Duffner to Packers

1-23-03, 10:20 a.m. 1-23-03, 10:20 a.m. Updated:
1-23-03, 12 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Former defensive coordinator Mark Duffner, who scouted and coached the strongest linebacker corps in Bengals' history, became the Packers linebackers coach Thursday in a reunion with Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman.

During the six seasons Duffner was the linebackers coach, the Bengals drafted Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons in the first round and Steve Foley in the third-round while Duffner scouted and recruited college free agents Adrian Ross and Armegis Spearman.

After Duffner was elevated to Dick LeBeau's defensive coordinator for 2001, the Bengals put together their best back-to-back seasons of defense since the late '80s. The Bengals slipped from No. 9 in the NFL to 17th this season, but Foley missed the entire season with a shoulder injury, defensive tackle Oliver Gibson missed half the season with a torn Achilles' and poor field position helped hurt the effort in 2002.

Duffner, 49, takes his trademark intensity and enthusiasm to a Green Bay club that pursued him before the 2001 season. There had been talk of him returning to the Bengals as linebackers coach under Marvin Lewis, but Duffner opted to go with Sherman, his offensive coordinator when Duffner was head coach at Holy Cross.

"I think it's best for everyone that we move on," Duffner said. "I've got regard for Coach Lewis and hope he does well here. This is a tough place to leave. I've got a lot of great memories here with some great players and I've got to thank (Bengals President) Mike Brown, Bruce Coslet and Coach LeBeau for giving me the opportunity." **

LEWIS ADDS TO STAFF:** Marvin Lewis added to his first coaching staff Thursday when he hired 12-year NFL veteran Jonathan Hayes as tight ends coach. He becomes the 15th assistant hired by Lewis.

Hayes, 40, the brother of new defensive line coach Jay Hayes, caught 153 balls and 13 touchdowns as a tight end for the Chiefs and Steelers in a career that took him to three AFC title games and a Super Bowl. Lewis hired him away from Oklahoma, where he had been Bob Stoops' tight ends coach/special teams coordinator for the past four years.

Hayes was a second-round draft pick of Kansas City out of Iowa in 1985, and played nine seasons for the Chiefs before joining his hometown Steelers from 1994-96, and played in Super Bowl XXX for Pittsburgh.

LEBEAU PURSUED: Former Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau has a few options to extend his career in the NFL to 45 seasons this year.

There are plans for him to sit down in Buffalo with Bills head coach Gregg Williams and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray after the Super Bowl to talk about a job on the defensive staff. And, "The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" reported Thursday that the Steelers are interested in luring LeBeau back to the staff he helped form for head coach Bill Cowher when he was the club's defensive coordinator from 1995-96.

Both jobs appear to be designed for LeBeau to assist the coordinator in a consultant role and maybe work with the secondary. The Steelers have talked to former Bengals safeties coach Darren Perry about the same job in Pittsburgh, where Perry played under LeBeau for five seasons. Tim Lewis, the current Steelers defensive coordinator, was LeBeau's secondary coach in Pittsburgh.

Mark Duffner, LeBeau's defensive coordinator in Cincinnati the past two seasons, is reportedly a leading candidate to be the Packers' new linebackers coach. Duffner and Packers head coach Mike Sherman have a long working relationship from the college ranks.

**

CHAD WATCHING:** Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, buoyed by the return of offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, is starting to sound like his new head coach. He doesn't want to go to the Super Bowl to watch cousin Keyshawn play for the Buccaneers

because he'd rather wait and go to a Super Bowl when he's playing. Plus, it sounds like Keyshawn isn't spending a lot of time kibitzing.

"I haven't heard him say very much this week," Chad said from Miami Wednesday. "He's getting focused for this one. He's thinking about what he has to do. (The Raiders) have some great DBs, so it's going to be something to watch, but I haven't talked to him much at all. Just letting him get ready."

Johnson had his first conversation with head coach Marvin Lewis Tuesday and Lewis wanted to know "How is D. Starks doing?" Duane Starks is one of Johnson's friends from Miami and played for Lewis in Baltimore.

"It was just a quick conversation. I was trying to get an idea on what he's going to do with personnel, but it's kind of early," Johnson said. "I don't know him well enough to say much, but he sounded ready to go and I told him I would be there March 1 to start working out."

Another receiver in the Super Bowl has caught Johnson's eye this week. The Raiders' 40-year-old Jerry Rice has him thinking about his offseason regimen.

"He's there because of what he's done in the offseason," Johnson said. "I'm not looking to beef up with the weights very much, but I just want to make sure I maintain and stay with it."

Ever since he started catching enough balls last season to become the Bengals' first 1,000-yard receiver since Darnay Scott, Johnson has been pushing for the offense to stay intact. He got his wish when Lewis kept on Bratkowski. Johnson will miss receivers coach Steve Mooshagian, now the head coach at Sacramento State, but he's relieved that Bratkowski is here. He knows it was Bratkowski whom made the massive push to draft him in the second round two years ago.

"I know I owe a lot of my success to Bob," Johnson said. "He's been a huge influence on my game. It's great for me and great for the offense that he's coming back. Guys respect him and you saw what happened when we got things rolling last year that we can move the ball."

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