BY GEOFF HOBSON
Captains Willie Anderson and Takeo Spikes huddled with Bengals President Mike Brown Tuesday in an hour meeting focused on improving the club.
At the urging of leading players, Spikes and Anderson told Brown the players would support Dick LeBeau's return as head coach next season.
"We understand we have to play well or win," said Anderson of this Sunday's finale in Philadelphia. "We know there's a lot of pressure on the owner to make this decision. The team got together, the top guys and some starters, and they asked us to talk to Mike about some things.
"And the word was, if he makes Dick the coach, the team stands by him. I think that's one of the reasons you saw that effort in (last week's 17-14 win over Jacksonville). Everyone knew that would be looked at in the decision."
LeBeau is popular in the locker room, but Brown is still giving no indication on a call on LeBeau or the rest of the coaching staff that is expected the day after Christmas.
But last Sunday's win and Tuesday's one-hour meeting in Brown's office didn't hurt the cause.
"I was glad to hear what they had to say about Dick and it's something you have to take into consideration," Brown said.
Continued from Homepage
"Takeo and Willie want to help this team win. Not just this Sunday or next year, but down the road, too. They were positive and had some good things to say and I appreciate the fact they came in to see me."
But no one would discuss specifics of the other topics.
"It wasn't so much changes, but additions (in staff) that would help us win," Spikes said.
Anderson said the players kept it on the positive side and went into the meeting with some suggestions culled from the players. Brown seemed to react better to this meeting than the one three years ago in which the players brought up topics ranging from lack of breakfast to poor facilities. Problems that have been pretty much addressed with the move to the new stadium.
"We didn't want to make it a list of gripes," Anderson said. "And it was nothing personal. He understood some of the things we were saying. Just getting some more help to get more production around here. He said he was glad we came and that he understood some of the things."
Spikes and Anderson were particularly impressed Brown brought up several subjects on his own. Such as the desire to find a formula to match how Baltimore has emerged from the Bengals' AFC Central Division to dominate with defense.
"You wonder if owners see stuff like that," Anderson said. "He knows Baltimore was built with defense and how fast those guys are. He knows what's going on around here. He talked about the passing game and trying to get it better."
Spikes said Brown wants to win, "but we just have to find the right formula and the right approach."
Brown is often accused of being aloof from his players, but Spikes and Anderson found the opposite. In fact, after Spikes approached Brown about a season-ending meeting, Brown later phoned Spikes and left a message on his answering machine.
"So now Spikes is pretty big in Sandersville," said Anderson of Spikes' hometown in Georgia. "He's telling everybody the owner is calling him and leaving messages."
But both players know any changes can't happen until they have a coach for next season.
"We know what has to happen if Dick is coming back," said Anderson of this Sunday.