8-16-01, 8:40 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Rodney Heath, the Bengals' starting left cornerback, hadn't heard it quite like that before.
Louis Breeden, who intercepted 33 passes in a much better decade for the Bengals, was saying that the ball is just as much the enemy as the wide receiver.
"That was interesting to hear," Heath said. "It's another way of looking at it."
The Heath-Breeden vignette is just another history seminar chaired by Prof. Dick LeBeau, noted Civil War buff and NFL archivist. On Wednesday, LeBeau hosted a group of former Bengals to a day of training camp, much like he did back in May at the club's Paul Brown Stadium mini-camp.
Before practice Wednesday afternoon on the field, LeBeau sent the alumni to their positions to commiserate with the current players.
Ickey Woods advised running backs they would all get to play in a 16-game season and that, "your body is your corporation." Max Montoya
reflected with the offensive line on the togetherness of his old units. Dave Lapham, one of Montoya's buddies in the foxhole, pinch hit for defensive end Coy Bacon and told stories to the defensive line about their position coach, Tim Krumrie, another alum.
Bacon, who had travel problems, eventually made it for the team's evening snack and gathered with the defensive line around a table in the dining hall.
Lapham, the team's radio analyst, looked forward to sharing some stories when he would room in a Georgetown hotel that night with Bacon, the man who had 22 sacks in 1976 for a team that had 25 last year.
"He gets it," said Lapham of LeBeau. "He's trying to merge the past with the present. Some of these guys were seven or eight years old when this team last went to the Super Bowl. He wants them to know what was here."
LeBeau, a defensive coach for both Cincinnati Super Bowl teams, had the guys stay after practice to eat dinner, mingle, and invited them to stay overnight.
"I'm proud of the history of this franchise," said LeBeau, who in his 43rd NFL season as a player and coach is a walking pro football exhibit. "I want our players to know they are part of that history. There's a lot of pride of gong to the Super Bowl and there are a lot of division championships. I just think it's good to bridge that."
Before last year and the rise of LeBeau to head coach and the hiring of former running back Eric Ball as director of player relations, there had been a simmering resentment among the alumni about not being invited back very often. As well as some mystified current players.
"I always kind of wondered why you never saw any of them around," said middle linebacker Brian Simmons. "I think it's good for the young guys. Let them know the team has had success."
"Dick seems to be amenable to it and I think it's a good thing," said Breeden , who played from Saturday Night Fever (1978) to the replacement players strike(1987).
Breeden still looks like he could go out there and return an interception 102 yards for a touchdown, like he did 20 years ago this Nov. 8 in San Diego. He had heard about the young Bengals' cornerbacks trouble playing the ball and had some advice.
"I've heard they're in position, but don't make a play," Breeden said. "The paramount thing for a DB is to find the football because the ball is the biggest enemy along with the receiver. Watch other guys on film of how they don't have a step (on the receiver), but if he finds the ball, he might have a chance to pick it off or knock it down if it's a bad throw. Do what you have to do. Just find the ball and worry about getting beat later on."
Heath, out of Cincinnati's Western Hills High School, knows all about the Bengal heritage. His high school coach, Jimmy Turner, played on the corner for the Bengals during four seasons in the mid-1980s. Turner was a rookie with Bengals safeties coach Ray Horton.
"I've been around guys who were in the league," Heath said. "You always like to talk to them and hear about their experiences because they've seen it all."
Turner was among the dozen or so alumni that included, among others, Joe Kelly, Mike Martin, Jim Breech, Eric Thomas, and David Fulcher.
Breeden also advised the corners to take a look at some Ken Riley film. Riley, Breeden's teammate and mentor, intercepted 65 passes in 15 seasons and Breeden calls him, "The best guy at playing the ball who was ever around here."
At dinner, new cornerbacks coach Kevin Coyle made a mental note to touch base with Travis Brammer, the club's video director.
"What years did Riley play?" Coyle asked.
Prof. LeBeau's second lecture in a continuing series had done well.