Geoff Hobson of bengals.com ran over right tackle all day long last week. Willie Anderson, the man who never met a mircophone he didn't like, always comes up big. Here is their conversation:
HOBSON: Your first assignment right out of the box as one of the highest-paid tackles in the league is a big one. You've got the No. 1 pick in the draft in (Cleveland Browns end) Courtney Brown.
ANDERSON: I hear he's playing real well. I heard he's playing better than his ex- (Penn State) teammate, (LaVar) Arrington. Courtney Brown is worthy of the No. 1 pick, but at the same time he's going to have to worry about playing me, too, I'm going to give him the respect he deserves. But at the same time, I want to come out and I'm playing for some respect this season, too. This whole team is. I see it being a good matchup. He's going to have one more game played than me, so he'll be in the system a little earlier. I'll also have a little more time to do some more studying on him. Everything I hear about him is he's a good, sound, play-hard kid and he's going to be a good defensive lineman.
HOBSON: Apparently he brings it every play.
ANDERSON: I'm trying to bring it every play, too. I can't sit here and hype him up too much.
HOBSON: But it's a big game for you. I'm sure you want to prove you're worthy of the (six-year, $30.6 million) contract.
ANDERSON: My thing is I want to block all the top guys. I get excited when I hear Courtney Brown is on my side, or Jevon Kearse, or Peter Boulware. Those type of guys. It gives you a chance to show people you're one of the top guys. The best pass rushers don't always seem to line up over left tackle anymore. You look around the league, there are more better tackles on the left than the right. There are what? Thirty-one teams? There are probably 20 good left tackles.
I read an article where (Tampa Bay defensive tackle) Warren Sapp (ticked) me off a little. He said the weakest lineman on a team is the right tackle. He was trying to say the reason Kevin Carter and Michael Sinclair and Peter Boulware get all those sacks is because they're playing the weakest linemen on the team, which I don't think so. I think teams are now stacking up offenses by putting some good tackles on the right side because teams are putting good guys over there. If Warren Sapp looks at it, he'll see, team-by team, every right tackle is not one of those sorry guys. I wish we were playing Tampa so we could line up againt them.
HOBSON: You'd like to line up against Sapp?
ANDERSON: I have a lot of respect for Warren Sapp. A guy who brings it, plays hard. If I had an opportunity to play against him, I'd love it to death. Let him see the right tackle is not the easiest lineman on the team.
HOBSON: You and Takeo (Spikes) led the team meeting before you guys leave for bye weekend. I guess the torch has been officially passed to the young veterans.
ANDERSON: At the other meetings (in past years), I would sit around and look and there would be guys standing up who I knew didn't give a damn. They'd get up and say stuff that they weren't doing.
HOBSON: Like you said before, it was the stars.
ANDERSON: They were given the star status, but they didn't want the leadership.
HOBSON: It seems like guys like you and Takeo and Akili (Smith) want it. Although Akili said he felt like he should just listen at this meeting.
ANDERSON: That's OK. He's been doing enough. The best thing about him is that he's a first-round pick with a big a contract and I've heard guys talking about other quarterbacks (in the past) here and I hear these guys say what a cool guy Akili is. Not arrogant. He's down-to-earth. I hear guys on the sidelines say during games, "He's going to be good." Guys know he's young, but he surprised a lot of guys in the preseason the way he worked.
HOBSON: You're helping him. You call yourself, "The Under Boss."
ANDERSON: You know how it is. I do some of the things he can't do. I talk to some of the guys he can't talk to because he's worried and has to focus on so many things. The Under Boss.
HOBSON: You said at the end of last year you were worried about him.
ANDERSON: I knew he didn't play a whole lot of games. I knew the teams that go far, like Mr. Brown (Bengals President Mike Brown) said before, the teams that go to the Super Bowl year in and year out and win year in and year out, have strong leaders at quarterback. They have very productive guys who stay healthy, have an offensive line protecting them and do the job week after week.
I read an article on a plane about Peyton Manning and I gave it to Akili to read and he said he already read it. About how Peyton's whole life consists of football. People may say that's bad, but if I'm an offensive lineman, I love hearing that. I love hearing that. The kid's life is football. Because I know on Sunday, if we give him time and protection, he's going to carry us to a win. I think Akili's getting to that point now.
In the preseason, he established himself as somebody who can be productive. He didn't play a whole game, but when the first team offense was in there, we weren't having those stalemate drives. We constantly moved the ball. We had problems the first week in Buffalo in the red zone, but I think that's because we didn't have (running back) Corey (Dillon) in there. You'll see Akili get better each and every week if we give him time and establish a strong running game, which we plan to do.
HOBSON: How's your weight? When does that weight clause kick in? (Part of Anderson's contract stipulates he'll get a weekly incentive during each of the season's 17 weeks for weighing in at 340 pounds or less.)
ANDERSON: It starts (last Thursday) and I'm going to make it. I'm five pounds under and I'm trying to get to 10. I'm going to make it every week. It's about $14,000 and change (each week). I'm going to hire a cook.
HOBSON: Have you done anything different since getting the big money back in May?
ANDERSON: One thing I learned about money is to let your investments buy your toys if you're going to buy any toys. I was a first-round pick coming out (1996), that's when I bought most of my toys. I haven't bought a lot of things. I've finished up starting a couple of businesses in real estate and music.
HOBSON: What exactly is your involvement in the music business?
ANDERSON: My company is "Think Big Entertainment." I'm getting ready to merge with another company that's already in the business. I'm not going to be your typical athlete getting into music from the very beginning and losing a lot of money. The people I'm getting in with are very reputable. They've already had No. 1 songs in the country and are doing business with people respected in the music industry. I'm not going to start at the ground level.
HOBSON: Who are some of your artists?
ANDERSON: I can't really say right now. A couple haven't come out yet. They're signed and have agreed to tour. There's the band "Rehab." It's a rap alternative band with SONY.
HOBSON: I couldn't tell you were so into music.
ANDERSON: I do more real estate than music because I'm not a music guy. I'm trying to surround myself with people who are established in the music business. Not the guys running around here asking you to give $50,000. If I'm going to do it, it's going to be big. That's why I named the company, "Think Big."
HOBSON: You and Takeo played at Auburn together and you both live in Atlanta in the offseason. You guys have been talking a lot about this year.
ANDERSON: We talked about having this team meeting in training camp, but then we said, "Let's wait until before the bye weekend and put it in guys' minds so they'll be thinking about it." So when guys come back (this week), we'll be able to reiterate all this stuff. Staying together. Playing for your teammates. Being accountable for your work. being professional. Caring about what Cincinnati thinks.
The old cats, the former players, say, "I hate team meetings because you call them at the wrong time. When you're 1-8." Takeo and I figured, let's do it before the storm hits and we'll be prepared.
HOBSON: You've been talking about accountability since minicamp.
ANDERSON: It's one of the things Takeo said. It's being accountable. Maybe around here nobody ever held anybody accountable. If guys constantly miss assignments and are playing bad, the public should know. If it takes confronting guys publicly, about how bad they're playing, and his techniques are bad week in and week out and his coach is working his ass off coming up with the game plans, staying here late at night and you constantly aren't doing it. . . and people say, "Why do the Bengals lose?" . . .Let the person be called out.
You know that's some motivation. My mamma raised me on fear. Because my mamma knew she had a 6-4, 260-pound 13-year-old kid. I could have been a crazy son of a gun, but my mamma let me know at an early age she wouldn't tolerate it. She was raising me with fear. I stayed in line because I was scared of mamma. Fear can do a lot of things for you.
HOBSON: Do you think you need a little fear around here?
ANDERSON: I think we do need it. It's like (veteran defensive lineman) Vaughn Booker said in the meeting. We have to lead these young guys because there are just some things coaches can't do. Coaches aren't in this room. It's up to the players.
HOBSON: Are you worried about how Corey (Dillon) will respond (after last week's arrest for fourth-degree assault?)
ANDERSON: Corey's a strong individual, man. None of us know what went down. If the man said he's innocent, he's inncoent. He came back to practice, he didn't show any signs about what's going on. He spoke to the media. He didn't run from anything. That shows right there he's willing to address it and not hide from anything. Corey's overcome a lot in his life and he's ready to roll.
HOBSON: What do you think of the rookie receivers?
ANDERSON: I was worried when we let (Carl) Pickens go. And I was real worried when Darnay (Scott) went down (for the season with a broken leg). I was nervous about (Peter) Warrick and (Ron) Dugans, but I think the biggest thing they've got going for them is they're so competitive. Their competitiveness is going to bypass a lot of young rookie mistakes. If you're competitive and you can't stand losing. I told them in the team meeting, "Man, you all come from a winning program (Florida State). You all don't know about losing. So bring that atmosphere to this team.
HOBSON: You called out Warrick and Dugans in the meeting?
ANDERSON: I told them to bring that atmosphere. These guys have confidence. I love that about them. I love the fact that they say, "If I run my routes, nobody can cover me and I'll catch the ball when it's thrown my way. I'm going to come and entertain." I'm a (Randy) Moss fan. I'm a Keyshawn Johnson fan. The biggest thing about those guys that makes them good is that they know their entertainers.
HOBSON: Warrick is kind of like that, isn't he?
ANDERSON: He's got every bit of that in him and that's what I love about him. That's why I think it's going to help us overcome the youth. I told these guys it's going to be a long season. Take care of your bodies. If we're going to win, you're all going to be a big reason for it. You have to get on the same page with Akili. I told them my goal is to help Akili become one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and put Corey back in the Pro Bowl with 1,400, 1,500 yards. As a team, I should be blocking for Akili because I don't want him getting touched because we love him and respect him and want to take care of him. And I want to block for Corey because I feel the same way and I want him going back to the Pro Bowl.