New Deal

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Coach Bruce Coslet stressed a more player friendly environment in the work place this season and new equipment manager Rob Recker set the tone today when he handed out everything from new practice jerseys to more and bigger socks. The moves are in response to the barrage of criticism the club has taken down through the years, ranging from small towels to torn, nameless practice shirts.

"The problems that have been conveyed in the media are going to be fixed," Recker said. "No longer is there going to be any question about what a player gets. It will get handled. Whatever it takes. We want them to look like pros, get treated like pros and have them play like pros. It's the new Bengals. A better environment creates a better perception and hopefully more wins."

One veteran walked into the locker room today, saw the new jerseys hanging above the new, huge beach towels, got handed a batch of gloves and said, "I walked in here and I thought it was Christmas."

For the first time, the Bengals equipment room has two full-timers. Recker, 36, who grew up in Greenhills, is joined by Jeff Brickner, 24, of Harrison. Their pride and joy are the new practice, two-toned mesh jerseys that have names on the back with two-toned numbers and spandex down the sides to make the shirt form fitting. Some things never change. The offense is still in white, the defense in black, and the quarterbacks in orange.

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Anderson to miss minicamp

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Right tackle Willie Anderson will unlikely practice during this weekend's minicamp because of tendinitis in his left foot. The Bengals believe it's unrelated to the left ankle sprain he suffered in the next-to-last game of the year that shelved him for the season finale.

"When I work out, I limp around for one or two days,'' Anderson said today. "I did some training, played some basketball and irritated it again. I should be OK for training camp. I just need to get rehabbing here and get into the orthotics. My arch and the inside of my left ankle haven't gotten strong yet."

Team doctor Rob Heidt Jr. examined Anderson, today and trainer Paul Sparling said the biggest foot in Bengals history (19EEE) was re-measured for orthotics.

"I'd be shocked if he wasn't better in a couple of weeks," Sparling said.

Sparling also said the Bengals would shelve kick returner Tremain Mack for the camp with the wrist he broke in the Pro Bowl. Running back Michael Basnight is also out with the bruised knee from a January car wreck. Defensive end John Copeland is still recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his ankle. Cornerback Roosevelt Blackmon is still out as he recovers from ankle surgery. College free agent Roger Roesler, a guard from Texas, broke a hand while weight training and is out. Fullback Clif Groce could be cleared for some work Saturday as he recovers from a shoulder procedure.

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AGENT UPDATE:

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First-round pick Peter Warrick has them guessing on his agent again, a week after dropping Michael George for Norm Nixon. Warrick informed the Bengals he's undecided and told the media he's looking to make a decision, "that's right for Peter Warrick." All of which surprised Nixon, who flew into town today and spoke on the phone a few times with Bengals counsel and lead negotiator Katie Blackburn. Nixon and Blackburn discussed a camp insurance waiver since Warrick doesn't have a contract yet. Nixon said he thought it would be hammered out in time for Warrick to practice Saturday.

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AKILI INTERMEDIARY:

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Quarterback Akili Smith left a message with Corey Dillon's mother in an effort to talk to the disgruntled Pro Bowl running back. Dillon is threatening to sit out the first 10 games of the season, although some think there'll be movement by June 15. At that point, the Bengals can lop their one-year offer of $1.37 million to $553,000.

Smith isn't discouraged that he hasn't heard back from Dillon yet: "I told her to relay the message ... I'm sure he's going through a lot of things and he probably doesn't want to talk to anybody. When it's time for him to make a decision, hopefully he'll make the right decision."

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