Bengals won't rush Scott or expect Dillon

5-1-01, 3:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

If Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau knows one thing about playing in a record 171 straight games at cornerback, it's that a NFL season is a marathon and not a sprint.

Which is why LeBeau is holding rehabbing receiver Darnay Scott out of the team drills at this weekend's minicamp in Scott's first appearance since breaking his leg Aug. 1.

And it's also why he's not panicking that Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon most likely won't be here this weekend because he remains unsigned. Although both men wish he could be there.

"Believe me, I want to be there," Dillon said Tuesday. "But if there's no deal, C.D. won't carry the peel."

Dillon remains good-natured about his contract status and he wouldn't elaborate as the sides continue not to discuss the negotiations publicly.

But linebacker Adrian Ross, a restricted free agent, will be in all drills after deciding to sign a one-year tender offer of $512,000 when he arrives at camp. He'll be working with Armegis Spearman at the right outside linebacker spot as Takeo Spikes rehabs from arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

The Bengals were encouraged by Scott's workout last month, but LeBeau is taking no chances with the only receiver on the roster who has more than 51 NFL catches.

"I don't want him

being covered by anybody," LeBeau said. "He doesn't play until September. We don't go to training camp until July 20. I want him involved in the individual part of the workouts, but I don't want him to be in with the group. I don't want to rush the thing."

Ross, who has played all three linebacker spots here during his career, isn't trying to rush a long-term contract with the Bengals. He would like one, but isn't prepared to sign yet. Ross started four games at middle linebacker last season, 11 at right outside linebacker in 1999, and says he's looking for starter's money.

But Ross, a college free agent highly regarded by the coaching staff, said he's willing to sign the tender and continue long-term talks in his effort to convince the Bengals to come off back-up money.

"I just think the team is making an effort at having a good season and I want to get in there and make sure I'm doing my part," Ross said.

"I love LeBeau and Duff," said Ross of defensive coordinator Mark Duffner, "so you know I'd like to stay. Every year I've played every spot, so I think I've shown them I'm pretty valuable."

Ross finished last season as a starter in the middle as Ross and Spearman filled in for injured Brian Simmons for all but the year's first three quarters. Ross missed the last two games after cutting a tendon in his hand, but he's expected to participate this weekend.

Ross is coming off a pretty busy week. In between attending a NBA playoff game for his hometown Sacramento Kings and flying to Los Angeles to check out a Lakers' playoff game with Bengals running back Corey Dillon, Ross shot a commercial at his Sacramento home.

The spot will appear on Black Entertainment Television (BET) in May and June promoting rapper D-Shot's new CD that is to be released in June. The ad features Ross and a friend in his hot tub with two women as he phones up D-Shot.

"It was tough work," Ross said with a laugh. "It was 100 degrees in the tub and 90 degrees outside."

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