Ratliff gives impressive debut effort

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 7, 2004

GEORGETOWN, Ky. - Cornerback Keiwan Ratliff is making up for lost time.

The second-round draft pick from Florida intercepted Carson Palmer twice Saturday during the Cincinnati Bengals' annual mock game, an impressive showing for someone who had practiced only once.

Ratliff was a holdout until Thursday, when he agreed to a deal that included a $1.425 million signing bonus. He practiced on Friday, then sat out the team's annual training camp scrimmage the next day.

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Players wore shorts and shoulder pads for the mock game on Saturday. Coach Marvin Lewis had them work on game situations - drives inside the 20-yard line, 2-minute drills and the like.

Ratliff used the opportunity to make a good first impression.

Palmer threw a pass up for grabs after a botched snap in the shotgun formation, and Ratliff came down with it. His second interception came when Palmer's receiver slipped and fell, allowing the cornerback to break on the ball.

''That's just part of my game, making things happen on the defense,'' said Ratliff, who led the Southeastern Conference with nine interceptions last season. ''I missed things more mentally than physically. It's just one of those things where you've got to get back out there and get back into the swing of things mentally.''

Ratliff is expected to compete for the No. 3 cornerback spot at the outset.

Palmer was 16-of-28 for 282 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He takes over this season for NFL Comeback Player of the Year Jon Kitna, who is now the backup quarterback.

The Bengals open the preseason Saturday at Tampa Bay, Palmer's first test as the starter.

''Every time he comes out here, he's working hard and he's making progress,'' quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese said. ''We'll find out when we go have a chance to play Tampa, because the speed will pick up tremendously and the reaction time will be fun to see.''

Notes: Rookie LB Landon Johnson sat out the mock game due to a sore shoulder suffered during Friday's scrimmage. … LT Levi Jones is expected back at practice on Monday. Jones was involved in an auto accident on July 29 and has been limited to conditioning drills the entire training camp. … LG guard Eric Steinbach (sore elbow) is expected to return to practice sometime in the middle of next week.