5-30-01, 4:00 p.m.
Updated: 5-31-01, 4:30 a.m.
Updated: 6-01-01, 1:47 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
When Bengals coach Dick LeBeau heeded the call of city leaders Wednesday for a three-minute moment of silence to heal civic wounds, it sent a deafening message to his players.
At two minutes before noon, LeBeau halted a voluntary practice and gathered his players in a huddle on the practice fields ringing Paul Brown Stadium. He explained why he wanted to observe the moment as Cincinnati continues to come to grips with the racial unrest that rocked the city last month in the wake of the police shooting of Timothy Thomas.
"That's Dick LeBeau," said left tackle John Jackson, a Cincinnati prep product. "He's making sure this team stays together and that the city knows we're for the community. There's a lot of things going on that shouldn't be going on, but everyone has to get along. We have to get along."
After LeBeau's talk, he sent the players with their position coaches to observe the pause in activities.
They had a lot to think about. LeBeau praised defensive captain Takeo Spikes' role as a spokesman for the new Underground Railroad Freedom Center and told the club Bengals President Mike Brown would match any of their contributions to the museum up to $75,000.
"Being black, it's impressive they're getting involved in that project. That's very positive," said tight end Tony McGee. "I'm going to give something and I hope everyone in the locker room will."
LeBeau, who has lived the last 20 years in Cincinnati and has raised a son here, loves the town.
"We want to do whatever we can in Cincinnati to promote peace and brotherhood," LeBeau said. "And we're proud and supportive of what Takeo is doing."
Right tackle Willie Anderson thinks it was a move appreciated by all players and not just African-Americans.
"That was his point. We're a very diverse population and we have to live in harmony," Anderson said. "It's true. Look at our work place. We have to get along together whatever race, religion. It's big that we get along together and respect one another. Dick's got a knowledge of current events and what it means."
LeBeau answered a bigger call, but Jackson thinks it's another step his coach is taking in bringing together a team that hasn't always been united.
"At the end of last season, we were crawling," Jackson said. "Now we're up and walking and we're getting hopefully to the point we can start running."
MORE PICKENS: What isn't surprising about Carl Pickens' retirement is that Bengals receiver Darnay Scott knew it was coming.
What may be surprising is that Bengals President Mike Brown continues to treat Pickens so well in public even though Pickens flayed him so badly for keeping coach Bruce Coslet at the end of the 1999 season. Pickens' verbal barrage forced Brown to cut him and devise a new contract clause for loyalty.
"I'm grateful for what he did here as a player and I would tell you about Carl that I actually liked him personally," Brown said. "If you read the stuff in the newspaper, you might think that's not so, but I was always fond of him. I found him engaging and interesting to be around. We just had the problem we had. It's all history now."
When Scott was in Cincinnati for minicamp three weeks ago, he visited Pickens' home and found him mulling retirement.
"He asked me what he should do and I told him to do what you want to do, don't keep everybody out on the limb," said Scott, who played with Pickens for six years. "Then he called me in St. Louis and said the hamstring would start hurting after two or three sprints."
Scott said Pickens went down a list of reasons to retire at age 31, some of which were that he's been to two Pro Bowls and he's set for life financially.
"I knew a long time ago," Scott said.
JUNE PLANS: Quarterback Akili Smith is going to take a week or so off and then he'll be back to throw to some receivers. He'll be careful not to overthrow like he did in April, which caused him to miss some work in May because his arm was tired. He'll probably get some help from other quarterbacks in late June, when the coaches want receivers Chad Johnson and Darnay Scott to get in some work.
THIS AND THAT:** Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn and her team of negotiators started making contact with the agents of their first-round draft picks Wednesday. . .RB Michael Basnight will have arthroscopic surgery next Tuesday to repair a small knee cartilage tear and will be ready for the July 20 start of training camp.