8-13-01, 8:45 P.M.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ The Bengals' roster took on uncertain status at the safety position Monday night when additional X-Rays showed backup free safety Darryl Williams is to miss six weeks or more with ligaments that are partially torn in his left ankle.
With cutdown day three weeks away, the Bengals have to figure out what to do with Williams, 31, a starter for all 16 games last year. They could keep a roster spot open for him if he heals quickly, or they may have to put him on some kind of season-ending reserve list and hunt for a safety on the waiver wire because they are down to four.
"The situation is cloudy, that's for sure," said Bengals President Mike Brown. "The bottom line is, we really don't know. We're going to have to
see how it heals and how it plays out."
The Bengals had originally feared Williams broke the ankle during Monday afternoon's practice. A linebacker apparently rolled up Williams' ankle during a team session for the club's first significant injury to a regular in the 24-day old camp. Ironically, it came during the second day of the Bengals' pre-season bye week in which they aren't wearing pads.
"It's an ankle sprain in which there is grade two out of grade three damage and that is partially torn ligaments," said Bengals trainer Paul Sparling, who says surgery isn't planned for now. "It's significant ligament damage. It's the same ankle he had surgery on several years ago to remove bone fragments. The X-Rays appear to indicate the bone fragments are likely old in nature."
Williams' injury greatly increases Miami of Ohio converted linebacker JoJuan Armour's chances of making the team because he is now the fourth safety with Williams out. It also probably means that Tremain Mack moves from backing up Cory Hall at strong safety to Chris Carter at free safety with Armour moving up to back up Hall at strong.
Williams has never played less than 13 games in his nine-year NFL career that began when the Bengals drafted him in the first round in 1992. He glumly left the complex for Cincinnati and his additional X-Rays on crutches and wearing a walking cast.
Williams has played in all 16 games for all but one season, when he missed three games in Seattle with a hamstring injury in 1999.
He returned to the Bengals last season after spending four years with the Seahawks and started all 16 games before Carter was moved ahead of him on the depth chart back in the spring.
Williams picked off his 30th career pass against Tennessee last season and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown.