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Bengals Change QBs: Smith to Start

September 23, 2002

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CINCINNATI (AP) _ Akili Smith is back as the Cincinnati Bengals’ starting quarterback.

Coach Dick LeBeau, whose team has scored just 16 points in an 0-3 start, said the third overall pick in the 1998 draft will start against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Smith, the Bengals’ starter in 2000, had been languishing as the third-stringer.

He has the ability to scramble for yardage if his receivers are covered, an element that the Bengals’ other two quarterbacks _ Gus Frerotte and Jon Kitna _ lack.

``I was a little bit shocked,″ Smith said of his reaction when LeBeau told him of the promotion. ``Thank God for the opportunity. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, was the opportunity.

``My season begins now. I’m not even thinking about being 0-3.″

LeBeau said he is making no promises beyond Sunday as he tries to right his team. He said Kitna will be the No. 2 quarterback on Sunday and Frerotte will be demoted from No. 1 to No. 3 to rest his right thumb, injured earlier this season.

LeBeau said he also expects to announce other lineup changes on Wednesday, including promoting Levi Jones, the No. 1 draft pick, at left tackle ahead of veteran Richmond Webb.

Webb, a former Pro Bowl lineman with the Miami Dolphins who started every game for Cincinnati last year and so far this season, said he hadn’t been told of the change. He has been tutoring Jones and said he has been impressed with Jones’ progress.

``I’m going to keep fighting,″ Webb said. ``But I’m unhappy with the way I’ve played the last couple weeks.″

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