Great Scott? Not for long
This is the second in a series of postcards Sports Illustrated's Peter King will e-mail from his annual NFL training camp tour.
Sunday, July 22
Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Site: Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., about 15 minutes north of Lexington. In other words, hot in the middle of July. Neat thing about this place is that no matter how you drive here, you'll see a few horse farms with the frisky little ponies romping behind stately wooden fences.
Five observations from practice that you just can't get anywhere else:
1. If you were a martian, but also a big football fan, and you were dropped into Georgetown today and were told: "Watch the three quarterbacks -- Akili Smith, Jon Kitna and Scott Mitchell -- and at the end of practice tell me who's the best one," you would say Mitchell. Funny. Mitchell's probably third on the depth chart right now, behind Kitna and the financially/politically correct Smith. The former Lions' signal caller had the best day of the three in the battle for quarterback of Lake Woebegone's team, including the prettiest play of the afternoon, a beautiful 45-yard seam pass for a touchdown to tight end Marco Battaglia. The moral of this story? Don't let a July 22 practice convince you that Scott Mitchell should be your quarterback.
2. Carlton Gray will be a good player in the Cincinnati secondary, which needs good players.
3. I'm not saying that Richmond Webb has to drop a few pounds, and you didn't hear this from me, but the Bengals are thinking of renting out his derriere for billboard space.
4. If I see any veteran practicing harder (and chippier) on this trip than Bengals guard Matt O'Dwyer, I will be exceedingly surprised. He made a killshot block on a safety way past the line of scrimmage in a running drill.
5. Two words for Scott Covington: Arena football.
Opinion/factoid that might be interesting only to me: Last Thanksgiving, Bengals linebacker Takeo Spikes, who is from Georgia, had a bunch of the guys over for holiday dinner. One of the featured items on the menu was barbequed raccoon.
The food: Impressive lunch for the second day in a row. Actually, I double-dipped, eating dinner at the chow hall too.
Dessertless. Grade: B+
Dear NFL Junkie ...
The subject on the sidelines early in practice was a diary I did for the Cincinnati Enquirer while a beatman on the Bengals in 1984.
The Bengals had a rookie free-agent linebacker from Miami of Ohio named Brian Pillman on the roster. Incredibly hard-worker, special-teams wedgebuster, that kind of player. You might recall him as Flying' Brian from his pro wrestling days in later years. Poor Brian. He died a few years back of a heart attack. Anyway, in 1984, I'm doing a training-camp diary with Pillman. Late each afternoon, I'd meet Pillman and throw a few paragraphs together so the locals could follow their Rudy through Bengals camp, which, at the time, was at Wilmington College, deep in central Ohio hog country.
So I meet Pillman one day, and he tells me about his adventure of the previous night, after meetings. He's trying desperately to put weight on so he doesn't look like such a 219-pound weakling. Each night he goes out to the McDonald's drive-thru in Wilmington for a sack of burgers and brings them back to the dorm to eat before going to sleep. On this night, he brings six burgers back to the dorm and is waylaid in the hall by porky running back Larry Kinnebrew. Sam Wyche, the coach, has Kinnebrew on a lettuce diet or some such thing and he's constantly famished.
"What you got in that bag?" Kinnebrew asks menacingly.
"Burgers," Pillman says.
"Hand 'em over," Kinnebrew says.
Pillman may have argued, I don't recall. But the end result was Kinnebrew inhaling the six balls of grease. I printed the story. And Kinnebrew got fined $250 for violating his diet.
At practice on the morning the diary ran, Kinnebrew made a beeline for me and gave me a lifetime memory. I will never forget the seven words he spat at me.
"That wasn't no nice thing you wrote."
Now you know why I love my job.
Two other notes:
Anyway, I see Beltre stride to the plate, and I say to myself, "If he hits a home run, I don't care what happens in the draft next March, I'm taking Beltre." Pedro Astacio winds, he throws, and there's a long fly to center field, back, back ...
Gone! So, now I don't have to study the third basemen next year. Beltre's my man.
Can you believe you just spent a minute reading that?
Next up: Chicago Bears.
Check back soon for more of Peter King's Postcards from Camp.