BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals linebacker Takeo Spikes remembers last year when coach Bruce Coslet walked into the meeting room and said running back Corey Dillon and kick returner Tremain Mack were going to the Pro Bowl.
Spikes knows if coach Dick LeBeau doesn't call his name Thursday, "I won't say I'll be mentally crushed, but I hate that little damn feeling."
Spikes agrees with LeBeau. The coaches and players who voted for the Pro Bowl Monday probably aren't inclined to vote for players on a 3-11 team.
Still, LeBeau, Spikes, his teammates, and a good portion of his foes think he belongs in Hawaii. He wonders about timing. A year after moving from inside linebacker to outside linebacker, Spikes doesn't see as much competition in the middle as there is on the perimeter even though two inside backers are named compared to four outside.
"I'd probably have a better shot if I was an inside backer," Spikes said. "There's (Greg) Biekert from the Raiders, Ray Lewis (of Baltimore) and Sam Cowart in Buffalo. But look at all the guys on the outside."
Spikes plays more like an inside player in Cincinnati's 4-3 scheme, but he's grouped in a position where sacks are a big stat. He has just one sack while Pittsburgh's tandem of Jason Gildon and Joey Porter have combined for 19 and look to be a lock.
Jacksonville's Kevin Hardy looks to get a lot of votes because he made it last year, and San Diego's Junior Seau always makes it. Plus, Mo Lewis is on a Jets' team contending for the playoffs. Kansas City's Donnie Edwards has also had a big year, but he's fighting the same small-market stigma as is Spikes and the Chiefs are 6-8.
"I feel like I've got a shot," Spikes said. "But I'll prepare for it if I don't (make it). I think Corey's a shoo-in, so I don't know if we'll get more than one."
An early-season gimpy ankle that never got better has prevented Mack from a repeat performance. Last year he led the AFC in kick returns, but he's not in the top ten now.
BROWN LEAVES COMMITTEE:** For the first time in about a decade, Bengals President Mike Brown is no longer on the NFL's competition committee. Owners, general managers and coaches serve on a rotating basis and Brown's replacement has yet to be named.
Brown made news the past two years as the committee's lone dissenter on adopting instant replay, the dominant issue of his tenure. He felt the number of blown calls that changed a game was too miniscule to change the game's flow.
"I obviously didn't succeed, but I think it was good that at least the other side of that issue was heard," Brown said. "I think it's not even clear-cut to this day. We've had replays this year and I don't remember one that decided a football game, but all of them interrupted the game. Some of them were reversed correctly and others failed to reverse questionable calls."
Brown enjoyed his interaction with the other committee members, particularly Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Although they probably disagree on most league issues, Brown enjoyed Jones' company and intelligence, and even once got a ride on Jones' plane to a league meeting.
"You make friends on a committee like that,' Brown said recalling his breakfast routine with NFL director of officiating Jerry Seeman. "We both got started early in the morning and we'd eat together and talk."
Brown remains on a labor sub-committee for the NFL's management council.
ALL-POINS BULLETIN: The Bengals must score 27 points in the next two games to avoid their lowest scoring season in history, including two strike seasons and ten 14-game seasons.
They have 161 points and are tied with Cleveland for last in the league as the Ohio teams look to become the ninth and tenth clubs not to score 200 points since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978. The Bears are at 193 with two games left.
The other eight are Seattle 140 (1992), Indianapolis 143 (1991), Philadelphia 161 (1998), New England 180 (1990), the Bengals 187 (1993), Indianapolis 189 (1993), Phoenix 196 (1991), Tampa Bay 199 (1991).