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Smith expects to hear from Browns fans

The Associated Press

The Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback got no hate mail from Cleveland after his chest-pounding, throat-slashing celebration two months ago, but he read accounts of how it was received.

Thursday, December 09, 1999

The Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback got no hate mail from Cleveland after his chest-pounding, throat-slashing celebration two months ago, but he read accounts of how it was received. On Sunday, he’ll learn about it firsthand. Even though he’s sidelined by a sprained toe, Smith figures he’ll be the target for thousands of Browns fans expected to fill Cinergy Field for the rematch.

”It’s supposed to be a sellout. A lot of those fans are probably going to be on me,” Smith said Wednesday. ”I’m going to be fired up. I’ll stay composed, get the headset on, keep the guys encouraged. That’s about it.”

The foot injury will restrict Smith to the sidelines, and that’s a huge disappointment for him.

Smith made his first NFL start in Cleveland on Oct. 10 and led the Bengals 80 yards in the closing minutes for an 18-17 win. He threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Carl Pickens with 9 seconds left, then celebrated by pointing at the Browns bench and taunting the Dawg Pound.

He hurt his foot in his fourth start against Jacksonville on Oct. 31 and hasn’t played since. A magnetic resonance imaging test Monday found no significant change in the foot.

”The only thing I can do is continue to get treatment and let it heal slowly,” Smith said. ”The foot doctor said it’s definitely getting better.”

Smith had hoped to be ready to return against the Browns, a team he wants to beat more than any other because it chose Tim Couch over him in the draft.

”It’s disappointing, but I’m going to play those guys 12, 18, 14 times – however long my career is. I’m going to play them a lot,” Smith said. ”We’ll let Jeff (Blake) go out there and get us a victory and I’ll get ready for next year.”

Blake is a free agent after the season, so this likely will be his final home game as a Bengals quarterback. That was in his thoughts more than any notion of showing up the Browns.

”That’s between Akili and Browns management,” Blake said Wednesday. ”I ain’t got nothing to do with it.”

Smith’s celebration last October angered Couch, who spoke out after the game. The Browns were diplomatic Wednesday when Smith wer he would have liked another shot at Smith this week. He stopped himself.

”I was going to say something but I can’t,” he said.

Asked if the Browns have been told not to discuss Smith, Miller said, ”Not really. It’s just in sportsmanship, you don’t say things like that.”

Smith was amused by Miller’s reluctance to say what he felt.

”He’s going to have to try to catch me next year. I’m going to be better next year, so he’s in real trouble,” Smith said.