Gibson tackles pundits

9-5-02, 5:50 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Oliver Gibson, the Bengals' defensive anchor who isn't afraid to float his opinions, is tired of the preseason bashing of his head coach and his team.

"This organization has done just about everything possible in free agency and the draft over the last two or three years to give us a chance to win," Gibson said Thursday in a typical no-holds barred audio interview. "I'm tired of all these comments and ESPN is really pissing me off about their opinion of Coach LeBeau and what might happen.

"If I hear that one more time when asked by another reporter, I will scream on him," Gibson said. "We're a good team with an excellent infrastructure. We just have to execute. It's on me, it's on Lorenzo Neal, it's on Corey Dillon, it's on Takeo Spikes."

Gibson, a newly elected defensive tri-captain with Spikes and Brian Simmons, sat down with bengals.com before Thursday's practice, and, as usual, told it the way he sees it. Among the highlights offered by the eighth-year defensive tackle is it is now left only to the players to reverse the Bengals' fortunes and that his defense should heed the wake-up call that rang in preseason:

Gibson, 30, thinks his free-agency signing before the 1999 season and the club's extension of his contract through 2005 is evidence management has the right idea.

"When I got here, people had things to say about this organization. They gave me a chance and I'm one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. So all that stuff, I'm tired of it. It's my responsibility If it doesn't come out the way it's supposed to come out, it's on me."

As for the bashing of Bengals President Mike Brown, Gibson looks at the moves on the line that came after he arrived, such as the free-agent signings of end Vaughn Booker (2000) and tackle Tony Williams (2001) and the drafting of end Justin Smith (2001).

"The thing is, they've done exactly what they can do" Gibson said. "I've never been happier with a defensive line in the years of my NFL experience . . .Excuses. Put it on us.

Gibson, who never started in 60 games for Pittsburgh, is insulted that the Steelers' defense ranked first last year in the NFL while the Bengals finished ninth.

"I feel we have (more) team speed. Personnel, we match up as good, and better, but I just think that sometimes we fall into the gap, 'We're better than we used to be.' Stop looking at the past. Look at the future."

Gibson, who will make his roster-high 49th straight start as a Bengal Sunday, said he is surprised at the amount of points the No. 1 defense allowed during the preseason. He thinks they have to go back to the concept of staying within their responsibilities and not doing too much.

"It was a wake-up call. We can't rest on our laurels.

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