No love in H-Town

10-31-02, 7:30 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

A trip through the Texans' hometown newspaper Thursday morning reveals the Bengals have not only stirred up a football team, but a city.

The only thing bigger in Houston than the Bengals' guarantee of a victory is Rockets center Yao Ming and his NBA regular-season debut Wednesday night in Indianapolis.

In a "Houston Chronicle," poll asking about Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau's victory guarantee for this Sunday's game in Houston, 3,791 had responded by 6 a.m., and "He's joking, right?" led with 37 percent. "Bold words from the Bengals," checked in with 30 percent, "Bulletin board material," registered 25 percent, and "He's right on the money, Bengals are due for a win," only polled nine percent.

On Wednesday, Texans head coach Dom Capers reportedly reminded his players about the sign in their locker room that says, "Deeds, not words." But they had plenty of words for the Bengals. There were plenty of unspecified words on yellow signs posted throughout their stadium and here are some quotes from beat reporter Carlton Thompson's story in Thursday's editions:

Defensive tackle Gary Walker: "My motto is don't sing it, bring it."

Tight end Billy Miller: "They've got some catching up to do. Good luck to them. Hopefully, they'll get on a roll, so (Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson) can back up his comments. We've got two; they've got none. So hopefully, they'll get on a roll.

"It's because we're an expansion team. That's what people do. If they were playing anybody else besides an expansion team, they wouldn't say it. We're an expansion team. They feel like

we're the new kids on the block and they can pick on us, which is fine."

Center Steve McKinney: "That's their thing to worry about. I'm not worried about what they're saying. We're going to let our play on the field do our speaking for us. I don't get caught up in all of that. I think it's false confidence, a way for them to kind of talk themselves into believing it."

Former Bengals safety Chris Carter: "That's the last thing I'd expect to hear from coach LeBeau,. He's a classy guy. He's a guy who has a lot of values and morals. I don't think much of it at all because I know exactly what it was. The frustration of losing can get to anyone. That's all it was."

The columnists are also joining in the fun. Dale Robertson fired out this paragraph Thursday: "The only thing that will prevent Houston from peeling the stripes off the 0-7 Bungles at Reliant Stadium on Sunday will be a fit of extreme overconfidence."

LeBeau didn't exactly mend fences on his conference call with the Houston media. He was termed "a bit testy," after allowing, "Because the other teams have scored more points than we have," when asked what has happened to the Bengals this season.

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CHAD AGAIN:** Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson has not only guaranteed a win Sunday, but he's also predicting a new surface for Paul Brown Stadium next season "will really help our game."

Johnson is one of the many folks pushing for the installation of field turf to replace the grass that has been ripped more by words than spikes. Johnson had some ammunition because on one of the last plays of Wednesday's practice, it looked like he had severely hurt his leg when he slipped coming out of a break on a route and dug up a divot the size of Oregon State.

"The (practice) field is pretty much like the field out there (in the stadium)," Johnson said. "If you cut hard, it gives on you. The field turf would be perfect. It's beautiful and you don't have to do anything to it. I'll take a pay cut to get it in there."

INJURY UPDATE: There is the "Curse of the Bambino." Is this the "Brew Curse"? Tight end Sean Brewer has played 2.5 games since they drafted him in the third round in 2001. He spent all last season on injured reserve with a groin problem, started the first three games this season, and on Wednesday he reflected on his second arthroscopic knee surgery in five weeks.

"I've been preaching everything happens for a reason since I've been here," Brewer said. "The reasons are

I don't know. I'm trying to get back, God willing, but he's just not willing right now. . .Maybe it's just not my time yet."

Brewer says he'll be back by the end of the season because Monday's surgery seems to have taken better than the one last month. The procedure was done on the same cartilage he tore against the Falcons Sept. 22, but he tore a different part of the cartilage last week when he tried to return to practice.

"I feel better today than I did three weeks after my first one," Brewer said. . . MLB Armegis Spearman (ankle), is out, DE Vaughn Booker (knee) is listed as doubtful, but is probably out. . .CB Jeff Burris (hamstring) is questionable, WR Ron Dugans (hamstring) is questionable, as is FS Cory Hall (ankle). . .OLB Canute Curtis (groin), WR Danny Farmer (toe) and OLB Riall Johnson (groin) are probable. . .

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