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Dillon fine; Chad fined

10-30-03, 3:30 p.m. Updated:
10-30-03, 5:15 p.m. **

THURSDAY'S QUICK HITS:** RB Corey Dillon (groin) practiced Thursday but remained questionable for Sunday. He took handoffs rather crisply with the first group at the beginning of practice after spending Wednesday on the side running.

Head coach Marvin Lewis said simply, "Corey is fine."

"It looks good. It feels good," Dillon said. "I took my Geritol pills." . . .

RB Brandon Bennett (back) also practiced and also remained questionable. . .RG Matt O'Dwyer (foot) was downgraded to questionable. . .

Lewis was asked about the Dillon situation on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption," Thursday and he brushed it off by saying he hasn't had a problem with Dillon and that he thinks he's only looking to be fairly treated here rather than looking for a trade. . .

Bengals QB Jon Kitna calls TE Reggie Kelly one of the toughest guys with whom he's played and here's why. Kelly is hoping that the cast comes off his foot next week and that he'll be able to play in 10 days against Houston at Paul Brown Stadium. The exact nature of Kelly's injury is unknown, but anything that has a cast on it can be a hint of maybe closer to a month to heal.

"The doctor is telling me it can come off then if I do what I'm supposed to do and stay off it," Kelly said.

Bengals WR Chad Johnson was looking for commissioner Paul Tagliabue's phone number Thursday ("Just kidding," Johnson said) after head coach Marvin Lewis told him that he had indeed, been fined for last Sunday's end-zone celebration. Johnson thought he had escaped the fine when he hadn't heard anything by Wednesday, but now he has at

least three catches and one fine in each game this season.

Johnson said he thought he got off easy with a $5,000 fine because the league understood that he was faking taking off his helmet instead of making a throat-slash signal. But a $5,000 fine is common for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Johnson has racked up fines for wearing all orange shoes (twice), having too long of a towel, socks at the wrong height, an untucked jersey, and fines for celebrating in the end zone in Cleveland (snapping imaginary photos with a imaginary camera) and against Seattle. . .

Cardinals QB Jeff Blake has noticed what Lewis is doing in Cincinnati and thinks the Bengals and Cardinals can turn it around even though they have the NFL's two worst records since 1993. He knows, for instance, that Lewis is giving players per diem on West Coast trips like Friday's jaunt to Arizona.

"I just wish I had a coach like that when I was there," said Blake, the Bengals starter for most of the '90s. "Someone to tell the organization, 'We're going to do it the right way or not at all.' In the past, that never happened. You had guys worrying about things besides playing football. Per diem and stuff we never got. . . You bring in a guy who knows what players need to win and you don't have to worry about jocks and socks and all that crap. . .They don't have all that anymore. That's why they're able to go out and play like they're playing.

"When you bring somebody in from the outside, they can bring in new ideas, new flavor, new aggressiveness," Blake said. "When you always hire in-house, you get the same thing over and over again. Nobody is changing, there's no new ideas. Just more of the same thing."

Blake sees Lewis having influence on who to put on the roster.

"It's like I said when I was there," he said, "it's not always who runs the fastest or (lifts) the most. You can't measure character and pride and you need that on your team."

LEWIS' ARMY GETTING NOTICED: Marvin Lewis has more movie clips than the Academy and in a week like this that is more mental than physical, he's not afraid to call on them.

The Bengals follow him into the Arizona desert favored for the first time with him as coach in a time zone that is two hours different in a stadium that won't have 30,000 people. And, at 3-4, that buzzing isn't vultures, but national media outlets.

Last week, Lewis showed his team a scene from "Patton," and his players saw George C. Scott amble out of his tank/jeep as America's most controversial general of Word War II. It seems there were two jackasses blocking Patton's army from advancing across a bridge and his men couldn't figure out what to do. Until Patton pulled out a revolver and shot the jackasses before they got tossed off the bridge. Barely had the animals made a splash and the soldiers were moving again.

"Point taken," said defensive tackle Oliver Gibson. "We're going to close ranks and move on in every philosophy and you don't want to be the one outside the ranks."

Apparently, the movie came up again Wednesday because Lewis said, "the jackasses can be anything. It could be injuries. It could be not paying attention to detail. Anything that gets in the way of the goal."

Well, Lewis sees the jackasses are on the bridge in the form of national attention. Chad Johnson has already been on "The Best Damn Sports Show." ESPN's husband-wife gambling team paid homage to the Bengals' win over Seattle with the lovely Robin sniffling, 'I told you the Bengals wouldn't miss Dillon.' The newsy ESPN is coming to Thursday's media session for a SportsCenter segment on these up-and-coming Bengals. "Pardon The Interruption," the popular ESPN talk show with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon of "The Washington Post," had Lewis on Thursday.

"Hey, I have to be careful, too," Lewis said. "Who does it start with?"

Many of these Bengals have been here before. Two years ago, the national media descended on Paul Brown Stadium to preview the 2-0 Bengals vs. the 2-0 Chargers in the different time zone. They got waxed in the second half of a 28-14 loss to start a stretch of

10 losses in the next 12 games.

"The funny thing is that when we were 4-3 two years ago, it was like guys were waiting around for something bad to happen," said quarterback Jon Kitna. "I remember guys coming up to me and saying 'I've never been 4-3, I've never been 2-0.' I was new, and I was like, 'What are you talking about, not only are we 4-3, but we should be 6-1 if it wasn't for ourselves.'

"The good thing that Marvin does is that he talks about it," Kitna said. "He doesn't let things be hush, hush in the locker room. He talks about it. He puts it out there every week, and he shows us where we are, and where we want to try to go."

What Lewis is talking about is not letting players get ahead of themselves. The goal has been very clearly stated in meetings and on the practice field. Take it game by game and look up at some point in December and win the AFC North title. Some thought there was too much discussion two years ago about playoffs at 2-0 and 4-3, and not enough about the next game.

"I don't remember that. I just remember we weren't able to win," Gibson said. "Let's face it. We've struggled here. We've got so many guys out there that are so concentrated on what they're doing and trying not to make mistakes. We can't look past anybody. We don't have the personnel to do that. We don't have a bunch of superstars. We've got Corey (Dillon) and Chad (Johnson) is coming on. But we've got a lot of blue-collar workers that are good players and play hard."

Right tackle Willie Anderson sniffs about the playoff talk and blames it on the "non-athletes," in the media. But he does admit that a lot depends on how the younger players handle it.

"We've only won three games. Y' all want to make us say that, but it's only three games," Anderson said. "Yeah, we're happy that we won those three games. But hopefully guys don't think we've arrived, because we haven't arrived yet. We haven't done anything yet. Our goal is to go .500 this week (and) not having ESPN talk good about us. Forget about that. You don't play this game to get a pat on the back."

But it's not like the Bengals have heard it just this week. Gibson says Lewis doesn't have to pound themes this week because he's done such a good job talking about it from the beginning.

"We've heard it all since March 20," Gibson said. "We've heard every speech and every philosophy. Right now it's so ingrained everybody is just fighting to be counted on account of the next guy."

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