Subdued Smith c opes

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Bengals quarterback Akili Smith still isn't really sure why Dick LeBeau benched him last Sunday.

But when he broke his silence Wednesday, Smith embraced the concept that the quarterback takes the heat for the other 10 guys even if he didn't play as badly as it looked.

Then he embraced LeBeau as they exchanged places for a news conference.

LeBeau reiterated Smith played well enough Sunday that he only threw one uncatchable pass of his 20 throws.

"That's why I really don't know why he decided to make the move," Smith said. "He thought the spark was going to come from the quarterback position. I thought I was having a decent game at the time."

Smith appreciated LeBeau's gesture during the plane flight back from Pittsburgh. The coach ventured into the players' section and told Smith even if Scott Mitchell had engineered a comeback victory, Smith would still start against Denver this week.

But he knows his work isn't appreciated even if it's not his fault at times.

"They just write what they want to write," Smith said.

The Bengals' young receivers are apparently having a hard time getting timed up with Smith on crossing routes and it looks like he's throwing behind them.

"(On) the crossing routes, the receivers have to get in certain holes," Smith said. "From a viewer's standpoint, it looks like Akili's inacccurate. But from a personal standpoint, knowing our players and our schemes, sometimes it's the receivers not in the right holes that they need to be in. But (the media) doesn't know that. You guys just write, 'Another poor day for Smith.' That's what comes with being the head man of the team, being the quarterback."

Receivers coach Steve Mooshagian said it's a matter of Smith and receivers like rookie Peter Warrick, "getting on the same page.

"(Warrick) rushed some of his routes trying to get open," Mooshagian said. "It's not that he was doing the wrong thing. He was out of control. He's trying so hard to get open that his body is out of control. Either Akili is rushing the throw or Pete is out of control on his route and they just have to get on the same page."

Smith admitted he could see where LeBeau was coming from and briefly flashed his trademark confidence. He's last in the NFL in yard per pass (4.8) and completion percentage (44.6) and has the third worst passing rating (53.3) behind Ryan Leaf and Troy Aikman.

"I'm not going to put pressure at all on myself," Smith said. "I'm going to try to get my QB rating up. I can't be in the cellar for the whole season. I have to get out of this little funk I'm in. I promise I'll not finish last in that category.

"As a head coach, if you look at the first four games," Smith said, "I played poorly against Cleveland, Jacksonville I had a poor half. Baltimore (when he got hurt on his sixth snap) I got the concussion. Miami I had a great half. Tennessee I made a few plays. From a viewer's standpoint, maybe it's the quarterback that needs to be changed. . .Dick went with Mitch and he gave it his all and he just couldn't get it done."

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