Catching up with alums

5-8-04, 9:10 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Chad Johnson, who now wears Isaac Curtis' No. 85, wanted it known that he thought about incorporating a tribute to Curtis when ever he decides what to do for an end-zone celebration.

But Curtis, the master of cool with a just a flip over his shoulder after each of his 51 touchdowns, advises Johnson to strike out on his own.

"He's too good to copy anybody. He can develop his own style," said Curtis, one of about 40 former Bengals who attended Friday night's alumni dinner in the East Club Lounge of Paul Brown Stadium.

When Curtis (416 career catches) and Cris Collinsworth (417) started talking Friday night, that's a number (833) worthy of Johnson trying to catch. If Johnson averages 80 catches a year like he has the past two seasons, he would pass Curtis and Collinsworth in 2006, replace Carl Pickens' franchise record 530 in 2008, and hit 834 in 2012.

Who knows? But Curtis, who holds the club record with 17.1 yards per catch for more than 100 receptions, loves watching Johnson play. With a career average of 15.2, Johnson has a way to go.

Head coach Marvin Lewis made Friday night's dinner mandatory for the rookies, but Johnson stopped in for awhile and chatted with Curtis, Bob Trumpy and Larry Ely.

"I knew he was good the first time I saw him in practice," Curtis said. "He's got great feet, great balance, speed, quickness, and he's able to adjust to the ball. He brings so much to the team with his energy. He's got a great personality. You can tell he just loves to play football. Really, he's a lot more outgoing than I was as a player."

Which is why Curtis thinks Johnson should come up with his own gig. Curtis actually came up with his signature at San Diego State.

"One day a bunch of us were just talking and someone asked me, 'What are you going to do when you score?,'" Curtis said of that conversation in the early '70s. "That's when guys were slamming and dancing and all this. I said I'd probably just hand it to the referee. And they said, 'No, you can't do that.' Someone threw me a ball and I just tossed it over my shoulder and I said, 'That's it.'"

So Curtis understands why Johnson just doesn't want to hand it to the ref.

"He's an original," Curtis said.

BRESNAHAN TALKS: Former Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, who had the job for four years and helped take Oakland to the Super Bowl before being replaced this year, looks to be ready to join head coach Marvin Lewis' staff. After Bresnahan, 43, worked Friday's practice, Lewis said the Bengals are talking to him about a position. It appeared he was working on the defense's nickel package Friday. Bresnahan was released this year in the Raiders' coaching change.

STANDOUTS: Lewis singled out defensive end Robert Geathers, a fourth-rounder from Georgia, and sixth-rounder Greg Brooks, a sixth-rounder from Southern Mississippi, as guys that flashed Friday. He also praised veteran wideouts T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Kelley Washington. Brooks looks to be extremely aggressive in picking up receivers off the line.

Washington, Houshmandzadeh, and about 20 other veterans who worked Friday leave it to the rookies for two practices each Saturday and Sunday. Veteran wide receiver Peter Warrick didn't go Friday as he continues to rehab from arthroscopic knee surgery. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said the hope is he'd be able to go when the veterans resume practice in an off-field coaching session in 10 days.

The Bengals released two rookie free agents Friday, Penn center Mike Powers and Hawaii receiver Jeremiah Cockheran.

Lewis doled out his annual "don't hit the QB" warning to the rookies with about a half hour left in practice, just before the Bengals went into 11 on 11 passing. He called everyone into the middle of the field and later explained, "If you want to leave here, be around the quarterback. . .These guys have to learn how to practice."

FEEL A DRAFT: The Bengals' top draft picks held their own in their Paul Brown Stadium debut. Second-round pick Madieu Williams, a safety from Maryland, made two interceptions and one was a diving grab off a tipped ball. Third-round pick Caleb Miller, a linebacker from Arkansas, also had an interception. Head coach Marvin Lewis felt first-round pick Chris Perry, a running back from Michigan, came as advertised in showing "quickness in the hole," and his ability to catch.

Linebackers coach Ricky Hunley chalked up Miller's play to being smart enough to know where to be. Miller said he simply read the quarterback's eyes. Williams, who had eight career interceptions for the Terps, did a little more with that tipped ball.

"I was playing man free and the corner tipped the ball," Williams said. "I just got it before it hit the ground. That's what I do best. Run to the ball."

One of the reasons the Bengals value Williams is his ability to cover receivers one on one, which he did in college, at times, in passing situations. Along with fellow second-round pick Keiwan Ratliff, a cornerback from Florida, the Bengals think they have two bright guys who translate brains into anticipation. Check out Williams' description of his first interception.

"We were in Cover Two and we had a pro formation," he said. "The tight end and wide receiver were on my side, and both went on verticals (patterns) about 12 to 20 yards down field, and I was trying to step in front of it."

Williams didn't find the speed that much of a change, only the tempo in and out of the huddle was faster. Perry said he expects it to get faster when the veterans start showing up. He admitted his mind is swimming with the new offense, even though there are some similarities to what Michigan runs.'

"I really can't use my Michigan terminology," Perry said. "Some of the zone plays, dual reads, and (pass) protection is the same, but I have to learn what everything is called."

**

NO. 28:** Nick Ayers, local guy from Glen Este High School on Cincinnati's East Side, never dreamed he'd be wearing the uniform jersey of the team's all-time leading rusher. But there he was Friday, running plays out of the backfield in

Corey Dillon's No. 28. The 5-10, 236-pounder from Georgetown College didn't mind.

"It's just something else to get you noticed, so that can't hurt you," Ayers said. "When I watched him, he was clearly a cut above. I don't care what happened with him and the Bengals' fans or whatever. That's separate. As a player, he's just one of the best I've ever seen."

Ayers got a chance to see Dillon work because he made it a point to watch the Bengals practice at least once a week while they were at training camp in Georgetown. The Georgetown players got free parking and Ayers would sit in the stands watching the backs.

He and his family have been watching the Bengals for a long time. He was in the stands 10 years ago at Riverfront Stadium and remembers former Pro Bowl defensive lineman Tim Krumrie driving off the field after his last game on the motorcycle the team gave him. While he was playing at Georgetown last year, his brother caught the victory over the unbeaten Chiefs.

"It's a big thrill to get a chance with this team," he said.

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