More thoughts and beliefs

5-23-03, 4 p.m.

Just some thoughts and beliefs in honor of the greatest running back of all-time, Jim Brown, on this Final Four weekend of NCAA lacrosse. Brown, of course was also the greatest lacrosse player of all time before Paul Brown drafted him out of Syracuse in 1957.

Jim Brown's Orangemen make their 21st straight appearance in a Final Four Saturday when SU plays Johns Hopkins in what has to be the most underrated streak in sports. Word is Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and son Marcus, college lax fans from way back, will be at their old stomping rounds at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore in a desperate attempt to root Hopkins home. **

I think I believe I know the Bengals don't know what to do yet with Akili Smith.**

Are they still trying to figure out this scenario (and we are knocking on more wood here than an Adam Dunn bat order), which goes something like this: If Jon Kitna goes down before they feel like Carson Palmer is ready, can they win with Smith?

There are a lot of reasons why Smith has a 3-14 record as a starter and many aren't his fault. Like calling 50 passes during basically a one-touchdown game in his fifth NFL start against a Cleveland team that running back Corey Dillon had gouged for an average of 180 yards in two games the year before.

But the record is what it is. 3-14. If that scares them off, is the next option to find a proven-competent veteran free agent (Kent Graham? Ray Lucas? Jamie Martin?) who could steer the ship? Or, they may decide Smith is the best option because of his knowledge of the system, his athleticism, and their faith that they will put him in the best situation to succeed?

But one thing would have to seem certain. If they release Smith after June 1, wouldn't they have to shop for a veteran to back up Kitna and Palmer?

Stay tuned.

But probably not on Cade McNown.

There have been published reports that the Bengals are talking about a local product, Miamisburg's Greg Zolman, a former Vanderbilt quarterback cut by the Colts as a rookie last year and recently let to go by the Buccaneers after they took Chris Simms in last month's draft. A league source outside the club said Zolman is headed to Paul Brown Stadium for a workout at some point, which could be as early as Tuesday. It's unclear how Zolman would fit into the equation since he also has to be considered a rookie quarterback. **

I think I believe I know the Bengals' loyalty clause doesn't mean the disintegration of the Republic as we know it. No, James Madison and the rest of the Founding Fathers aren't rolling over their wigs because of Carl Pickens **

It was a slow news week, kids, and we ought to know because we took the bait here and also wrote about Palmer signing the club's Carl Pickens Clause that has been a staple of every Bengal contract the past three years.

It states that if Palmer publicly criticizes the team, the Bengals can take a portion or all of his $10 million signing bonus.

Now, this space isn't a big fan of the clause for selfish reasons because we need all the information we can get.

But we also realize why it's there and it's not so Bengals President Mike Brown can goose-step free thought into oblivion. This is sports, after all, and the one thing that has hurt pro sports in the last 30 years or so is that people keep trying to elevate it into the realm of things that really matter, like government, religion, and the courts.

Just look at last season's free-for-all in the Bengals' locker room during the 2-14 mushroom cloud, and it should be pretty clear what the intent of the Pickens Clause is. There was almost a rip-job

daily by players questioning management, but the clause was never invoked. Brown could have paid Palmer's first-year salary just on the fines alone from the Joe Germaine fallout.

And, it didn't stop quarterback Jon Kitna from doing what he felt he had to do as a team leader and go public with some pointed thoughts and questions. In fact, Kitna, the most vocal critic of Mike Brown, didn't get fined. He was rewarded with a $1.6 million bonus at management's discretion.

It's there for one purpose. To prevent a player like Pickens from walking off with a huge sum of money after forcing the team to cut him for uttering about 10 toxic syllables. Hey, Pickens' blast of Brown and Bruce Coslet was a better planned, more calculated event than the infamous "You Won't Have Dick Nixon To Kick Around Any More," press conference.

Martin Fennelly of "The Tampa Tribune," is a hell of a columnist and a very intelligent guy who makes for a great dinner companion. He recently ripped the clause, but we wonder if he would have lost some money with a suspension if his next column flayed the Tribune editors for some policy moves.

What if Marty questioned his editor's desire to sell papers?

What's wrong with holding highly-paid professionals who play a game to the same standards that the rest of the working stiffs have to follow? What's wrong with accountability?

And, hey, don't raise the First Amendment on this one. This isn't a war protest, or a senate hearing, for goodness sake. It's a sports team trying to protect itself under the salary cap so it can go get another player if need be. It's sports, after all. It's supposed to be different than the real stuff.

And, the thing has yet to become a stumbling block for the Bengals in free agency. Two years after it was upheld, they had their best free-agent haul ever. One of the reasons it got upheld after a NFL Players Association protest is because the Bengals simply transferred to the signing bonus the loyalty language from the standard player contract, language which had to be approved by the NFLPA.

James Madison lives. **

I think I believe I know that the arrival of Marvin Lewis is going to chase the Barnum and the Bailey out of town.**

With his mission so decisively charged by Mike Brown and Lewis' own no-nonsense approach, most of the ingredients that have ignited the daily soap operas engulfing this team are gone.

Here is quarterback Jon Kitna's take from last week when asked if the lack of a quarterback derby has calmed a stormy locker room:

"It's more settled than it's been. The quarterback position settles the whole team, so when that position is settled out, the rest of the team responds better," Kitna said. "Marvin is the No. 1 reason because they've brought a guy in here and said, 'Your team, you run it, do what you need to do to make us a winning football team.' Nobody questions him, he's got his finger on the offense, defense, and special teams. He's not afraid to jump in with anybody at any position. As the byproduct of that, he's said, 'This is our guy, our starting quarterback.' I'm just a byproduct of that.

"He's in total control and I don't think that was the case in the past," Kitna said. "I think we had too much of the inmates running the asylum." **

I think I believe I know people were needlessly upset by the statement here that Rams quarterback Kurt Warner is a future Hall of Famer.**

Fans and players alike lit us up on that one, but the best defense is that Dave Lapham agrees.

Here's why he's going in. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is infatuated with quarterbacks that have won a Super Bowl. Which is why Ken Anderson can't get in even though he's one of the top 20 passers of all-time and has stats better than most of the quarterbacks in Canton.

Warner has been to two Super Bowls, won one, is a two-time MVP, and if he can just be average for the next four years, they'll eventually put him in.

Bob Griese (77.1 passer rating) and Roger Staubach (83.4) are in because they won Super Bowls. What about Troy Aikman? He's going in, right? He went to three Super Bowls with an 81.6 rating and 165 touchdown passes.

Warner already has 101 touchdown passes in about four full seasons and his 98.2 career rating is unheard of. He just has to be Aikman for the next two or three years, and he'll have the ring and the stats.

Look, if Sonny Jurgensen is in with five 3,000-yard seasons, no ring, and a 82.6 rating, shouldn't both Anderson and Warner get in?

Maybe not first ballot, but some time since Canton is pretty accessible for guys on the cusp because they have to induct at least four players per year.

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