Joys and concerns

8-23-03, 11 a.m.

Coming off that impressive 23-10 win over the Lions in the home opener last Saturday, Bengaldom is rustling with optimism.

No, Carson Palmer didn't turn into a pumpkin, although there is some concern from the faithful that head coach Marvin Lewis and Corey Dillon aren't in the same fairytale. But we think they are going to live happily ever after.

The populace isn't happy that the NFL has decided to make the radio broadcasts pay per hear on web sites for the league and team, but they are pleased with the play of such rookies as Palmer and cornerbacks Dennis Weathersby and Terrell Roberts.

A smattering of Hobson's Choice:

Geoff: I'd like to read your frankest differentiation between the camp just ended and the many prior camps you've witnessed.

There wasn't a gap like YMCA day camp and the Queen City Club, but there was a clear difference. We've been lucky enough to see most of the camps since Sam Wyche's last two, and it's the most we've ever seen coaches getting on players. There might have been teams with all-world conditioned players (Anthony Munoz, James Brooks, Eric Thomas), but from top to bottom, this roster was in the best shape.

It also seemed to be the most physical camp since Wyche left, although Dave Shula would sometimes go long and mix it up, but we don't think it was as demanding as what Lewis put together because he had his staff all over guys, not to mention himself.

But understand that this isn't a knock on the camps of Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau. Two good and decent men who were groomed as players long before the big money. It was just assumed you showed up in shape and you pushed yourself as hard as you had to on and off the field, and, really, all you needed the coach to do was call the plays because everybody was a pro.

But it's pretty clear the players took advantage of the old school. Lewis joined the NFL a year before free agency as a position coach, so he has dealt with the big money and the egos and the MTV distractions on all levels from the get-go. This camp proved he believes the modern player has to be coached off the field (movies, rookie shows) as well as during the offseason.**

I AM WRITING TO MAKE A LITTLE COMPLAINT. FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS I HAVE LISTEN TO THE BENGALS FOOTBALL GAMES ONLINE AND ITS ALWAYS BEEN FREE. NOW THEY

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* WANT ME TO PAY TO LISTEN TO THEM. ITS JUST NOT RIGHT! IS THERE ANYWAY TO GET AROUND THIS? I THINK YOU SHOULD BRING IT TO EVERYONE'S ATTENTION BECAUSE LISTENING TO THE GAME SHOULD STILL BE FREE. HELL IT COMING FROM AN AM STATION ANYWAY. SO I HAVEN'T DECIDED WEATHER TO PAY TO LISTEN OR JUST HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL SUNDAY NIGHT WHEN ESPN SHOWS THERE USUAL 5 SECOND CLIP FROM THE BENGALS GAME. (WHICH MOST OF THE TIME IS SHORTER THAN 5 SECONDS). I HAVE BEEN A BENGALS FAN ALL MY LIFE AND WHEN I MOVED FROM OHIO TO VA I WAS HAPPY I COULD STILL GET TO AT LEAST HERE THE GAMES SINCE THEY ARE NEVER TELEVISED. BUT NOW THIS JUST RUIN'S IT FOR ME. THANKS, A CONCERNED FAN.

CONCERNED: The decision isn't a Bengals' initiative. It came down from the NFL and here is the league's press release on the matter:

We are pleased to offer NFL.com Field Pass, a brand new service that gives fans access to over 200 live game audio broadcasts and exciting NFL Films video highlights. NFL.com Field Pass is the only internet service with access to all these great features.

While the NFL has offered elements of Field Pass in the past for free, the costs of a premium product such as live game broadcasts and NFL Films highlights requires ongoing investments to maintain quality content and customer support. The level of this investment has continued to grow and, as a result, we can no longer maintain this type of service without the support of our customers.

NFL.com is dedicated to providing premium information, products and services. We appreciate your support, and we are fully confident that you will enjoy the quality features of NFL.com Field Pass

There has been some national noise in the last week, mostly from Don Banks at si.com, that Dillon and Coach Lewis are heading to some sort ofcrossroads about Dillon buying into what the Coach is doing. Have youseen anything to indicate that Dillon is not completely on board withthe new regime? Because if there is any truth to it, as much as I wouldhate to see Corey go, I really do want every player on that team pullingin the same direction and if someone is not, then maybe another teamshould be their destination. Aaron, Memphis.

AARON: We haven't seen Dillon doing anything differently than he has before. He practices hard, plays hard, wants to win badly, and he's still got a burst as Chad "Seabiscuit," Johnson can confirm.

That said, we still think these two guys are going to take time to get used to each other, and that's no different than in any new corporate relationship. Both are strong-willed, unique guys who are used to doing things a certain way.

Dillon has to get used to a hard-boiled, aggressive coach who demands things that haven't been asked of players since he arrived in 1997. Lewis has to get used to a star that isn't a Ray Lewis or a Bruce Smith. He didn't mold Dillon like he did Ray, and Corey hasn't had the team success in the NFL like Smith has. Dillon is fiercely proud, and, at times, you can just look at him and know the constant losing has taken a strain on him that people around him feel.

There's no doubt in our mind that Lewis and Dillon are two of the top guys in what they do in the NFL and they already have that mutual respect. We think the burning desire to win will make the relationship.**

Everything I see and read about Danny Farmer says he should have a bigger role in Bengals offence.What are your thoughts on this? Barney, Sandy Hook, Va.**

BARNEY: Farmer has great hands and a knack for making the big play and you can look it up. But there are guys who are bigger and quicker, and note the first play of last Saturday's game when he couldn't run away from the cornerback after a play-action fake.

Still, he's a valuable guy, but the next two pre-season games are huge in the battle at receiver. If they keep six, Farmer no doubt makes it. If they keep five in this climate, Farmer is going to have to prove to them he can help them on special teams like T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Ron Dugans. Dugans' problem is he hasn't been healthy, and Farmer has had his healthiest early season. Farmer's problem is when Dugans is healthy, he's their best special teams player.**

How is Dennis Wethersby performing in the games and training camp? Not much has been said about him. Is he doing well, considering he is probably still recovering from the shooting? Is he working out with intensity? He had a reputation in college fro not going "all out," but that's his style. He makes plays without seeming to make much of an effort. Whats your take of Wethersby's ability to compete with the NFL cats. On another note, it sounds like Terrel Roberts is turning heads, especially on special teams. He was a good corner in college, I enjoyed watching him shutdown recievers despite his small size. Do you think he will make the 53 man roster? Jonathan.**

JONATHAN: They think Weathersby is going to be fine, although he's still a little behind because of what happened. In practice, he has certainly held up physically with these guys at the line of scrimmage and he has been run by a few times, but it doesn't look like it is happening consistently. Yeah, it does look like he floats through things at times because he's an excellent athlete, but he appears to be extremely coachable. And believe it when you say he's getting coached because between Lewis and secondary coach Kevin Coyle, he's getting an earful. They also know he's a smart kid and are trying to draw him out of his shell. You can hear Lewis say to him once in awhile when he walks by him, "Smile."

We think Terrell Roberts has a heck of a chance to make the 53-man. We'll really find out how committed they are on special teams because he can help them there, but they would have to keep six corners and four safeties a year after keeping just nine DBs. But, who knows, maybe he's a young Ronde Barber? An opportunistic zone (not bump-and-run man corner) who won't drop interceptions.**

If Travis Dorsch beats out Nick Harris for the punting job, will Dorsch become the holder? Why isn't Dorsch (or other potential holder)getting "hold time" in pre-season games? Does the fact that Harris is getting all the holds a pretty sure indication that he has a lock on the punting job? Ken, Eastgate.**

KEN: In a story here earlier this week, Dorsch indicated he had the same concern about not holding in a game yet. But he had a summit with head coach Marvin Lewis, so maybe that's one of the things that is going to come out and he'll hold Saturday against the Titans. One of the reasons Harris probably took all the holds last Saturday night is they wanted to build his confidence back up after he dropped two against the Jets.

It makes you think this competition is going down to the final preseason game. Dorsch has been hoping this game would be it, so the punter who got cut would have an extra week to find a job, but he also wants plenty of chances to make it.**

If Jon Kitna were to get injured like Mike Vick for a extended period of time who would you start? Would you start Carson Palmer and risk him faultering and his confidence being destroyed? Shane Mattews doesn't have much to gain or lose, but he has started and played in regular season games.**

First of all, let's do some heavy knocking on wood for Kitna. We know he's not going to get hurt because as he said last week, coming undrafted out of the NAIA, you can't get hurt.

In theory, we would stick Palmer in a rubber room with a bunch of tape for this season and go with Matthews if needed.

But if it gets to be late November or early December and there are no playoffs, play him in five quarters if you can. If '04 is his year, and it has to be because of the money, you're going to have to get him ready some time, or else you sacrifice the first half of next season while he learns and gets experience. That's the problem when you go with a young quarterback. Wins are usually few and far between while he learns, but you can't just give up and say, "We're going to shoot for '05." A definite dilemma, but a nice one since it looks the kid is the real thing.

I always do the PeeWee Herman dance during the playing of ,'Tequila'.My goal is to have fun and to hopefully get the entire row 32, of Section 120 to do the sameI am impressed by everything I see and hear about coach Marvin Lewis, has his influence also shown up in the musical selections, the inclusion of FUNK and 70's Rock & Roll in game interludes? Sincerely yours, Seat 07.

07: He's a Motown guy who got out of high school in '76, but he says he and his wife listen to everything. No word if K.C. and the Sunshine Band are set for a half-time show soon. Section 120, row 32 is on notice.

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