3-31-04, 7 a.m.
B GEOFF HOBSON
PALM BEACH, Fla. _ Raiders owner Al Davis met the media Tuesday here at the NFL meetings, but he had no intention to talk about his alleged desire to trade for Bengals running back Corey Dillon.
"I know Cincinnati would be dying to hear what I have to say," Davis said. Asked by a reporter for the third time this week about Dillon, Davis said, "Here we go again." When another reporter asked about Dillon, Davis alluded to his rivalry with Tampa Bay and said, "I think you're with the Bucs. I think you want to know what I'm going to do so you can tell the Bucs."
For the third day of the meetings, there was no sign the two teams talked to each other about Dillon. And what is emerging is a game of chicken before next month's NFL Draft.
The Raiders are supposedly the only team that has an interest, but on Tuesday Raiders head coach Norrv Turner talked bravely how the Raiders could line up with veteran Tyrone Wheatley ("an instinctive, inside runner") and second-year man Justin Fargas ("great speed,") even though Wheatley is 32 and Fargas carried just 40 times as a rookie.
And Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis talked just as bravely about how Dillon would compete with Rudi Johnson for the top running back job and how he could return to the team despite his explosive comments two weeks ago on national television.
"I don't think our team really cares," said Lewis, who also said Dillon doesn't have much of a choice but to return because he has two years left on his contract. "He just knows there are certain rules he has to abide by."
One of Dillon's shots is he had "a power struggle," with Lewis, which is news to the coach: "I didn't recognize it."
But each side seems to be whistling in the wind. The Raiders know they need him and the Bengals know keeping Dillon is tough on the locker room.
Turner certainly recognizes his kind of running back when he sees it. Avoiding Dillon's name, Turner noted how he has overseen offenses that yielded the NFL's all-time leading rusher in Emmitt Smith, as well as franchise record seasons for backs in Washington (Stephen Davis) and Miami (Ricky Williams).
"If I've got a great back," Turner said, "I'll use him."
As for Davis, he was more interested in talking about the NCAA women's basketball tournament. He did perk up when a reporter told him he was going to visit the Raiders on Draft Day, when they have the second pick.
"We're going to get a good player," Davis said.
But he didn't say if it was going to be a veteran or a rookie.
MEETING NOTES:** The agent for former Vikings cornerback Denard Walker said his client is interested in talking to the Bengals after he was released Tuesday. Walker was the first free-agent cornerback to visit the Bengals a year ago before they signed Tory James, Walker's former teammate at LSU.
"He would really like to spend more time with Marvin. He was really impressed with what the Bengals did this past year," said John Hamilton. "Players talk to each other and Denard thinks that would be a very good situation."
Walker turns 31 during training camp. A former third-round pick of the Titans, Walker is seen as a solid player who came into last season with 86 NFL starts before a concussion forced him into a nickel back role. The Bengals have just 52 NFL starts at corner on the roster. . .
The Bengals were one of three teams to vote against the use of instant replay Tuesday, but the NFL owners overwhelmingly adopted it for the next five years by a 29-3 count here at the league meetings. Cincinnati kept its nay streak alive on a proposal that allows coaches to get another challenge if they get the first two right. That only happened once last year.
"It isn't foolproof at all. It's just wishful thinking," said Bengals President Mike Brown, who has never voted for instant replay. "It's run by human beings, as is the on-field officiating is run by human beings and human beings make error. Instant replay has built in error. It is not a total solution except in a PR sense.
"It interrupts and delays the game. We have too much of that in our game now."
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis challenged five calls last year and won one reversal. His foes won one of seven, and one of seven calls challenged by the officials in the last two minutes of a half yielded one reversal. That one took a touchdown away from wide receiver Chad Johnson in the last minute of the Bengals' 34-27 victory over Houston.
The Colts and Chiefs also voted against the proposal.
We have interruptions for timeouts, for injuries, for advertising," Brown said. "Our game doesn't flow as well as it once did."
But he is holding out hope because the owners decided not to make it a permanent change.
"At least (five years) is better than having it on permanently," Brown said. "If it were on permanently, you'd have to have 24 votes to get it off. Now you need nine to get it off. At least it gives some chance. I'm not for it now. I don't think I ever will be for it. Some day, it might be tossed out. It was tossed out before. All you need is an incident that makes that happen.
"There was not one instant replay in our games this year that I thought in any way determined the game," Brown said. "It just slowed the action down. It might have made a difference for a first down or two, but it wasn't something that was critical." . . .
The owners voted to extend their merchandising agreement that shares revenues. But there looks to be storm clouds on the horizon for the larger question about sharing stadium revenues that aren't shared because three teams voted against it (Dallas, Washington, Miami), and Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Oakland abstained. . .