Dog days and late dinners

8-16-01, 3:30 p.m.

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _

This is another installment of linebacker and defensive captain Takeo Spikes' diary for Bengals.com during training camp.

It's the Dog Days of training camp, no doubt about it. You get sore, you get tired, but I'm not counting the days until it's over yet.

We're taking it a week at a time. We get through today and we've got a three-day weekend. That's what you look forward to. You just make do with what you've got.

The Dog Days are tough this week because we're not in pads and we don't have a game. You see a lot of guys sitting out and you get tempted I guess to sit it out because my ankle isn't 100 percent right.

But I feel like my presence is needed. Not because I feel like I'm special. I just feel like that's what I bring to the table.

To me, the key to succeeding is 80 percent coming out of camp healthy. No muscle pulls. No muscle strains. Knock on wood. I've spent a lot of extra time in the weight room and in the training room. If I'm not the last guy, I'm usually one of the last guys to leave the locker room and go to dinner after the afternoon practice. I'm always in the whirlpool, injured or not, because I want to keep the muscles loose.

I'm spending a lot of time working on the core. A lot of times guys, don't realize your strength comes from your abs downs to your thighs. That's where you get your speed, pop, turning and quickness.

As athletes, you always

want to bench press and do squats, but that doesn't help your core. Lorenzo Neal and I usually go into the weight room and stretch with one of those weighted balls. It's free-base usually without machines. Sometimes we'll take little cords and stretch with them to work on the soft tissue in your shoulder. Or we put the cord around our thighs and stretch and pull with it.

You have to take care of the core. Last year, the second week we were here, I pulled my groin and I couldn't get rid of it. It went right up into my hip flexor and it nagged at me all year.

I've been straight this year. I did miss last week's game but I was lucky. I had the worst kind of ankle sprain. It was high, but it was about the mildest you can have.

A lot of days, it would be easy to say you're going to take it easy and just take a shower and head on up. I try to discipline myself and say, "Spikes, you've got to go ahead and do what you have to do." Four years in and I'm learning every year how to take care of myself.

I wanted to play in Detroit, but at the same time I knew that I was taking a chance of maybe nicking the ankle again and then it would be another two weeks and it would be a setback.

I went out and tested it in pre-game and there was just too much pressure on my ankle. I wasn't able to get out of my cuts.

I don't think a pre-season game is going to be a true measure of how it's going to be. But since we have a lot to prove to everybody, we take everything seriously and I do, too. So you feel some pressure that way when you don't play.

There's always pressure, but I try not to buy into what the guys write about me having a shot at the Pro Bowl. When I was going through the airport on the way to camp, you could see some heads would turn. I'm on some of the Athlon magazine covers and there's that kind of pressure, too. But you can't buy into what you read. You can't take what you got for granted.

Like I've said, I always try to find motivation in one-liners, books, anything. Especially now when it's getting pretty boring and you want the season to start.

I'm reading Bill Russell's book on leadership and at one point he's talking about when he played at the University of San Francisco, which was pretty much like our team because everyone expected them to do nothing when they showed up. Regardless of how hard they worked, people were still going to say that about them behind closed doors.

He says you've got to treat that like treating a rose, or a plant, or a flower. No matter how rough the plant looks, the power and the strength comes from the roots. It comes from within. No matter what it looks like, no matter the expectations, it's inside, it's what you have together in the locker room that counts.

The vent above my bed in the room back in the dorm is blowing air on me all the time. So I ripped a page out of one of the playbooks and taped it to the ceiling so it blocks the air. It looks funny flapping around up there, but it does the job. You do what you have to do.

Since I' m usually the last guy out, I see things nobody sees. I always bump into the guy who cleans up the locker room. Nobody ever sees him in action, but me I think. He's always wearing a Bengals' T-Shirt. I don't know his name, but he works hard. He seems like an uplifting, upbeat guy. When you stay late, you see everything that goes on and I can find motivation in just about everything.

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