Chad has Key

10-23-03, 6:45 p.m.

Updated: 10-23-03, 11:50 p.m.

Stat of the week, thanks to ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli:

Since the beginning of the 2002 season, Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson has 102 catches for 1,444 yards, and six touchdowns on 14.2 yards per catch. Baby cousin Chad Johnson of the Bengals has 101 catches for 1,725 yards, nine touchdowns on 17.1 yards per catch.

"Can't say anything about Cuz," said Chad Johnson, but he couldn't help a smile sweep across his face when told of the stat this week. "I still talk to him once a week or so. Not so much about football this year liked I used to.

"Brat and Coach Wood have got me pretty much headed in the right direction," said Chad of offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and receivers coach Alex Wood. "Plus, this is my third year."

Johnson is involved in one of the marquee matchups Sunday against Seattle rookie cornerback Marcus Trufant, the 11th pick in the draft out of Washington State who reportedly had a nice game against Johnson when he was at Oregon State and is emerging into a star.

"Trufant (5-11, 200 pounds) may be their best corner right now with the injuries to Shawn Springs and Ken Lucas," says a NFL scout. "That would be a good matchup, but he makes them excellent in nickel and he could be on Peter Warrick in the slot, which would also be interesting."

Chad Johnson can't remember how the game turned out against Trufant. But he knows he's good.

"Probably a lot like Antoine Winfield and (Chris) McAlister," said Johnson of cornerbacks for the Bills and Ravens that he has played in the last two games. "(Trufant) can do a little bit of everything."

THURSDAY'S QUICK HITS: RB Corey Dillon (groin) didn't suit up for practice for the second straight day, but he is still listed as probable for Sunday's game against the Seahawks. So far this season, head coach Marvin Lewis has been reluctant to play players not available for practice during the week, so Friday looks to be a key day in Dillon's preparation for Seattle. Even though he didn't wear pads, Dillon did do some running, at least early in the practice. . .

CB Artrell Hawkins didn't practice Thursday, but Lewis indicated he'd be OK for the game and that he was simply "resting," him. . .

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DILLON DOESN'T PICK:** Head coach Marvin Lewis said just because Dillon hasn't worked in pads doesn't mean he hasn't worked and he is keeping him probable He seemed again to indicate Thursday he has no intentions of punishing Dillon for Wednesday's outburst in which he said he wouldn't mind a trade.

Which would seem to suggest Dillon tiptoed that fine line drawing up the club's "Carl Pickens Clause." In order to get his $10.5 million signing bonus on May 11, 2001, Dillon signed the club's loyalty clause, which is standard contract language attached to the bonus that says the club can take part or all of his signing bonus if he criticizes the organization, teammates, and coaches.

At all times Wednesday, Dillon emphasized he wasn't taking shots at anyone associated with the Bengals, at one point asking how his venting could affect ticket sales. Lewis sounded more concerned about moving on to Sunday's game.

"He has not affirmed that to me," Lewis said of Dillon's apparent unhappiness. "He told me exactly the opposite. He feels (the media) doesn't treat him fairly. Every time he says something, it's a big deal, and he's tired of it."

Asked if Dillon put him in a bad spot, Lewis said, "Sometimes guys have to vent in their situation like he did yesterday." Asked if Lewis would have preferred Dillon kept the comments private, he said, "I'm not going to tell you what I prefer. The matter was closed yesterday."

Some of Dillon's teammates wondered about the timing of his vent, but the locker room pretty much gave a collective shrug. Thursday and wrote it off to frustration from one of their most emotional players.

"Some people may say some things that they know they can get away with (and) out of frustration he said that," said right tackle Willie Anderson. "Some of the things that were said are somewhat understandable because he's a running back and his job is to run the football and he's obviously not happy with how we've been doing that.

"The timing could be questionable, could not be questionable," Anderson said. "In the past, Corey is a guy that spoke up about things he didn't think were right. If someone wants to stop that, it's going to take some time for him to stop it. That's how he is. You would hope it stays in house. It's always better. The guy's unhappy right now. He's a Pro Bowl running back and a guy who has had success in this league. I never questioned anything about him. I don't think anyone on this team has questioned anything about his heart, his integrity. He's a guy that no matter what happens on the field, even this incident right here, he'll still go all out on the field Sunday on third and one and run as hard as hell. Guys appreciate that."

Dillon said he feels under appreciated, but there seems to be a feeling in the locker room that may make this team immune from such incidents that turned into distractions in past seasons. Newcomers such as tight end Reggie Kelly and Shane Matthews, who have been on playoff teams, say this team is one of the closest and point to Lewis as the key reason.

Look for Anderson to keep his Friday night dinners going for the offense because the Bengals are 2-0 when he does it.

"The reason we are kind of turning this thing around is because we're trying to become a close-knit team," Anderson said, "Where in the past, a lot of times that wasn't always the case. Everybody was so spread out. . .now we have things where the offense is going together to dinner Friday nights trying to bring some continuity to the whole group. I think it's paying off."

Defensive tackle Oliver Gibson defended Dillon, saying if he was hurt while trade rumors swirled, he'd be mad, too.

"Leave the man alone and let him play football," Gibson said. "Say what you want about Corey, but he's one of the hardest working guys on this team, bottom line, and you know on Sunday he'll fight you all the way."

Defensive tackle John Thornton was taken a bit by surprise by the ruckus because when you come from a Titans team that went to two AFC title games and went 20-12 the other two seasons, there are virtually no locker room outbursts.

"When you're winning, it takes away the frustration," Thornton said. "It was his thing. He got it off his chest."

Then Thornton joked, "It's going to make Seattle think we're a dysfunctional family and they're going to come in here thinking it's easy. I think it's all part of the plan."

Gibson sees no cloud hanging over his teammates Sunday.

"No one gives a damn," he said. "We've all got our crosses to bear and axes to grind."

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