9-5-01, 10:30 p.m.
Updated: 9-6-01, 10:00 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
There has never been a dull moment on the Bengals' defensive line during training camp and Wednesday was no exception as the Bengals lost a starter for the entire season four days before the opener.
Hours after starting right defensive end John Copeland strained a hamstring, the Bengals agreed to terms with end Jevon Langford three days after cutting him. On Thursday morning, the injury had been classified as a partially torn hamstring and Copeland was put on injured reserve with a minor injury while Langford signed his three-year deal believed to be worth $1.5 million. Copeland, the club's 1993 first-round pick, can't play with the Bengals this year. But if the Bengals release him when he gets healthy, he can go elsewhere.
Langford's agent, Peter Schaffer, confirmed the ESPN.com report Wednesday night in a move that almost make Langford the starter at right end for Sunday's game against the Patriots. Instead, Reinard Wilson gets his first start ever at defensive end and his first since 1998.
Copeland's inury leaves the Bengals with four ends Langford, Reinard Wilson, Vaughn Booker and Glen Steele who have a combined 33.5 career sacks. Copeland, who has 24 career sacks, was starting in place of unsigned first-round pick Justin Smith. But indications are Copeland's injury won't make them revise their offer to secure Smith at the last instant.
"It's going to be interesting that Jevon now gets a chance to play a lot because I think he's going to show he'll be productive," Schaffer said.
If that's not enough action on the line, a day after cutting veteran tackle Tom Barndt and claiming rookie tackle Mario Monds off waivers, the Bengals worked out veteran tackle Tim Morabito Wednesday after his release from Carolina.
Morabito, 27, who started 29 of the Panthers' last
32 games, has been a favorite of Bengals defensive line coach Tim Krumrie since he signed him as a free agent out of Boston College in 1996. The 6-3, 300-pound Morabito played in seven games as a rookie before being waived by Cincinnati after the next training camp.
"He's strictly a run stopper," said Bengals director of college/pro personnel Jim Lippincott. "He looks the same as when he left here. A try-hard guy who has had a pretty good career since he left."
But the Bengals also liked the looks Wednesday of the 6-3, 338-pound Monds. They thought he looked like a NFL wide body should look in the middle of the line and are impressed with his quickness.
The scouts pegged Monds coming out of the University of Cincinnati as a guy lacking down-to-down intensity and consistency, but he says he's working on it.
"What I want to work on is using my hands and starting to learn this (NFL) game," Monds said. "I've been working in training camp trying to get more consistent with more reps coming off the ball hard."
If the Bengals do anything with Morabito, they will probably do what other NFL teams are doing and wait until next week to sign him. If a vested veteran is on the club's opening day roster, the team has to pay him his entire year's salary.
Copeland, who turns 31 in two weeks, won't be making his eighth Opening Day start. He was cut after the Bengals drafted Smith in April and then re-signed a month later to a lesser deal.
Langford, 27, who has 3.5 career sacks, enjoyed a solid preseason. But he lost out in the roster fight in a tight race with Wilson. Langford and Wilson were clearly the team's most explosive pass rushers on the edge during training camp, but they lack the playing experience of Copeland and Booker.