BY GEOFF HOBSON
Dillon confirms; Keaton agrees
Yes, the Bengals agreed to terms with a running back today. But it wasn't Corey Dillon. It was the man who could replace the Pro Bowler if they can't sign Dillon. Keaton, a fourth-round pick out of James Madison, agreed to a three-year deal. Jim Lippincott, the club's director of pro/college personnel, expects Keaton to sign Thursday morning, joining first-rounder Peter Warrick in the fold.
Marvin Demoff, Dillon's agent, confirmed with club vice president Paul H. Brown today that he will be here June 12 for a negotiating session. Demoff is advising his client to come with him for the talks, but it isn't known yet if Dillon will come to Cincinnati. The Bengals have yet to receive a counter proposal from Demoff since they sent him an offer in late April for five years at $18.3 million, a $3.6 million annual average. Dillon has indicated he wants $5 million per year.
The Bengals haven't heard from the NFL about the league's talks with the NFL Players Association regarding a global agreement that will settle a grievance and give the Bengals back their franchise tag in exchange for releasing wide receiver Carl Pickens. There have been varying signals from league officials who believe that issue has been settled and from NFLPA officials who say the franchise tag issue is separate from the Pickens case and hasn't been resolved.
With the opening of Paul Brown Stadium two months away, the Bengals are putting their employees through customer service seminars led by Tom Hayes of the Xavier Consulting Group. Hayes, a Xavier University marketing professor, ran a day-long session today at Spinney Field in which the club's executives were required to attend.
Bengals President Mike Brown sat in on the class in which Hayes handed out a wallet-sized service primer that will be given to all Bengals and Paul Brown Stadium employees called "The Bengals Service Experience." Modeled on the reminders that the Ritz-Carlton gives their employees, the creed lists 15 points of "Bengals Service Standards," as well as, "The Bengals Service Vision," which is, "To own the reputation as one of the finest sports and entertainment facilities in the nation through an unrelenting commitment to excellence, expertise and quality of service."
Also included is a signed message from Brown, which says, "The Cincinnati Bengals believe that you, our key service providers, are a key element in creating Fan loyalty. By consistently providing memorable service, you have the greatest day-to-day impact on our customers _ the Bengals' Fans! Thanks for all you do to serve the Fans and keep them coming back to the stadium!"
In the coming weeks, Hayes will lead a two-day seminar for all stadium supervisors, ranging from concessions to ushers to ticket-takers. There will also be a half-day seminar for all of the estimated 1,000 stadium employees.
WARRICK LEADING THE PACK:
Warrick has a lot of pull. At least around the AFC Central. As of today, he has a commanding lead in the NFL.com poll that asks, "Which AFC Central rookie will have the biggest impact this season?"
Warrick, a wide receiver out of Florida State, has 39.6 percent of the 1,772 votes, way ahead of the draft's No. 1 pick, Browns defensive end Courtney Brown with 20.3 percent. Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress is next wth 17.9 percent, followed by Ravens running back Jamal Lewis (14.2), Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck (3.6), Ravens receiver Travis Taylor (2.4) and Jaguars receiver Jay Soward (1.8).