BY GEOFF HOBSON
Despite last season's outburst, disgruntled wide receiver Carl Pickens plans to attend this weekend's minicamp. Steve Zucker, his agent, informed the club today Pickens will arrive in time for Friday's 6 p.m. team meeting at Spinney Field.
During the final week of last season, the club fined Pickens for questioning the Bengals' wisdom in bringing back coach Bruce Coslet for the 2000 season. After hearing Pickens is on his way, Coslet said he is prepared to deal with the club's all-time leading receiver who has clearly stated through his agent that he wants to leave.
"I'm going to treat him like everyone else," Coslet said. "If (Pickens) wants to make it an issue, I'll meet the issue."
A few hours after ripping the club, Pickens signed a letter of apology after a meeting with Bengals President Mike Brown. Today, Brown was hopeful Pickens felt better about his situation.
"We'll see how he is," Brown said. "It's time for him to fulfill his contract and move on and play."
With the Bengals set to welcome two rookie wide receivers who were taken in the first three rounds (Florida State's Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans), Brown won't comment on the possibility of Pickens getting released. The Bengals tried to trade him during last week's NFL Draft, but had no takers. Receivers coach Steve Mooshagian said Pickens will line up as the starter at split end at Saturday's first practice.
The Bengals aren't surprised Pickens is showing up. They know he is aware that if he didn't come this weekend, he would violate the five-year contract he signed last year and could possibly lose his $3.5 million signing bonus.
Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon, who does not have a contract, does not have to report and his agent has been saying for the last month that he won't.
CARTER, MITCHELL OUT: Quarterback Scott Mitchell and running back Ki-Jana Carter have been excused from the camp for illness and injury, respectively.
Mitchell, the 10-year quarterback who is to back up Akili Smith, is hospitalized with pneumonia. Smith should get plenty of work because he and Scott Covington are the camp's only quarterbacks. Eric Kresser is coming off a four-touchdown game in NFL Europe.
"(Smith) was going to get a lot of work anyway," said Jim Lippincott, director of pro/college personnel.
Smith hasn't taken a snap since severely spraining his big right toe Oct. 31.
Carter is still recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his dislocated knee cap.
The club signed middle linebacker Armegis Spearman, a college free agent out of Mississippi. They are still waiting on a signed contract from Texas fullback Ricky Brown.