BY GEOFF HOBSON
GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ The Bengals and the agent for Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon spoke several times tonight in an effort to secure a one-year deal by Thursday with one report saying the club is making an all-out effort with an offer in the $3 million range. But as midnight neared, the team and the Los Angeles-based Marvin Demoff had yet to finalize an agreement in phone calls with a three-hour time difference.
The club continued its policy of a news blackout regarding Dillon, preferring not to comment until later in the week. If Dillon doesn't sign by Thursday the eve of the Bengals' second preseason game in Atlanta he won't be eligible for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against Cleveland in Paul Brown Stadium.
A report earlier today on cbssportsline.com said the Bengals have offered Dillon $3.05 million to play the 2000 season, more than twice the $1.37 million tender for Dillon's restricted free agent status. It would also be about $25,000 shy of the one-year deal for a running back who is a transition free agent, a status Dillon will probably reach next year and is based on the average of the NFL's top 10 salaried running backs.
WEATHER THE STORM:The one time the Bengals had a morning practice this week and it got washed out in today's thunderstorm. Then about 30 minutes after they took the field for the afternoon practice, an even bigger thunderstorm ripped the Georgetown College facility and drove the players inside for about 40 minutes. They came back to work about 45 more minutes under the lights and then fled off campus for the weekly night off from meetings.
"That's the first time as a player, assistant coach and head coach I've been involved in a canceled practice," said coach Bruce Coslet. "It won't happen again. The players were downtrodden. A big cheer went up when we called off practice."
Instead, the players viewed tapes of the Falcons a day early. The banged-up Bengals, working in shoulder pads and shorts when it wasn't raining, no doubt enjoyed the respite.
HAPPY CAMPERS: **As right tackle Willie Anderson watched 71 children romp around training camp today wearing his No. 71 on their T-Shirts, he thought about a possible future event at Paul Brown Stadium. Anderson hosted the group from the LeBlond chapter of the Greater Cincinnati Boys and Girls Club in downtown Cincinnati and it got him thinking.
"Maybe take 71 kids to each (home game)," Anderson said. "Get together with some teachers and schools and reward kids for great attendance or great school work. We don't reward our kids enough for doing good things. We should notice when they do what they're supposed to do. Let them know people are watching and that it's appreciated when they do well." Each child today got a goodie bag that included Anderson's Highway 71 ballcaps and No. 71 T-Shirts. The Boys and Girls Club is a natural for Anderson. His mother is on the board of directors of a chapter in Mobile, Ala.
COSLET ON LOYALTY: **Coslet was asked about the club's loyalty clause, which is undergoing an NFL Players Association grievance in the next month, and he handled it about as well as anyone. He should know better than anyone because it grew out of former receiver Carl Pickens' tirade about Coslet returning for another season.
"You mean the Carl Pickens Clause?" Coslet fired back when asked about the loyalty clause that exposes the signing bonus to a fine. "It's virtualy the same verbiage already in their contracts and what we're doing is tying it to the (signing) bonus. The way it's structured now, if a player has an ulterior motive to force a trade or force us to cut him through inappropriate actions, we have no recourse. What we have is the collective bargaining agreement. Conduct detrimental, fine or suspension. To fine a player or suspend a player hurts the team. Why should the team be hurt by the actions of a player that is in the wrong? The language is tied into the bonus, which to me is upfront salary. We're not censuring these guys. We're not asking to restrict their rights of free speech. . .What a corporation does is fire (people who do it). With the salary cap and all the time and effort we put into these guys, we can't fire them."
Asked why his players don't say positive things, Coslet said, "They do. They've been great. This has nothing to do with the players we have now."
DUGANS SAYS GO:Rookie wide receiver Ron Dugans said his tender hamstring should be well enough to make his NFL debut Friday in Atlanta. He was happy to hear fellow former Florida State receiver Peter Warrick is going to stay permanently in the flanker spot and that Dugans' positions will remain the split end spot, as well as one of the slot receivers in one of the three-receiver sets. Dugans did his damage in the national championship game last year primarily out of the slot, catching touchdowns of 63 and 14 yards and finishing with five catches for 99 yards.