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Notes: Dealing and conducting

Posted: 6:50 p.m.

The NFL scouting combine is also the scene of an NFL Players Association meeting, so it's always a good spot for agents to meet with teams a week before free agency opens.

Andy Simms, agent for linebacker Landon Johnson, said Friday he pans to meet with Bengals vice president Paul Brown next week as they try to hammer out an extension before free agency opens Feb. 29.

"We talked today and we'll keep talking but there is nothing to report," Simms said.

Indications are that linebacker Dhani Jones is going to re-sign with the club when the window for veterans coming off minimum salary deals opens with free agency. How that affects Johnson remains to be seen, but Simms is confident his client has value.

"You don't play all 64 games, start 53 of them and lead the team in tackles three times without being a good player," he said. "We'll keep talking. He'd like to come back."

The stalemate with Johnson reflects what head coach Marvin Lewis said earlier in the week. Progress has been slow with the team's own free agents and it plans to put the franchise tag on one of them. But Johnson, punter Kyle Larson and defensive end Justin Smith don't figure to be anointed. That leaves right tackle Stacy Andrews ($7.5 million) or free safety Madieu Williams ($4.4 million). Although Andrews doesn't start when everyone is healthy, he can also play both guard spots.



CONDUCT AGAIN: Since wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh joined a handful of players from around the league that met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at last year's combine to discuss off-field problems, the Bengals have had just one player charged with a crime. Linebacker A.J. Nicholson was cut May 21 barely hours after he was charged with domestic violence. A disorderly conduct charge was dropped for running back Quincy Wilson.

Houshmandzadeh, headed to another Conduct Summit next week in Indy, said the education plan that came out of last year's meeting probably helped the Bengals.

"That's what was said there last year when we met," he said. "Get the information out to the players. Educate them. The rookie symposium is a good idea, but it just stopped. It was a good thing to continue it during the season."

All draft picks are exposed to off-field issues during a three-day conference in June, but this year elements of that were spread over into the season. Houshmandzadeh said first- and second-year players met continually during the year with Eric Ball, director of player relations.

"I always thought that was just a moment in time. A brief period. You're not going to keep getting guys arrested like that," Houshmandzadeh said of the Bengals' spate of arrests in 2006. "It's a good idea to meet again. You keep the dialogue going and keep coming up with ideas that aren't on the agenda."

Houshmandzadeh, entering the last year of his deal, said there's been no word if the club plans to meet with his agent, Kennard McGuire, in Indy.



SIT-DOWNS: Although some league people have no use for the 60 formal player interviews each team gets at the combine because the prospects are coached so well on what to say, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis likes the process.

"It's not staged," Lewis said. "It gives you an opportunity to hear a young guy express himself. You already know the background. If the guy had an issue in his background, or (had to) deal with a family trauma, whatever it is, you have an opportunity for a guy to really express himself. You talk to some guys and after you kind of feel like you've got to read them the Miranda."

Lewis said it worked out last year that the guys the Bengals scheduled for and were impressed by in the 15-minute sessions were guys they drafted, such as quarterback Jeff Rowe, center Dan Santucci, and safeties Chinedum Ndukwe and Marvin White.

"We didn't think we had a chance to draft (cornerback) Leon Hall," said Lewis of his first-rounder. "But we had a chance to spend some time with him and get to know him a little bit."

"That part has been good. The whole structure of everything we're doing has been adapted," Lewis said of staying away from bargains in the late rounds because of character. "I think everyone is more comfortable with it. Things didn't work out. A couple of guys got some egg on our face. We've been able to overcome that and come out of that."

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