Bengals eye road hex

11-2-01, 8:40 p.m. Updated: 11-5-01, 6:30 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The 4-3 Bengals, who reported back to work Monday in a tie for third place with the Browns, know they have to beat the last-place Jaguars (2-5) in Jacksonville this Sunday to be taken seriously in the AFC Central race. And they haven't won there in six seasons. In fact, the 17-13 victory in ALLTEL Stadium on Nov. 26, 1995 marks the last time the Bengals, off a 31-27 victory in Detroit, won back-to-back road games.

"Coach (Dick) LeBeau told us we have the greatest opportunity in the world," said defensive captain Takeo Spikes. "To win two straight games on the road and try to get some consistency around here that we've been looking for."

What was going on in 1995? LeBeau was coordinating the Steelers' defense to the Super Bowl. Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon was rushing for 20 touchdowns at Dixie (Junior) College in Utah. The Bengals' captains, Spikes and Willie Anderson, were at Auburn.

DILLON UP CLOSE: The Bengals may be off this week, but Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon is still carrying the ball.

Dillon, who has labored for more than 5,000 low-profile yards in five years, has his national media coming out party this weekend in Los Angeles.

On Friday night, Dillon sits down with Chris Connelly and his audience to tape a segment of "Unscripted," which airs on ESPN next Wednesday at 5 p.m.

On Sunday, Dillon goes live on both FOX pre-game shows.

But Saturday is the big one. Dillon is to spend all day with the FOX crew putting together a documentary on his life, which is part of the network's "Beyond The Glory," series. It's slated to be seen some time before next football season.

"Those episodes are not typically reserved for 27-year-old guys in the prime of their careers," said Joby Branion, one of Dillon's agents. "They felt like it

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is the perfect story they're looking for. A guy who has overcome a lot of things and now has a great life and a great family. He's a young guy, but he's also been through a lot more than the average person."

The documentary plans to take a look at Dillon's rise from his troubled teen-age years to his record-setting career in the NFL that netted him the richest contract ($26.1 million for five years) in Bengals' history this past May.

The media strategy is a major reason Dillon joined agent David Dunn's firm earlier this year.

"We're working hard to get him more exposure nationally," Branion said. "Now is the time that people see him without a football helmet and with that smile and see more than just a still picture in a magazine. You won't see him in football uniform this weekend. I think this was coming with the big contract, but the Bengals having a winning record absolutely helps."

Connelly, a former "Rolling Stone" writer, hosts a show ESPN promotes as "a fast-paced, audience-interactive program featuring questions submitted by ESPN.com users." Among the subjects are Dillon's passion for classic cars.

The program replaced the 30-minute "Up Close," interview, but it also originates from the ESPN Zone in Anaheim.

The Bengals excused Dillon from Friday's practice so he could appear in a Federal Way, Wash., court, where a paperwork snafu involving last year's domestic incident was resolved.

INJURY UPDATE: The Bengals dispersed for the weekend after Friday morning's workout and looked to be in good health.

The only player fighting an injury who won't be back to practice next week or for next Sunday's game in Jacksonville is WR Chad Johnson with his broken clavicle. Trainer Paul Sparling is fighting the anxious rookie's desire to come back for the Nov. 18

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game against Tennessee, which just happens to be against his cousin, Titans cornerback Samari Rolle. Sparling says Johnson's earliest return is the week after in Cleveland.

CBs Tom Carter (knee) and Robert Bean (hamstring), as well as FS Darryl Williams (foot) sat out this week's workouts. So did RT Willie Anderson (knee) and DE Vaughn Booker (ankle).

DT Tony Williams makes his return Monday from his mid-foot sprain that knocked him out of the last three games. He went through some line drills this week, but didn't do any team stuff.

FB Nick Williams (knee) continues conditioning drills after being cleared from reconstructive surgery, but probably won't practice next week, either.

In an effort to keep the team in a routine, Bengals coach Dick LeBeau holds practice Monday and then gives the players their regular Tuesday off before delving into a typical work week Wednesday.

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