Bengals try to find receivers

12-02-01, 1:20 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals made it official Sunday morning and put down an injured starter each on offense in left guard Matt O'Dwyer and on defense in right cornerback Artrell Hawkins.

The two moves should affect the major themes of the matchup between the Bengals and Buccaneers at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati came in trying to snap a skein of seven straight scoreless quarters and the Bucs tried to get the NFC's leading receiver into the end zone for the first time this season as Keyshawn Johnson pitted his 76 catches against the Bengals' depleted secondary.

Johnson and his cousin, Bengals rookie receiver Chad Johnson, offered an interesting interlude during the week as Chad sat in quietly while the

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Cincinnati media interviewed Keyshawn over the phone. If Chad wrote a book, such as Keyshawn did in his early days with the Jets, what would the title be?

"I Want the Damn Ball, Also," Chad said.

But it's been hard this season getting the darn thing. Not only for Chad, but for the rest of the receivers who took heat after Jon Kitna and Scott Mitchell threw five interceptions last week in Cleveland. Bengals receivers coach Steve Mooshagian defended his players this week after that 18-0 loss in Cleveland.

"They have not been as bad as publicly perceived," Mooshagian said of his six wideouts. "Because people don't know all the things that we're asking them to do. . .They're young receivers and they're not only learning a new offense, but also getting the timing down with the quarterback and how he anticipates."

Three of the six are also hurt (Peter Warrick) or coming off injury ( Chad Johnson, Darnay Scott) and as one club insider observed, "We were nicked and it showed."

Keyshawn has been preaching patience to Chad during their three or four so weekly phone calls and is urging him not to be stereotyped as a speed receiver.

"I do so many different things on the football field," Keyshawn said. "I'm asked to do a lot of different things. I'm not asked just to catch the football. From blocking to running a route knowing I'm not going to get the football to just being a pure leader. I think (Chad's) game will come to that level. Overall, his game is going to grow each year.

"You don't have to be the fastest guy in this league to be dominant," Keyshawn said. "Not only have I proved that, but Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Chris Carter."

Chad says he's over the broken left collarbone that wiped out four games between Oct. 21 and Nov. 18.

"As far a rookie," Chad said, "I'm crawling until they let me walk."

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