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Feeling a (Raven) draft

10-14-03, 7:45 a.m.


No wonder Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis counts Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome as one of his personnel gurus.

Since the franchise moved to Baltimore, four of the Ravens' 11 first-round picks have gone to the Pro Bowl in left tackle Jonathan Ogden (1996), middle linebacker Ray Lewis (1997), outside linebacker Peter Boulware (1998), and tight end Todd Heap (2001). Running back Jamal Lewis (2000) is no doubt headed to Hawaii this season, and cornerback Chris McAlister (1999) and safety Ed Reed (2002) might be right behind.

All but one of Newsome's 11 first-rounders are still with Baltimore. Cornerback Duane Starks (1998) left via free agency for Arizona.

Of the Bengals' nine first-rounders since 1996, six are still with the team, and right tackle Willie Anderson (1996) has come the closest to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.

INJURY UPDATE: With the team reporting back to practice Monday after the bye weekend, everyone looked healthy enough to be in pads. Running back Corey Dillon returned to participate in at least the early stages for the first time since he re-injured his groin two weeks ago in Cleveland. He took some handoffs, caught some passes, stepped through ropes, and did some cutting around cones to begin a week he could be listed as questionable until the Bengals kick off against the Ravens Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. But he didn't elaborate after the workout and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis wouldn't say if Dillon took any snaps from scrimmage, just that Dillon, "did fine." But he won't release the injury status of any players until Wednesday.

Wide receiver T. J. Houshmandzadeh admitted he was nervous after his 40-day layoff, but he reported no pain after his first practice since he injured his hamstring in a practice during the week of the opener. But he said he was "as happy as a kid in a candy

store," after going through all parts of the practice. He went through some parts of it full speed, and not others, but he's hopeful he'll back for Sunday after not suffering the setback he feared. Head coach Marvin Lewis wants to see more, and he said it's not a given that Houshmandzadeh would be the third receiver in place of rookie Kelley Washington if he's healthy.

"I was quite nervous. It's the first time I've run routes," Houshmandzadeh said. "I've been running at a nice pace, but it's a lot different when someone is in your face and you have to react."

There was no pain, but Houshmandzadeh said he's now trying to knock off the rust.

"I felt it a few times, but it wasn't, 'Oh, I have to stop.' . .It's one of those type of feelings (that) just let's you know, 'I'm still there, but you'll be all right,' type feeling. We'll see as the week goes on."

Houshmandzadeh has some incentive to get back. Lewis held his roster spot while he rehabbed (and eschewed signing a veteran wideout like Troy Edwards) and he said last week, "I'm going to make (Lewis) look good." Backup middle linebacker Riall Johnson (calf) also returned Monday. He's been out since he got hurt in the second game of the season, and looks also to be questionable. He said he had some tightness and soreness, but he's hopeful.


CLOSE TIES:** At least one high Bengals official has warm thoughts about the impending retirement of Ravens owner Art Modell early next year when Steve Bisciotti buys the rest of the club. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says Modell is a reason he made it as a NFL head coach after he went to work for the Ravens in 1996.

"Mr. Modell means a great deal to me," said Lewis at his Monday news conference, recalling

when Modell fired head coach Ted Marchibroda after the 1998 season.

"He gave me an opportunity to stay there if I wanted to," said Lewis, who was eventually retained by new coach Brian Billick. "I told Brian when Brian came into that job that Art Modell would do whatever he had to do to get that team to the Super Bowl and he did. I have the utmost respect for him. To be the way he is out at practice every day, he just loves that football team. The funnest thing about (winning) the Super Bowl was to see the look on his face."

There has always been a frosty distance between Modell and the Brown family that owns the Bengals since Modell fired Paul Brown as coach of the Cleveland Browns at the end of the 1962 season.

Billick knows this game means more than a spot in the standings for newer reasons.

"There is no misconception about what this game represents," Billick said at his Monday news conference. "We have a great deal of admiration for Marvin Lewis and what he does. You know that they will come ready to play.

"This is a big game for them, like it is for us. There is a different feel in Cincinnati. You can sense that. Even though their record right now is not that different from what is has been over the last couple of years at this point, there is a tangible difference in the way they feel about themselves and I think that you can attribute that directly to Marvin."

Billick has seen his old defensive coordinator in action during a bye week, so he knows to expect the unexpected.

"I imagine that Marvin has spent a good part of two weeks shuffling some things up. I am sure we are going to see some things differently than what I have seen on the previous tapes. We'll have to be ready for that."

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