Bengals run Dillon reverse

8-8-01, 8:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau changed gears and named Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon as the starter for Friday night's second pre-season game in the Pontiac Silverdome against the Lions.

LeBeau had said Tuesday Dillon wouldn't play until the club's Aug. 25 home opener. But he changed his mind and made the announcement

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before Wednesday night's practice here at Georgetown College.

"I want Corey to go through the process of getting ready for the game, go through pre-game, go out with the group."

Dillon probably won't play more than one or two series, but LeBeau expects him to get several snaps against the Bills.

The Bengals have had a tough time on the Silverdome's Astroturf in the preseason of late. It's where running back Ki-Jana Carter ripped up his knee in 1995 on the third play of his career and where long snapper Greg Truitt (knee) and safety Kelvin Moore (neck) suffered career-ending injuries in 1999.

"That doesn't come into our figuring," LeBeau said.

LeBeau said he's keeping an eye on backup running back Brandon Bennett's broken and torn left pinky finger, which may mean more time in the intense backup back derby for veterans Curtis Keaton and Michael Basnight and rookie Rudi Johnson.

TWO LEFT: The Bengals spent Wednesday trying to find out if the deal for No. 2 pick Leonard Davis contains a guarantee for $3 million of his $12.125 signing bonus.

Indications around the league Wednesday were there was no guarantee, but that probably won't help the stalemate with Bengals' No. 1 pick Justin Smith.

Smith, the fourth pick, and San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, the fifth pick, are the last two healthy unsigned picks in the 2001 draft. And reportedly both are nowhere close to

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reaching a deal.

ESPN.com reported Davis' deal as six years for $52 million, but the deal will no doubt have to be re-done because the salaries are $5.8 million, $6.8 million and $7.1 million in the last three years.

The Bengals don't want to guarantee Smith what is believed to be $4 million of his $9 million bonus, saying he'll get all his money simply by being on the roster next March. Agent Jim Steiner said he doesn't want to risk his client getting cut and that the deals for the Nos. 3, 6, 7 and 9 picks have a form of a guarantee.

The Bengals argue that two-thirds of the teams in the first round didn't do a guarantee, including two in the top ten.

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