BALTIMORE - Greg Myers must have too much time on his hands.
He is the Cincinnati Bengals' free safety, their top punt returner and their last line of defense on kickoff coverage. And still, he would like to be busier.
''Even if I can't actually start medical school, maybe I can take some classes to get myself a little more prepared,'' he said. ''But the time constraints are very difficult.''
Twenty years since Tommy Casanova retired from bruising people in order to start mending them, the Bengals have another aspiring doctor in their secondary. Greg Myers has been accepted to Dartmouth's medical school, but he has put healing on hold.
''Right now I want to focus on football and try to excel at that the best I can,'' Myers said. ''I'll have enough time in my life, most likely, to go back to medical school, no matter how long I play. I'm definitely going to try to put it off. I'm going to continue playing football as long as they want me.''
This may be a while. A fifth-round selection in the 1996 draft, Myers has made himself increasingly indispensable. He led the Bengals with 11 tackles in last Sunday's conquest of the Arizona Cardinals and returned four punts for 41 yards. His Hippocratic oath has been postponed indefinitely.
Time's running out
Dartmouth agreed to save a place for Myers for two years, a deal that expires at the end of the season. Rather than forcing Myers to choose, the Bengals would hope he could do both. Casanova juggled med school and pro football until a year before he graduated from the University of Cincinnati.
''I don't know if that's possible (now),'' Bengals President Mike Brown said. ''We're working at it, and if we can't get it done, we might lose him.''
Dr. Andrew Filak, who chairs the curriculum committee for the UC Medical School, says the football/physician double is more difficult than when Casanova did it in the mid-1970s. Classes once taken piecemeal are now carefully integrated.
''The question is whether medical school and a pro football career are compatible,'' Filak said. ''I would never say never, but it would be a very difficult proposition. Off the top, he should probably finish up his football career and then do it.''
Curiously, the Bengals have fewer concerns about being compromised by Myers' moonlighting. Neither Brown nor defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau are inclined to insist on a full-time commitment to football.
''Let's face it,'' LeBeau said. ''When you're talking about a man's future, to become a doctor, there's no way you can feel too badly about that situation.''
Though soaring salaries would make his attitude seem antiquated, Paul Brown encouraged his players to use football as a bridge to their real ''life's work.'' PB placed a premium on intelligence, mindful that smart men might find other means to make a living.
Gridiron vs. grad school
''We used to put a tremendous emphasis on that,'' Mike Brown said. ''And then we faced Pittsburgh in the '70s. We looked at how many of their guys were going to graduate school, and suddenly it occurred to us that maybe we should look at it differently.
''But we do think it is a good thing. Smart players play better. They really do.''
Tommy Casanova played in three Pro Bowls before he began his medical practice. He still holds the Bengals record for punt return yardage in a single game (106).
Greg Myers may eventually challenge that mark. He was once a state high school sprint champion and returned three punts for touchdowns his senior year at Colorado State.
''There's a similarity (between Myers and Casanova) in that they're both very fast, long-stride runners,'' Brown said. ''Tommy had a certain grace about the way he ran that was just a player to see. It sticks in my mind even now.''
Myers did not set out to duplicate Casanova's career path. It has just worked out that way. Whether he can work things out at UC is undetermined.
''It never hurts to ask,'' Dr. Filak said. ''As long as you don't mind someone saying no.''