Not Captain Classic

9-5-02, 6:10 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Don't get Corey Dillon wrong as he prepares for his sixth season as his team's most decorated and recognizable player.

He's honored his teammates voted him an offensive captain last week, along with two of his offensive linemen in right tackle Willie Anderson and center Rich Braham.

But as Anderson said before Wednesday's practice, "There's probably a part of Corey deep down inside that doesn't want it. The captains have to regulate things around here and one of them is regulating the PlayStation and Corey is King of PlayStation."

Dillon laughed and had to agree with the big man. He's not exactly your classic captain.

""About time they let a gangster in," Dillon joked, and then quite seriously said, "It was never my top priority of accomplishments. I'd trade it all in for the ring. I'm still the same old guy."

Which means, he'll lead like this:

In a cold-weather game against the Jets last year and his team hopelessly out of the playoff hunt at 4-8 (when he could be sitting out a few games getting ready for his Pro Bowl vacation), Dillon is a beast while scoring both touchdowns on second-, third- and fourth efforts.

"Corey is a guy who plays on the field. He's not a guy you turn to and say, 'Give us something,'" Anderson said. "He goes 110 percent. No, you're right. He's not the classic captain, he'll tell you that. But he's a leader by example.

Dillon leads like this: He'll do whatever it takes. He comes into this season as the club's leader in career catches with 138.

"I leave it on the field. Let the work speak for itself," Dillon said. "Everybody does one thing well. Everybody has a job. You know what your job is. I don't have to tell you what it is.

"It's at the point if I'm telling you how to do your job, that's wasted energy. Wasted conversation," Dillon said. "When we could be talking about how to win this game. To me, that's the only thing that matters. I want the Ws."

As for PlayStation, Dillon has his limits. He ripped it out of the player's lounge himself last year during the seven-game losing streak.

"Maybe that's why LeBeau made him captain," said Anderson, joking all the way. "He's the guy that can take it out."

The defensive captains are linebackers Takeo Spikes, Brian Simmons, and tackle Oliver Gibson.

GRASSY KNOLL: The middle of the Paul Brown Stadium grass is prepared to be replaced three to four times this season with the first transplant possibly Sunday, Sept. 22.

That's the day after the Cincinnati-Ohio State game, which will be the third straight weekend a game will be played on it after Sunday's opener and the Sept. 15 Riverfront Classic.

The preferred date is right after the Bengals' Sept. 29 game against Tampa Bay, so it has two weeks to root before the Steelers arrive Oct. 13. But if it is chewed up enough, they won't wait. The south and north end zones out to the 10-yard-lines were re-seeded after the pre-season finale a week ago.

RECEIVER DERBY: You would think the offense is going to be better simply by the numbers. The amazing thing is, the Bengals finished the preseason as the NFL's offensive leader with 401 yards per game and a third-down conversion rate of 49 percent and they still don't know who are going to be their go-to-receivers.

Michael Westbrook looks to get his first Bengals' snap Sunday with his broken left wrist, but like the other five guys, he might only log between 25 to 40 snaps.

Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and receivers coach Steve Mooshagian are monitoring how Westbrook responds this week, his fifth week since breaking the navicular bone on the third day of practice. Head coach Dick LeBeau said Wednesday it's still not certain whether Westbrook or T.J. Houshmandzadeh starts at split end, and it's not a given Peter Warrick starts out at flanker.

"They're all going to play," Mooshagian said. "We might be the first team in history that announces all six receivers as starters just because we use everyone depending on the package."

That's a joke, but the receiver depth isn't. Bratkowski has basically told the receivers that he'll use the first few games to see who are the most productive and those are the guys who'll play.

Westbrook, who signed a three-year, $4.5 million deal two months ago, is used to being The Man for 80 snaps a game, and he says he can play 50-60 this week despite not taking a game snap yet. But he also understands what is going on.

"I'll do whatever they say," he reiterated.

**

DORSCH'S DAY:** The Bengals are one of five teams (Ravens, Vikings, Chargers, Niners) that kept two kickers this past Cutdown Day. With Neil Rackers set to kick Sunday, the Bengals took the punting restrictions off Travis Dorsch this week in practice. His powerful display caused Rackers to briefly end his media ban by grabbing a reporter's tape recorder to say, "Dorsch is booming them."

"I'm back to feeling like the punter I was at Purdue last year," said Dorsch of where he led the nation in punting before the Bengals drafted him as a kicker. "If it helps me get on the field, great. I'm just trying to impress people. I'm back to having fun the past few days."

He has already impressed Drew Brees, the Chargers starting quarterback who played with Dorsch in college. Talking to the Cincinnati media Wednesday, Brees expressed surprise Dorsch is going to be on the inactive list Sunday.

Of course, no one knows how long that will be. It looks like the Bengals won't actively pursue a trade of one of their kickers untl they see how the season unfolds. Maybe if punter Nick Harris gets off to a shaky start, that could be an option, but the Bengals are high on Harris long term.

"Nick is a great punter. I'm just trying to do what I do," Dorsch said. "Obviously my loyalties are with the Bengals. They're the team that had enough faith in me to draft me first and I hope it works out, but I just want to play no matter where. I won't be surprised by anything. If I don't play a snap all year, or if I get traded at 4 p.m. today."

**

OTHER ROSTERS:** Just more examples that the Bengals do what a lot of NFL teams do, but won't get the benefit of a doubt until they win. Did the national media flay the Raiders as much for keeping two punters? No, but the Bengals got pounded for keeping two kickers, which four other teams did. They also got skewered for keeping nine defensive backs, which 11 other teams did. In fact, the Vikings kept just eight DBs in order to keep their kickers. Two playoff contenders, the Saints and Steelers, also kept eight, as did the Giants. Less than half the league kept 10 DBs (14 teams) with the Texans keeping 12 and the Dolphins 11.

CANUTE-FEST: It is turning into quite a week for Bengals linebacker Canute Curtis. Four days away from making his first NFL Opening Day start, Curtis signed a contract extension Wednesday that keeps him in Cincinnati through the 2004 season.

Curtis gets the nod at left outside linebacker after Steve Foley suffered a season-ending dislocated shoulder in Thursday night's pre-season finale. Curtis joins fellow linebacker Brian Simmons, offensive linemen Brock Gutierrez and Scott Rehberg, and strong safety JoJuan Armour in a group of players who have agreed to extensions since the start of training camp.

SHUFFLE RETURNS: Ickey Woods spends much of his time having his picture taken, signing autographs, and chatting up Bengals' fans. So this season's Sundays won't be all that much different.

For each home game, Woods, the 1,000-yard rookie running back from the 1988 Super Bowl Bengals, serves as host in a side bar in the East Club Lounge that is named the Ickey Woods Shuffle Zone. From 90 minutes pre-game through 30 minutes post-game, Woods talks with fans and provides autographs and photo opportunities with club seat patrons.

"It's going to be fun," Woods said. "But it all depends on how the guys on the field do. If they have a good year, then the crowds will come."

In the West Club Lounge, a Ben-Gals Bar has been added featuring members of the 2002 Ben-Gals squad each game from 30 minutes pre-game through halftime. Members are available for photo opportunities and autographs of Ben-Gal posters.

Additional enhancements will be introduced each week. This Sunday, local band "Man Made Moon" will perform in the West Club Lounge for 60 minutes post-game.. All club seat patrons are permitted to enter both the East and West club lounges on game days, regardless of seat location.

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