumbled into the open for a

22-yard catch.

"I didn't have that much room in college, (or) my whole career," Brewer said. "I'm not the most graceful looking, but I get the job blocking or whatever."

Brewer and the Bengals say he needs to clean up his blocking, but he's on his way to becoming the No. 1 tight end on Opening Day even though he has yet to take a snap in a regular season game.

"I got it done, but it definitely needs improving," Brewer said. "It definitely needs technique things. Just little things, stuff I'm not happy with."

The six-yard touchdown catch came out of a "bunch," route, where Brewer slanted out of a crowd of other receivers and, "Akili gunned it in there. He definitely threaded the needle."

Brewer paid a price. Two, actually. He bruised both thighs, but is probable for Saturday against the Colts.

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