11-18-03, 4:20 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Wide receiver Peter Warrick became the first Bengal in seven years to be named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Tuesday for his 68-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that ignited Cincinnati's 24-19 upset of the undefeated Chiefs.
Warrick, benched in each of the past two seasons for fumbling punts near his own goal line, tied a career-high Sunday with 87 yards on four returns in drawing praise from head coach Marvin Lewis for his ball security. He's now fourth in AFC punt returns with a 12.7 average, but his unspectacular plays also drew attention.
"There are 10 other guys who helped him score, but he's a guy who has worked very hard and he deserves it," said special teams coach Darrin Simmons. "He did a good job managing the game and making decisions on when to come up and catch the ball. He spent a lot of time before the season and does now learning how to read the ball when it's in the air."
Warrick's second career touchdown return was part of his biggest day as a pro. He had a career-best 114 yards receiving on six catches, and six minutes after the punt return he scored on his longest catch as a pro with 6:05 left in the game on a 77-yarder.
The last Bengal to win the award, wide receiver David Dunn, got it seven years ago this week for a touchdown on a 90-yard kick return on the last play of the first half against the Steelers in a 34-24 come-from-behind victory. Kicker Doug Pelfrey won the award four times, once in 1993, twice in 1994, and once in 1995.
Warrick has also been nominated for the NFL Play of the Week, presented by LEVITRA, for his 77-yard touchdown catch. Votes can be logged at nfl.com/playoftheweek with results announced Thursday.
11-17-03, 6:25 p.m.
11-17-03, 8:50 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
His stock is rising like Microsoft in the early '90s and in wake of Sunday's victory over the undefeated Chiefs, the Bengals' Marvin Lewis is emerging as the one candidate standing in the way of another NFL Coach of the Year Award for Dallas' Bill Parcells.
But in the moments following the biggest win of his short career, Lewis did what he does best. He shared, and this time he did it with Bengals President Mike Brown. Brown couldn't make it to the locker room in time because of the crush at the elevator, but an emotional Lewis nearly broke down while telling the team he was giving a game ball to Brown.
Ever since he started working with Brown, Lewis has said his public image is all wrong and the biggest misnomer is his approach.
"You hear he doesn't want to win and that he's in it for the money and that's all wrong," Lewis reflected Monday. "He could care less about the money. He just wants to win.
"He's done a lot for me, he's done a lot for us, he's given us a future," Lewis said. "He's given me his blessing to try and win football games. What is most important to me is every decision we make is based on winning football games."
Brown has been the forgotten man in the Bengals' resurgence because when Lewis was hired back on Jan. 14, he chose to back away from the role of team spokesman and also gave that job to Lewis in a bid to quell major fan discontent.
But both have overseen a major overhaul of the organization with Brown continuing to have the final say but allowing Lewis to institute sweeping changes in all phases of the football operation that range from the pre-game music to reducing the scouting burden on his coaching staff and expanding the personnel department.
"It showed every guy in the room how much he appreciated Mr. Brown for giving him the opportunity and believing in him," said right tackle Willie Anderson, the Bengal who has played in the most games for Cincinnati with 120. "It's a system that's been in place for (36) years and for an outside guy who had no part of the Brown family or the Brown history to come in here and shake things up, it takes a big man to let that happen and I think Marvin knows how big of a man Mike Brown is.
"Mr. Brown takes lot of heat from people outside football and people inside here never see what the man does for his football team," Anderson said. "That's why I think Marvin got emotional because Marvin knows from talking to Mr. Brown the significant time this man has put in to try and get himself a winner."
Anderson says Lewis arrived "from the good Lord above," but it took awhile. For the previous two offseasons, Lewis was the hottest NFL assistant coach on the job market. But he didn't get his cherished head-coaching job until Brown called this past Jan. 14. Either the situation wasn't right for Lewis, or he was left at the altar.
In Brown, Lewis found an accessible, football-oriented owner with no bureaucracy who offered what he always offered to his head coaches: Virtual autonomy over football matters. In Lewis, Brown got a guy with new blood from outside the organization unafraid to approach him on any matter big or small.
Lewis says he and Brown have been close since Jan. 14.
"I miss him when he's not around. We talk every day and I missed him when he went to the NFL meetings," Lewis said of last month's owners' meeting in Chicago. "He's been around this league so long, first with his father and now. He's very insightful."
Cornerback Artrell Hawkins, a six-year veteran, says Brown's routine hasn't changed. He doesn't talk much, but he's there at every practice.
"It just puts everything in perspective," said Hawkins of the Game Ball. "Even more than the players, Mike Brown has endured the most criticism. He's made many good changes. I was commenting to my Mom yesterday that even our pre-game music is better. Before it was geared to the fans. Making sure the fans were OK with the music and not the players. The players are the ones out there trying to perform and getting ready for the game. That's little, but it's not that little to players. It's big. That's something we wanted. He changed what he needed to change. From the people trying to sue us last year (for breaking the stadium lease with non-competitive teams), now there's no talk of being sued. It's just good for everybody."
Lewis, who has gone from hot coaching candidate to hot coach of the year candidate, likes the looks of the future Brown is offering.
"We're joined at the hip," Lewis said. **
INJURY UPDATE:** The Bengals came out of Sunday's victory relatively unscathed. TE Reggie Kelly (foot) and CB Jeff Burris (concussion), the players who sat out, could be back as soon as this Sunday but the week after against Pittsburgh is more like it.
RECORD CROWD:** Turnstile attendance for the Bengals' 24-19 victory over the undefeated Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday was 63,111, the largest crowd ever for a sports event in Cincinnati.
Turnstile attendance reflects the actual number of people who entered the stadium gates. The second-highest turnstile figure at PBS is 62,604 for Bengals-Steelers Sept. 21 of this season. No. 3 is 61,196 for the Bengals-Bears game on Oct. 21, 2001, and No. 4 is 60,875 for the University of Cincinnati-Ohio State game Sept. 21, 2002.
Official Bengals' attendance figures recorded with the NFL reflect the number of tickets distributed for each game. That number for Sunday is 64,923, most in Bengals history and second-most in Cincinnati history and PBS history. The highest tickets-distributed figure for a PBS event was 66,319 for the 2002 UC-Ohio State game.
BECKETT'S CHARGE: Strong safety Rogers Beckett's return to San Diego is going to be eventful. He gets to play against the team that unceremoniously put him on waivers June 10 after he started 29 games for the Chargers in three seasons and he comes back as a starter and big-time contributor. And he'll get to check out his home that's about a mile from the Chargers stadium and facility that was threatened by the raging forest fires a few weeks ago.
The people staying in Beckett's home had to be evacuated for a few days, but it wasn't damaged. It's been a tough autumn for San Diego, and the Chargers' 2-8 record hasn't helped.
When Beckett got claimed on waivers by the Bengals June 11, some people told him he got a tough break because he was leaving a good team and going to a bad one. But he never saw it that way.
"It's worked out perfectly for me here," said Beckett, who worked his way into the starting lineup in the third week of the season. "The safety does more in this system. I think I blitzed three times the entire time I was in San Diego."
Now, he's already got three sacks this season and says he has blitzed six times in the past two games alone, and he's had a sack in each. But he's got nothing against Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer's staff, which deemed him a bad fit for its two-deep scheme and benched him 10 games into its administration last season.
"That happens in this league. It's a business," Beckett said. "I'm just worried about winning."
OLD FRIENDS:** It's got be a first. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, 45, and Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer, 60, were born 15 years apart on Sept. 23 in the same area of the Pittsburgh outskirts and both played for head coach Jim Garry at Fort Cherry High School in McDonald, Pa.
And not only that, one of Lewis' aunts babysat Schottenheimer when he was a pre-schooler. Later, Schottenheimer helped bring Lewis along when he invited him to Chiefs camp in 1991 as a minority intern coach.
"Obviously Marty has been a big part of why I'm standing here in front you," Lewis said at Monday's news conference. "I've been able to be a fly in the corner where ever he has coached. Being able to have access to visit his staff where ever he has been, has been a big part of my development as a coach. It's a big game."
CONTRACT UPDATE:** For those wondering, running back Rudi Johnson is in the last year of a contract paying him about $400,000 this season. But he's in line for a big raise. He becomes a restricted free agent, so the Bengals have the right to match. To prevent a team from making a run at him, they would have to tender him a one-year contract in the $2 million range, making him first-round compensation if they didn't match an offer. If they gave him the standard tender (figure in the $700,000 area) , the Bengals would only get a fourth-rounder if they didn't match because that's where Johnson was drafted in 2001.
A not so recent example is Jeff Blake. When he became a restricted free agent after he went from the Bengals' No. 3 quarterback to the starter in the last eight games of the 1994 season, the Bengals gave him a first-round designation that kept teams at bay before signing him to a long-term deal early in the 1995 season.