BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals President Mike Brown, the club's principal owner, said Wednesday he doesn't plan to step down as general manager.
In the midst of withering criticism during the Bengals' seventh double-digit losing record in the last ten seasons, Brown responded to Tuesday's report in the "Dayton Daily News," that he has told friends he's considering retirement.
"I really don't know how (the story) started," Brown said. "It's not well-founded."
Brown said he understands the heat he's getting from all corners, particularly the large number of banners calling for his ouster at last Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium.
He even joked that he probably, "unfurled my own banner. It would probably say something like, 'You jerk, how can you be so stupid?'"
But Brown knows losing is a serious matter because he may be looking at the smallest home crowd of the season when the 3-9 Cardinals arrive this Sunday.
"The criticism I get is understandable," Brown said. "People are disappointed. Their patience has been over-tested. I don't fault them for criticizing me. I criticize me, too.
"We have hurt ourselves with the public," Brown said. "When you do that, we pay a price and we know we will."
Brown wouldn't get into specifics about changes for next season, particularly the status of head coach Dick LeBeau. Brown hinted while he would like to keep LeBeau, he's also looking at how the Bengals do the rest of the way in a 2-10 season.
"Dick has done an outstanding job. I'm very pleased with how he's handled himself," said Brown of the man who replaced Bruce Coslet after an 0-3 start.
"He's been good with the players internally. He's been good with the public, the media," Brown said. "I can't think of one thing he's done that displeases me. I wish we could win some games. That would help all of us here."
AGE OF JACKSON: Left tackle John Jackson agrees with the other tackle, Willie Anderson, that the Bengals need more leadership and it's just another reason he would like to re-sign and come back for a 14th NFL season.
"These guys are pretty much in a quandary," Jackson said. "It's been a long season, especially changing a coach. Dick's got it going in the right direction, but guys are thinking too much right now. Just go out and let the chips fall where they may."
Jackson is a LeBeau guy from way back in their days in Pittsburgh and whether the Bengals bring him back for another season is going to be a factor in Jackson's contract talks. Jackson, who was starting when he re-aggravated a hamstring pull in Dallas Nov. 12, said he's looking for more than backup money, but not more than starting left tackle money, and he doesn't think the contract makes his injury situation complicated.
"I've shown I can step in and play. I've proven that," Jackson said. "I want to make sure that this injury doesn't end my career. That it doesn't become chronic. I'll definitely be ready to play this week, but only as a backup."
WARRICK EYES INCENTIVES:** Rookie receiver Peter Warrick missed his eye appointment Tuesday, but he won't get the $600 fine from receivers coach Steve Mooshagian just yet. Mooshagian gave him until Sunday's game to confirm he needs contacts, so Warrick re-scheduled for Friday. His daughter was in town visiting, so he got a reprieve.
But he can see the stats clearly. With four games left, he's 359 shy of the 801-yard receiving mark that will get him a $500,000 bonus March 15, and a $500,000 bump in salary in each of the next six seasons.
"I was looking at (my incentive) today," Warrick said with a smile. Asked if he thought he could still get it, he said, "Anything can happen."
Anything would have to happen. He needs about 90 yards per game at the end of a season his high has been 80.
"I want to hit my incentive, but my main goal is to help the team," Warrick said. "There might be a lot of people on this team thinking about just their incentive, but I want to win."
Warrick said he had the same struggles trying to get to a 100-yard game he had as a freshman at Florida State.
"I don't want to get better in two or three years from now," Warrick said. "I want to get better right now."
Still, he's quietly made his mark. He leads all NFL rookies in receptions with 40 and his 442 yards is third behind Kansas City's Sylvester Morris with 583 and Seattle's Darrell Jackson with 447 for rookie receiving yardage.
Plus, Warrick is likely to become the first rookie to lead the Bengals in receptions since rookie receiver Isaac Curtis and running back Boobie Clark tied for the 1973 team lead with 45 each.
And, he's 27 yards from becoming the club's all-time rushing receiver as he nears the 164 yards Eddie Brown racked up from 1985-91.
BOYD ACTIVE: The Bengals activated off their practice squad rookie receiver LaVell Boyd, a free agent out of Louisville. The 6-3, 215-pound Boyd has impressed with his size and hands.
"When you hear the coaches talk about who are the most improved guys, his name always comes up," said Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel.
To make room for Boyd on the 53-man roster, the Bengals waived reserve linebacker Marc Megna with the hopes of re-signing him to the practice squad Thursday if he clears waivers.
But that's doubtful. There's a good chance the team that cut Megna in training camp, the Patriots, will claim him. They apparently wanted to pick Megna off the Bengals' practice squad two weeks ago, but the club put him on the active 53 when they put middle linebacker Brian Simmons on injured reserve.
THIS AND THAT: Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer went all through practice Wednesday in Arizona with his bruised ribs and is a go for Sunday. But backup Dave Brown's shoulder is mangled enough that he may be just the emergency quarterback in Cincinnati. . .
Left outside linebacker Steve Foley practiced Wednesday after missing last Sunday's second half with a bruised sternum. . .
After further review (of film), defensive tackle Oliver Gibson picked up another half sack from the New England game and is tied with strong safety Cory Hall's team-leading four sacks. . .
More proof of the offensive woes. Daniel Pope is on pace to break Pat McInally's club record for most punts in a season. Pope is averaging 5.9 punts per game, which would give him 95 to McInally's 91 punts in 1978. Those Bengals went 4-12 while scoring 252 points during the NFL's first 16-game season. Pope's Bengals are on pace to score 178, breaking the club low of 187 in 1993.