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Anderson salutes signing

Posted: 6:15 a.m.



The Bengals front office had a busy Tuesday, closing in on deals with several of their draft picks as well as securing a six-year extension with left tackle Levi Jones. Their immediate plans don't seem to include three-time Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson, but he remains enthusiastic about what could be his last stand in Cincinnati believing there is more good character in the locker room than bad.

The club appeared ready to announce some rookie deals Wednesday, with seventh-rounder Bennie Brazell a leading possibility. The Bengals also seem to be in the finishing stages with third-rounders Frostee Rucker and Ahmad Brooks, while the agents for first-rounder Johnathan Joseph and second-rounder Andrew Whitworth have expressed optimism their clients are going to be in training camp in time for Saturday night's first practice.

Anderson joked that he'll be there for the first day of his 11th season, given that the fine for a veteran holdout has gone from the daily hit of $5,000 to $14,000. The extensions for Jones and right guard Bobbie Williams look like the only ones on the offensive line before the end of the season. There have been no talks with Anderson and the agent for left guard Eric Steinbach has indicated he wouldn't conduct negotiations once camp started.

But the upbeat Anderson preferred to talk about the upcoming season, concluding only, "My future is up in the air."

Recalling that he advised the Bengals the week of the Pro Bowl six months ago to sign Jones and Steinbach first, Anderson reflected, "At some point common sense takes over and if nothing has happened by now, you see what they're doing from a business standpoint. It's hard to keep two top tackles. Not many teams have two top ones, but from a football standpoint, you're in a great position because a lot of defenses have a couple of good outside rushers."

Instead of being bitter at Jones for losing his title of highest paid offensive lineman in Bengals history, Anderson couldn't contain his excitement for the man he has helped mentor. Besides, that six-year, $30.6 million extension Anderson signed before the 2000 season has more than held up. His $5 million salary this season is still in the top three among right tackles.

Which also shows the good ones don't grow on trees.

"Anytime an offensive lineman gets rewarded, other offensive linemen are happy," Anderson said. "I remember that second contract. Guys talk about that and it's exciting. It says a lot about the team and him. I'm so proud of Levi. It shows you how far he's come. I think it's great for the team. I'm being well paid this year."

It's that attitude that has made Anderson a leader in a locker room that has come under fire because of several offseason off-field incidents involving two rookies, two second-year players, and a third-year player. Since the Wild Card loss to the Steelers, four players have been charged with crimes while one has reportedly been suspended four games for substance abuse.

"If you notice, the veterans haven't had anything much to say because we don't know the whole story on this stuff," Anderson said. "We have a big group of guys that do the right thing. Until we have the full scope of what happened, it's hard to say we have a bad group of guys."

Anderson says it's hard to say the coaches have to take tougher stance because no matter what they do, "they can't babysit them 24 and seven." But he says the club has to be careful not to let the off-field events become a distraction. He admits it has been trying jut to hear the news reports.

"It can be (a distraction) if it's allowed to be," he said. "There can't be too much preaching. At some point, football has to be played. Thank God the season is here. Maybe if you're a Bengal, you think that maybe this will be a cure."

Anderson, one of the more visible members in the community in his effort to help children through New Jerusalem Baptist Church, admits the spate of problems have him shaking his head.

"You almost feel like going into a box and not coming back out," Anderson said. "Not coming back out until the season is over.

"Really, you can't comment on it because you don't have all the facts yet or know or what happened."

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