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Fight back

Updated: 3:20 p.m.

For a team that went 4-11-1 last season, the Bengals had all the cameras of a playoff team when they opened their minicamp Thursday morning across the street from Paul Brown Stadium.

Not only were there three reporters from ESPN, but HBO and NFL Films have started the filming of their training camp documentary on the Bengals with a crew of about 10.

» What would the first day of minicamp be without head coach Marvin Lewis' unveiling the T-shirt with the season's slogan? The '09 version has a tiger paw with claws bared ripping through the words "Fight Back."

"That's our motto," said defensive tackle Domata Peko, one of the young veterans who has emerged as a leader. "That's what it seems like. We had a horrible season last year. Getting beat up and losing all those games. It's time for us to fight back and get into the running for the playoffs."

» Center Kyle Cook did some fighting back when he got into a post-snap tussle with middle linebacker Dhani Jones on a downfield block that resulted in Cook's helmet coming off. Which surprised none of his linemates, who have been aware of Cook's mean streak on the field. It's just now he's the starting center.

"There are going to be competitive days ahead and there will be competitive moments," Jones said later. "I love the fact he's on our offense and doing such a good job."

Cook got a smile out of Jones as he stared at him walking by in the locker room.

"I'm here all day," he said, laughing.

"But so am I," Jones said.

Cook waved it off as no big deal.

"We've had 11, 12 practices and we've been going at each other every day," he said.

Also high on Cook is offensive line coach Paul Alexander, who says he's one of the smartest guys to play here.

» No, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco isn't staying at quarterback Carson Palmer's home next month when the two hook up to catch some balls.

"Unless he's picking up my mortgage for the months of July and August, he can't stay. He's not living for free," said Palmer, the father of five-month-old twins. "I don't need another kid around the house."

» But Ochocinco is still Palmer's go-to guy: "Who is ever the weakside receiver in this offense is the No. 1," Palmer said. "He's going to play there because he deserves to play there. He's been one of the best receivers in this league for a long time. He's still able to play at that level and he's still capable of making big plays and carrying the load offensively at the receiver spot."

Proof that The Ocho has a better attitude about his team than last year, he predicted they would make the playoffs.

And, really, it seems to be the same old Chad. Pre trade rants.

Told that he no longer seems down the on the direction of the team like he was the past couple of years, he said, "I was not down on us for a couple of years. I was down last year. We're going to be good." He reiterated what he said last week about the Bengals having more talent than they did in the 11-5 season of '05, and continues to challenge everyone to every sport. He claims teammate Roy Williams backed out of a boxing challenge. "Actually, Roy was scared of me," he said.

"All of those who take shots at me during the season, I challenge you to anything; anything you want to do," he said. "It can be any sport. Walking, jogging, anything. It doesn't matter and it doesn't matter who you are. As far as the analysts taking shots at me, I'm coming to get your job."

The Ocho took a shot at Joe Buck after he was on Buck's first show Monday night on HBO. The Artie Lange fiasco stole the headlines and got Buck pounded by the critics, but Ochocinco was also steamed and unhappy with Buck's interview.

"He took a couple of shots at me; that's what he gets," The Ocho said. "He took shots at me for things I've never really done before. The topic of discussion really didn't fit me. Showing the people that have been arrested and been in trouble, and really with regards to my team, about the arrests we've had. We've been clean for three years. Why even bring that back up? It didn't make any sense."

The Ocho did pause to salute one TV star with ESPN's John Clayton standing in front of his locker.

"John, good to see you again," he said. "I know what Brett Favre is going to do. I'm the source. Done deal."

» Palmer says Ochocino is in the kind of shape that got him to five Pro Bowls. But it was with Laveranues Coles that Palmer hooked up on the most spectacular long pass of the practice, a diving catch and outstretched catch despite cornerback Johnathan Joseph's tight coverage.

» Lewis liked the fact that ball and most others in the practice were caught.

"The ball didn't hit the ground very often," he said. "This is professional football. That ball should never touch the ground when our offense is working on the things they're working on. I think it's got to continue that way. That's the standard that ought to be set. Our quarterbacks ought to make accurate throws, our receivers ought to catch it and that's the way it should be in everything we do. I think I saw a little bit of that today. A step up in that. When we hit Georgetown, it can't waver and ever go down below the line."

» A light rain fell in the first workout. Among those participating in practice and taking snaps for the first time in team drills this spring were fullback Jeremi Johnson and rookie tight end Chase Coffman. Not participating were defensive end Robert Geathers (knee), safety Marvin White (knee) and rookie cornerback Morgan Trent (foot), but Lewis said they'll be ready for the start of training camp next month.

» Defensively the Bengals lined up in 11-on-11 drills with Jonathan Fanene at end in place of Geathers, Tank Johnson and Domata Peko at tackle, Antwan Odom at end, a linebacker trio of Rashad Jeanty, Dhani Jones and Keith Rivers, and a backfield of Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall at the corners and Chris Crocker and Roy Williams at safety. In another set, Pat Sims played next to Peko at tackle.

In the nickel defense, Michael Johnson flanked Fanene at the end spots, with Crocker the nickel corner and Chinedum Ndukwe taking Crocker's spot at safety.

» Also Thursday, David Canter, the agent for seventh-round draft pick, wide receiver Freddie Brown said Brown and the Bengals have agreed on a four-year deal that includes a signing bonus of $37,600.

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