BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Carl Pickens question stretches beyond just where to put the No. 81 jersey Friday. He's also having an impact on the club's other signings.
Pickens could be needed in training camp because third-round pick Ron Dugans may not be there. At least not right away. Dugans, the projected successor to Pickens' possession receiver role, is adamant about not signing a contract with the "Carl Pickens Clause," in which the Bengals have inserted loyalty language into the bonus.
"We've agreed on the money," said Jim Lippincott, the Bengals' director of pro/college personnel. "But the clause is a problem. For them, not for us."
Jim Steiner, Dugans' agent, has said they've agreed on numbers for weeks but that he has "philosophical," problems with a clause that takes language from the collective bargaining agreement and ties it to guaranteed money. Steiner couldn't be reached for comment today, but he has pointed out to bengals.com in the past that the CBA already covers loyalty.
It may or may not be an issue in the negotiations for the club's second-round draft pick, Mark Roman, a cornerback out of LSU who could get plenty of time in the nickel package. After reading the clause for the first time today, agent Joel Segal said he had an open mind with, "I'm still contemplating the ramifications of the clause." Segal and club vice president Paul Brown plan to speak Tuesday about money and the clause.
But Bengals President Mike Brown has no plans to take out the clause. The memory is too fresh of Pickens trying to engineer his release by ripping his coach just months after the Bengals gave him $8 million in salary and bonus for the '99 season.
"We think it's unfair for a player to take a big bonus, which is really salary for future years, and try to get out from under his commitment," Mike Brown said. "If we let him go, we terminate the contract, which is what he wants, and he walks off with the bonus money and we walk off with the (salary) cap charge."
The Pickens Clause doesn't seem to be as much of a factor with the other unsigned draft picks, kicker Neil Rackers, a sixth-rounder, and long snapper Brad St. Louis, a seventh-rounder. They're still looking for more money.
* HOWARD RELEASED:* Cornerback Ty Howard's release today kicks off what could be a busy week of transactions in the secondary. Howard, an Ohio State product picked up on waivers from Arizona the week of last season's opener, was one of five different starters at left corner. Lippincott said the drafting of Roman in the second round, Robert Bean in the fifth round and the emergence of undrafted rookie Brian Gray made it tough for Howard to make the club.
There could be an upcoming roster move with the first of those five starters at left corner as the Bengals deal with Charles Fisher. Fisher, last year's second-round pick who suffered an awful left knee injury in the first quarter of the opener when he tore three ligaments, could be headed to the active/physically unable to perform list (PUP).
That would mean he could attend meetings and undergo rehab with the trainers, but he couldn't participate in drills or practice. Then at the 60-player or 53-player cutdown, the club has to decide if they will activate him, release him or put him on reserve PUP and shelve him for the first five games of the season.
"He's moving around pretty good," Lippincott said. "Remember, this was somebody we were counting on a lot. We gave him over a million dollars last year."
SEEMAN VISITS: Jerry Seeman, the NFL's senior director of officiating, had his annual preseason meeting with the Bengals' coaches and president Mike Brown today here at Paul Brown Stadium. The coaches gathered up examples of calls from the previous season they wanted to review with Seeman in a session Brown enjoys.
"It's good for our people because the anger is gone after a few months and there's room to discuss things," Brown said. "There are some calls I don't agree with, but I really think the officiating is as good as you're going to get and it's good."
Seeman is retiring next June 30 after a turbulent decade at the helm and Brown, a member of the league's competition committee, admired the way he ran a tight, no-nonsense ship in which he emphasized important background details like conditioning, dress and no mingling with coaches.
"He demands a lot from them, physically and mentally," Brown said. "He demands they prepare physically and mentally."
Seeman's legacy is probably his offseason wellness clinic for the officials. They did it last week in Dallas, where they underwent annual physicals and workouts. But it was his destiny to lead the refs in the decade that saw the fall (1991) and then rise (1999) of instant replay. Seeman likes the new way in which a coach can call for instant replay only once each half and be charged for a timeout if the replay shows he's wrong.
"The first time around, I couldn't agree with the way we did it," Seeman said. "It broke our game up with too many stops. Last year in 248 games, there were 205 games that were stopped none, or only once. It made the decision with the referee down on the field. And with all the tremendous technology we have now with the computerization and editing, it went well considering a year ago in April we had nothing. So this year will just be better. We'll be polishing what we have now."