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9-23-01, 1:20 p.m.


The Bengals took the field under Super Bowl conditions and it just wasn't because they were playing the reigning Super Bowl champion Ravens.

Fans were greeted by bomb-sniffing dogs at the gates while an expanded force of city and county police officers roamed Paul Brown Stadium in beefed-up security measures as the NFL got back to work for the first time since Sept. 11.

Victims of the attacks and heroes of the rescues were honored in a patriotic pre-game ceremony as fans chanted "USA, USA." The highlight was Bon Jovi's singing of "God Bless America" on the end-zone scoreboards as he was accompanied by the Manhattan police and fire departments.

The Bengals also knew it was a speical day. After the starting defense was introduced, several Bengals sprinted into the end zone opposite their locker room to implore the fans. Some then knelt on one knee in the end zone.

The Bengals caught a break before the game when

the Ravens relegated dangerous punt returner Jermaine Lewis to the sidelines with an injury.

Lewis, who set an NFL record last season with a 16.1-yard average, was on the inactive list.

For the second straight game, so were Bengals' receivers Danny Farmer and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. That may have been a slight surprise because that left Cincinnati with just four wide receivers in a game the Bengals figured to try some three- and four-receiver sets.

With rookie defensive end Justin Smith ready for his first NFL action Sunday, defensive end Jevon Langford was also inactive. Smith will probably come off the bench to relieve starting right end Reinard Wilson and he will get his most work on passing downs.

Left end Vaughn Booker might only play on passing downs with his bruised thigh, which meant Bernard Whittington ended up starting for him and will probably play in Booker's spot in the base defense.

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