'The champions are here'

2-6-04, 9:10 a.m.

**Another pool-side post card from Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson as the AFC closes in on Sunday's Pro Bowl against the NFC.

The Marvin Factor has accompanied him to his first all-star game in his eight-year career. More than one player has approached him this week in Hawaii to tell him if the Bengals come up with the money, they'd love to play for head coach Marvin Lewis.

Anderson is also spending a lot of time with that other Lewis, Ray, and realizing the Bengals have a way to go in developing the closeness of the perennial playoff teams.

Plus, he's not so sure how to take Michael Strahan's compliment before he faces the NFL's reigning Sackmaster. **

There are times this week I feel like I wasted the first seven years of my career. I look around and I see guys who have been here seven, eight, nine straight years playing for great coaches and on successful teams. When Willie McGinest and Ty Law walked into the locker room a day late from the Super Bowl, you should have seen the faces on the guys who came up to congratulate them. They had these big smiles and it was like they were thinking, "The champions are here."

One of the things that happened is that we used to have a lot of cliques (on the Bengals), and they were broken up this year. But after watching the guys over here, I still think we need to get closer as a team.

One of the guys I wanted to make sure I spent some time with is (Ravens middle linebacker) Ray Lewis, just to see how he motivates guys, his teammates. He wasn't going to come here this year, but when (Ravens safety) Ed Reed made it, he thought he should come. He's a guy Ray has taken under his wing and helped him by showing him how to prepare to play in the league.

I got a little envious when we were out at a club the other night. It looked like the whole team from the Kansas City Chiefs was there. At least half the

defense. Even the guys who didn't make the Pro Bowl, a lot of them traveled with their teammates. These are the teams that win games and you can see what Marvin is talking about.

I really think one of the reasons we clicked as an offense is because we had that offensive dinner every Friday. It was a chance for the linemen like Rich Braham and Mike Goff to sit down with guys like Rudi Johnson and Peter Warrick. I'd like to see some of the defensive guys step up and do some of the same stuff. We're learning as a team. We'll get there.

I'm having a great time because I'm watching guys who have been successful in the league. I mean, these guys are superstars and they don't care if their knees hurt, or they've got a strained back, or whatever. They play and don't complain. It gives you an idea of what it takes for a team to win.

Usually I've been going out on the bus in the morning to practice, but I drive back with (Bills guard) Ruben Brown in his truck. We've been riding with Takeo (Spikes), Ray Lewis, Ty Law. And Ruben has been saying to Takeo, "See what Ray is talking about? About team camaraderie?"

Ray has been all over the place recruiting guys to come to the Ravens, and I've been doing it, too. I've been all over the cornerbacks, and you can tell the impact that Marvin has had on us. Almost everybody has come up to me and said they'd come play in Cincinnati if the Bengals give them the money.

Most of the time, we talk by the pool at the hotel in the restaurant-bar area. We're pretty much out there all day, and the NFC is there, too. (Giants defensive end) Michael Strahan came up to me and said, "I've been telling people for years and years you're one of the best guys I've faced," and I told him, "You're just buttering me up so you can get the Cadillac truck for MVP."

At night, we usually go into town, and Wednesday night Takeo gave a party. You'd be surprised at the number of fans over here, and they know exactly where we're going to be. I walked out and (Chiefs returner) Dante Hall was getting mobbed by about 100 people, and the next thing I knew, the same crowd was on me. I didn't think anybody knew me, and somebody thought I was Chad Johnson, but they had pictures of me and Chad and the Bengals, and that's kind of nice to see.

I had breakfast with (Chiefs guard) Will Shields on Thursday and he's a guy I really admire. He's the NFL Man of the Year this year and he's got a tremendous charity foundation he runs in three different cities, which is something I'd like to do. He said he'd help me get something going because I want to do things in my hometown (Mobile, Ala.), Cincinnati and where I live now in Atlanta.

The practice tempo has picked up a little bit, but Thursday was "Hat Day," so there were no helmets. We go for about 45 minutes to an hour. We did a pass-rush drill the other day, and nobody wanted to do it. I mean, I think everyone here has proven they can pass block and rush the passer. Nobody wanted to do that.

Ray makes sure we get out of there on time. When it gets close, he's out there reminding Coach Dungy, "Tee time. Tee time."

On Friday night, I'm going to try and hook up with some people. Paul Brown of the Bengals is here and Goff came down at my invite, so we're all going to try and go out to dinner Friday night. My mother came down Wednesday night, and we were planning to take the NFL tour of Pearl Harbor Thursday.

She's worked all her life and she just retired not too long ago, but hasn't taken advantage of traveling until the last three years or so. She went on a cruise once, but this is definitely the farthest she's ever traveled.

She got in late Wednesday, around 1 or 2 in the morning, and she thought she'd go right to bed. But when she got here, she saw the beach and walked on it for about two hours. She said it was the most beautiful place she's ever seen.

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