Williams nursing foot

4-2-02, 12:15 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Bengals backup free safety Darryl Williams has suffered a foot injury that has put him in a walking boot a month before minicamp.

Bengals trainer Paul Sparling downplayed the problem Monday, saying there is a chance Williams would be cleared to practice

when the Bengals gather for their first 2002 workouts the weekend of May 3-6.

"We aren't even calling him up here to get examined, so obviously we don't think it's that big of a thing," Sparling said. "We think he's going to be OK and that he's got a chance to practice."

Williams, 32, didn't start last year for the first time in his 10 seasons, but he's regarded as a valuable player on passing downs because of his experience.

Tight end Tony McGee, who ended last season on injured reserve with a knee injury, has been cleared to practice next month as he rehabs from arthroscopic knee surgery for torn cartilage. Also expected to work after minor surgeries are defensive tackle Oliver Gibson and running back Brandon Bennett.

WORKOUTS BEGIN: About 10-15 Bengals participated in Monday's first day of official off-season workouts at Paul Brown Stadium. A group that included running back Corey Dillon and wide receiver Peter Warrick is expected to be joined by more players as minicamp draws closer. The club is looking for 100-percent participation once the on-field voluntary workouts begin May 7 after the mandatory minicamp

The Bengals will have one visitor to workouts Tuesday when Broncos

safety Eric Brown is expected to PBS for a free-agent visit, according to a report in "The Rocky Mountain News." Brown, 27, a second-round draft pick out of Mississippi State, comes to town as the Bengals look to replace backup safety Chris Carter, a free-agent not in the plans to return. With backup free safety Darryl Williams and starting safeties Cory Hall and JoJuan Armour all heading into the last year of their deals, the Bengals are also expected to draft one safety and probably two.

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