Steinbach in the fold

7-29-03, 6:10 a.m. Updated:
7-29-03, 3:05 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ The agent for second-round pick Eric Steinbach said Tuesday that his client had ended his two-day holdout with a four-year agreement and the Bengals' projected starting left guard is expected to be here for Tuesday afternoon's practice. The Bengals won't confirm the deal until he signs the contract, which is expected to be when he arrives before the workout.

Agent Jack Bechta, who wasn't encouraged Monday night, said the two sides started from scratch and ended up with a four-year compromise that is based on an easy to earn incentive that makes up the difference between his $1.8 million signing bonus and an estimated $2.2 million number, slightly more than signing bonus for the man drafted behind him at No. 34, Lions linebacker Boss Bailey.

According to Bechta, instead of the five-year contract including escalators that has carried the day early in the second round, the Bengals opted for four years. Steinbach gets slightly less than $500,000 if he plays in 35 percent of the plays and the Bengals either win three games in any of the four seasons, or give up fewer sacks than the previous season, or score more points than in the previous season. That takes him to about $2.2 million with his bonus.

"All those look pretty certain for us to reach," Bechta said. "It was the only way it could be done with the pool."

The only unsigned Bengal is now third-rounder Kelley Washington, the wide receiver from Tennessee. His agent, Glenn Rosenberg, said Tuesday, "We're looking only to slot Kelley fairly in the round. We've tried to be creative, but haven't got there yet and we'll keep trying."

**

GIBSON PASSES FIRST TEST:** Oliver Gibson's first two practices since a career-threatening injury went so well, he forgot.

Only once did the defensive tackle think about the left Achilles' tendon that blew up on him Nov. 10 in Baltimore and took him out of last season's final nine games and all the pre-season camps of this one.

"The only time I thought about is when we got to the line drill," Gibson said. "And once the ball was snapped, I forgot about it. Which is what I want to do. I knew I could push off with it. I didn't think about it. It feels strong."

New line coach Jay Hayes, whose paths crossed with a young Gibson at Notre Dame about a dozen years ago and at a Steelers' training camp during Gibson's rookie year of 1995, thought it all looked the way it should as he pretty much let Gibson do all his work.

"We have to see how he bounces back tomorrow, but he looks like the old Gibby," Hayes said. "The guy I know is a solid player who is always going to be in your face and he looked like the guy I've seen over the years. He still looks quick. Even though he's had that injury, I still saw that quickness when he did some things today, like in pass rush."

Gibson came in a little heavy last year, but at 303 pounds he has people buzzing.

"OG looks slim, he's in the best shape I've seen him," said center Mike Goff. "That will only help him. To me, he's the same OG he was last year, except that he's lighter and in better shape."

Hayes said the only problem Gibson expressed was that he couldn't go to his left as well as his right.

"That's kind of strange because he's moving well to his right and he's pushing off on the foot he hurt. The left," Hayes said. "I told him he probably thinks he can't go to his left, but that he actually can. I was really encouraged with what he did out there. If he's OK, that's going to make us very deep there."

Gibson, who has started all 57 of his games as a Bengal, is playing behind Tony Williams as he recovers. Free-agent pickup John Thornton, who impressed people with his early-morning workouts at Paul Brown Stadium during the offseason, earned a nice compliment from head coach Marvin Lewis Monday when he said, "He's a quiet assassin and doesn't say a word, but gets things done."

**

MORNING MOOD:** Bengals tight end Matt Schobel, who missed last year's pre-season opener with a hamstring problem, said Tuesday morning that he may miss this year's opener against the Jets in 12 days with the same injury in the same leg. He thinks that's about the time he'll be able to come back and although he's disappointed, he knows he didn't miss another game his rookie season and finished with 27 catches, the most by a Bengals' tight end since Tony McGee in 1997.. .

For the second straight day, the Bengals claimed a guard-tackle off waivers from the NFC East. Monday it was Alex Sulfsted from Washington. Tuesday it was Noah Swartz, a guard-tackle from Toledo who is an undrafted college free agent from Dallas.

**

CD ON LEADERSHIP:** Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis called on a reluctant Corey Dillon to assert himself as a leader Monday. Dillon is a bit hesitant about the idea, but made it clear he wants to please his new coach.

"Whatever that equals up to, oh boy," Dillon said. "I lead by example. It's been that way for six years going on seven. . . No problem. If that's what Coach Lewis said, that's what goes."

Lewis made the comments while discussing Dillon's absence at Sunday's opening team meeting because he missed a flight out of Seattle, saying they are calling on Dillon's leadership. Lewis thinks Dillon could use it as motivation, "to keep his spirit up," during the monotony of camp. But it's a role Dillon has always been uncomfortable with because he views himself as a blue-collar player.

"If that's what he wants me to do, I'll do it. He's the coach and I always abide by the law. I can't do much without hearing ESPN and whooptie-whoop. If that's what Coach Lewis wants, that's what Coach Lewis gets. If that's what it's going to take, I'll do it."

Dillon isn't quite sure how he can lead beyond running hard on all 314 carries or so a season. He knows one thing. He can say some things.

"If they want me to get more vocal, oh boy," he said.

**

SULFSTED RETURNS:** The Bengals didn't claim Redskins guard-tackle Alex Sulfsted off waivers to replace rookie Eric Steinbach if the holdout gets ugly even though he started two games at left guard (and one at left tackle)last season for the Redskins. But both head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive line coach Paul Alexander see him as a very viable guy to make the roster because he can play both guard and tackle spots and would be a valuable backup. Plus, how many guys picked up off waivers have a six-pack of Who-Dey beer at his Mount Lookout home and hung his Bengals' nameplate from his locker in his Washington apartment last season?

The 6-3, 320-pound Sulfsted is Cincinnati through and through as a native of Lebanon, Ohio, a graduate of Mariemont High School, and a product of Miami of Ohio. He shocked his former teammates in Kansas City two years ago when he was a sixth-round draft pick cut by the Chiefs and pursued a practice squad job with the Bengals.

He got the job, but six weeks later Washington picked him off the squad and put him on the active roster until they cut him suddenly last Saturday afternoon.

"I think it is fate," said Sulfsted of playing in his hometown. "I had to be in Washington Sunday and I was going to leave Friday night, but I kept putting it off and putting off and then I said I'd get up Saturday and take my time. I threw my last bag in my car, turned on the ignition, and didn't even put it in drive and they called to tell me I was cut. And that was a big surprise."

The Bengals wasted no time. They called Monday morning and told him to be here at 4 p.m., and there is no one happier in the NFL.

"It's a dream come true," said Sulfsted, who has started a development company and spent his summer building condos in Cincinnati's downtown Over-The-Rhine. "The big thing is learning the offense. I stayed behind the line most of the time with (assistant coach Bob Surace), but I did do some one-on-ones."

Sulfsted is delighted to be reunited with former Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. He said he and a bunch of his teammates would have loved it if he were the head coach last season in Washington D.C.

"He's awesome. I think he's what Cincinnati has been looking for for a long time," Sulfsted said. "I have the utmost respect for him. I was excited for the Bengals when I was down in Washington hearing about what was happening here. And then when I came back here, I can't tell you how many people have stopped to ask me about Coach Lewis this summer. I've only had positive things to say."

While Steinbach sits out, Rich Braham has returned to his old spot at left guard. Before switching to center in 1999, Braham played his first five seasons in Cincinnati at that spot.

**

DAILY CARSON UPDATE:** Head coach Marvin Lewis started taking heat off No. 1 pick Carson Palmer right away Monday, saying the talk about the playbook is, "overstated." And starter Jon Kitna was right. From media to fans, Palmer got all the attention Monday.

Palmer has had a roller-coaster of a month. He got married, went to Hawaii for his honeymoon, and right before camp he suffered the death of a grandparent. But his head is on straight as he finished his first camp practice as a pro signing autographs and taking pictures with fans.

Palmer said he still feels at sea, but he certainly felt more comfortable than he did on his first day of minicamp.

"There were a bunch of plays installed last night, and it was the second time I've run those plays, but since we've had such a (six-week) layoff , the timing with the receivers was off," Palmer said. "Back home I've been throwing to high school receivers. There's something to learn every day."

Palmer patiently waded through the autograph requests on the way to the locker room after practice and couldn't imagine not signing: "The fans are great out here watching us in the rain. I feel sorry for them standing out here watching us, but they're a big part of what we do."

STUNTS AND SCREENS: Cornerback Dennis Weathersby, 99 days off his shooting, lined up with Artrell Hawkins as the second-team cornerbacks, and had no restrictions. He impressed people with his stamina, although he admitted he probably would have been a step behind anyway on the first day. "His stamina was very low when he got here last month," said strength coach Chip Morton, "but he has really

picked it up in his 16-day workout. He's come a long way." . .

Tight end Matt Schobel appeared to hurt the same hamstring Monday that nagged him his final season at Texas Christian and hobbled him last offseason. Head coach Marvin Lewis said he could be out a week, but classified him "day-to-day." . . . More signs of the efficiency of the Lewis era? Camp workers are poised with magic markers for players after practice so they can use them to sign autographs. . .

The Bengals missed most of the rain that hit Georgetown College Monday, but Lewis has a contingency if the fields get too wet. They will bus the 20 minutes or so to the University of Kentucky's indoor facility.

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