BY GEOFF HOBSON **
Picken clause debated**
The Bengals point to clauses in an NFL Player Contract they believe reinforces their case for a similar clause attached to the signing bonus that punishes players for publicly criticizing the team by taking back all or some of their signing bonus.
The club hopes it helps soothes the fears of players like defensive captain Takeo Spikes. Spikes, one of the more outspoken Bengals, is wary of what is now known as "The Carl Pickens Clause."
"I would have a tough time signing it," said Spikes, who has three years left on his deal. "I think the game is played full of emotion. I'm not saying you would say anything bad about somebody. But to me, players who love each other criticize each other. Not in a bad way, but trying to get them to take it to the next level."
The Pickens' clause states, "if Player makes any public comment to the media, including but not limited to the newspaper, magazines, television, radio or internet that is derogatory or critical of Club, Club coaches, or Club management, upon demand by Club, Player shall forfeit and shall immediately return and refund to the Club that amount of bonus herein provided. . ."
The second clause of Appendix C of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement says, in part, "(Player) agrees to give his best efforts and loyalty to the Club, and to conduct himself on and off the field with appropriate recognition of the fact that the success of professional football depends largely on public respect for and approval of those associated with the game."
Clause 11 says in part, "if Player has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club, than Club may terminate this contract."
So Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn argues, "They're required to do it anyway. They obligated themselves in the contract. All we're doing is carrying the obligation forward to the signing bonus clause. That sets up a real sanction beyond termination. It's a sanction that catches their eye. There are guys who actually want to get terminated and that's why they act the way they do, so they get rewarded for breaking the contract."
The Bengals are saying there is a distinct line between an emotional Spikes after a tough loss and a calculating Pickens coolly calling a midweek press conference in the locker room to humiliate his coach with a personal attack.
"I just don't see myself criticizing somebody like that," said cornerback Artrell Hawkins, another guy who doesn't shy away from the media. "That dampens team spirit and causes tension between player and coach. I would probably sign it. I wouldn't want my freedom of speech taken away. I still want to speak up, but I'm not going to be calling out my owner and coach out of his name."
Which is the idea, the Bengals say.
* O'DWYER APPEALS: *Guard Matt O'Dwyer was in New York Monday appealing his two-game suspension for his involvement in last July's bar brawl in which he kicked out the window of a police cruiser. He said he should get an answer soon, which should be interesting since O'Dwyer could be sitting while Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis plays if the NFL follows through on its initial statements and doesn't suspend Lewis after his murder charges were dropped.
"I can only worry about my situation here. It had nothing to do with me," O'Dwyer said. "But I think the league is fair and they'll do the right thing."
**TRASH TALK:** At least one Bengals' signing bonus clause has proved effective. Since first-round pick Peter Warrick signed his contract last week stipulating he won't get $3.47 million of his $8.47 million signing bonus until he finishes his community service with the state of Florida, Warrick reeled off five straight days of picking up trash before he came to today's first of seven voluntary workouts over the next two weeks.
Warrick says he now has 12 days left of the 30 he received after last fall's petty theft charge and says he'll be done by the July 21 start of training camp.
"I'd still have to do it," said Warrick, who wishes he got another sentence. "It killed me. It was hot, but I know that's what I have to do. I just wish I was doing something more constructive. Maybe talking to young kids. Tell them to do what's right. What I'm doing out there isn't helping me. But that's what they gave me and I'm living with it. I'm going to do it like a man and keep my head up and just be over with it."
Warrick can do his "days," Tuesday through Sunday, but he won't be back in Tallahassee, Fla., until about June 28, after the NFL rookies seminar in San Diego: "When I get back, I've got to hit it."
Quarterback Akili Smith was hitting Warrick much of the day with some short stuff. The Bengals paid homage to the draft's No. 4 pick by unveiling bits of their Warrick package: "There were some five-yard routes run over the middle. Give him some room to run so he can turn it up field. That's when he's at his most deadly," Smith said.
**AROUND THE CAMPFIRE: **
- The no-shows were wide receiver Darnay Scott and defensive end Vaughn BookerCornerback Charles Fisher is in Birmingham, Ala., getting his knee checked
Defensive end John Copeland returned after missing May with arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs on his ankle. Copeland did all the drills, which consisted of running, pass rush, individual and team drills, but said it got extremely sore at the end of practice. Still, he expects to work today and get full clearance by the end of the week
Right tackle Willie Anderson practiced for the first time as a $30.6 million man, although he didn't do everything. He has lingering pain in his heel, but his sore knee and ankle are markedly improved
Running back Michael Basnight also worked for the first time since badly bruising his knee in a car accident last January
Defensive lineman Andre Purvis (torn thigh muscle) has been cleared
Cornerback Ty Howard won't be ready until training camp as he recovers from his tender quad and hamstring he pulled while running the 40-yard dash at minicamp
Cornerback Roosevelt Blackmon continues to improve after offseason ankle surgery.