2-07-2001 BY GEOFF HOBSON
For the past few years, Willie Anderson has wished he began the season at 325 pounds. Maybe 330.
Now after what he calls one of the most painful seasons of his life, Anderson, the Bengals' $30 million right tackle, is more determined than ever to slim down from 340 pounds as he heads into his sixth season.
"I want to get to 325, 330 pounds with the way my knees and feet felt this year," said Anderson Wednesday from Atlanta. "I'm not getting any younger. You see a lot of older linemen drop some weight and I might as well nip it in the bud now."
Anderson, who turns 26 a few days before training camp, felt he never really recovered from his season-ending knee injury in 1999. He continued to fight tendinitis in the knee as well as both feet.
"I don't think it hurt my play," Anderson said. "But maybe sometimes I wasn't as quick in the fourth quarter as I was in the first quarter. It was one of the most painful seasons of my life, so I want to try this."
The 6-6 Anderson has an honest streak in him as long as his size 19 feet. He's got a clause in his contract that pays him thousands of dollars every week during the season when he weighs in at 340 pounds. But he has been trying to get under that for a few years.
"I never took time to learn how to eat right. I'm a lousy cook," Anderson said. "Especially during minicamp last year. I'd work hard, but I'd come home and eat the wrong things at the wrong time, or maybe not enough. I just didn't know how to control it and (get to 330 or under)."
Anderson thinks he's solved that problem. He has hired a former Atlanta restaurant chef, and even plans to bring him to minicamp in a few months to join him at his training table.
"I'm hoping he gets me into a routine and teaches me enough that by training camp I'll be able to do it on my own," Anderson said.
NO RUSH TO TAG:** Starting Thursday and ending Feb. 22, the Bengals can officially designate Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon a transition free agent.
That means they offer him a one-year contract for the 2001 season of $3.6 million, the average of the top 10 paid running backs in the NFL. That gives them the ability to match any offer on Dillon. They won't get any compensation if they choose not to match, but the club insists it plans to pretty much match any offer for their lone Pro Bowler.
Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn said Wednesday the club could make the tag official at any point in the next two weeks.
"It could be tomorrow, it could be Friday, it could be next week," Blackburn said. "We're not trying to send any message by doing it early, in the middle, or late. We're not making any statements. We've already said we're going to do it, so it's not a big deal."