Updated: 5-20-02, 4:50 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Lamont Thompson expects to arrive in Cincinnati Tuesday night, three weeks later than the rest of the Bengals' rookies.
But what he plans to do once he arrives is yet to be determined, although it is certain he'll be working overtime in the classroom
Thompson, the second-round draft pick from Washington State who went from starting free safety to May holdout, has missed minicamp and his first two voluntary practices in a dispute over injury protection.
Agent Mike Sullivan said Monday his client won't participate in activity that involves any risk of injury, such as any drills that require cutting. But he can go in walk-throughs and positioning sessions.
"We'll see how it goes once I get there," Thompson said. "I would think I could do a lot of things. I'm looking to get better, that's all."
Thompson seeks the same injury-protection waiver that the club gave first-round pick Levi Jones. When the Bengals refused and then the sides couldn't reach an agreement on a four-year contract, Thompson stayed home in Richmond, Calif.
"I'm just learning that this is a business and I'm not holding it
against anybody or the team," Thompson said. "I want to get in there so I can learn the defense and focus on playing."
The Bengals have moved Cory Hall, the incumbent starter, back to free safety after they had moved Hall to strong in the wake of Thompson's selection. It was a choice dictated mainly by the 6-1, 220-pound Thompson's size and athleticism, and his Pac-10 record 24 career interceptions that match his Bengals' jersey number.
But all indications are Thompson is now starting from scratch on the depth chart. Bengals President Mike Brown said Friday that the burden of proof, "has shifted," from the team to Thompson.
"Coming in here is going to only help one guy and that is Lamont Thompson," said defensive coordinator Mark Duffner. "We need all our rookies to get used to the scheme and the nomenclature of the defense. Any exposure is a plus. I don't doubt he'll be here (weekends) in the classroom. That's what we get paid to do, coach. At this point, we do a lot of our teaching with walk throughs, so I think he's going to get a benefit out of this."
Thompson may meet with coaches Tuesday, but it appears he won't be with the team until Wednesday. Which means he'll be at the final seven voluntary workouts.
The Bengals have given Sullivan their word that they would follow through on the requirements in the collective bargaining agreement and negotiate in good faith if Thompson gets hurt. The Bengals say that means they will slot Thompson's contract according to his position as the ninth pick in the second round if he got hurt.
But Sullivan said the CBA only covers a rookie's $225,000 tender offer and he doesn't want his client to risk what is going to be a bonus in the $1.4 million range without something in writing. Sullivan also noted that 10 of his other rookie clients had some type of written guarantee.
"It's pride," said Brown, when asked why he won't extend Thompson the guarantee. "When someone says, 'I don't trust your word, put it in writing,' I get offended. This is an argument we should not be having. It's something that has already been collectively bargained."
The Cardinals are having the same dispute with their first-rounder, defensive lineman Wendell Bryant. Bryant showed up at minicamp, but only participated in walk-throughs and didn't do any agility or team drills. He is expected to do the same thing at voluntary workouts.
"Having him here and going through the classroom material is better than nothing, he really needs it," Brown said. "I don't really think he's going to be at undue risk."