5-19-03, 8:15 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Fans look like they want to explore Marvin Lewis' "New Jungle." The Bengals opened up the phone lines Monday for the first time to sell their two-game Ticket Packs and group tickets, and ticket director Tim Kelly said the team is ahead of last year's pace after one day with all indications they have a chance to sell out Opening Day against Denver Sept. 7.
Kelly emphasized it's early and that there are plenty of tickets left. But he also said the club's goal is to sell out the opener and the decision to pair the Broncos with the always popular Steelers on Sept. 21 looks to be a good one.
"It's worked. It's by far the most popular package," Kelly said. "It's been an excellent first day, but it's not a one-day thing, or a one-week thing. It's an all-year thing and we have to keep the ball rolling."
Kelly thanked customers for fighting through the busy signal at the Bengals' hotline number of 513-621-8383, and reminded them that they can also go to bengals.com and click on the Ticket/Schedule button on the navigation bar to print out an order form that can be mailed or faxed.
CLEMONS SEES SACKS: After completing his first practice as a Cincinnati Bengal, Duane Clemons knew he was in the right place. Despite lining up at left end Monday, Clemons saw no reason why he shouldn't challenge his career best sack mark with his new team.
"I think I should get more than seven sacks," said Clemons, who dipped from seven to two last season in Kansas City when the Chiefs tore up their playbook. "To me, if you're playing an aggressive style scheme like what they play here, I see that happening.
"When you've got a scheme that's just trying to protect weaknesses, you don't have an opportunity to go out and make plays. You're always constantly trying to adjust to what other teams are doing. This team is more of an attack style. We're trying to basically make them react to us."
The 6-5, 280-pound Clemons rung up a career-high nine sacks with the Vikings in 1999 and then followed with 7.5 and seven for Kansas City in 2000 and 2001, respectively, playing right end for the Chiefs. The last Bengal to string together 23.5
sacks in three seasons was right end Alfred Williams from 1992-94, but Clemons bristles at the label "pass rusher."
"They just assume you don't play the run," Clemons said. "But I've always been a great run player."
Clemons may not have the ideal big body on the left end that past regimes here have sought at 300 pounds. But that doesn't mean he hasn't done it. In Minnesota, he spent a bunch of time at left end, particularly when they moved John Randle outside and switched Clemons to left end. And, it doesn't matter, because he fits the Marvin Lewis peg in the roster the first-year head coach is molding.
Clemons is bright, athletic, and used to winning. Such as the other free agents Lewis has brought to town, particularly on defense. With Clemons saying he has plans to start and be an impact player, the Bengals have brought in four potential defensive starters (along with tackle John Thornton, middle linebacker Kevin Hardy, and cornerback Tory James) who have appeared in a combined 29 NFL playoff games. Last year's Opening Day defensive starters combined for just 19. Clemons brings five of those from his work with Dennis Green's Vikings in the late 1990s.
"Some veteran leadership, experience at the position, and almost all the programs I've been with have gone to the playoffs," said Clemons ticking off the shopping list he brings to the store. "I've been fortunate enough to have played with some Hall-of-Famers and Pro Bowlers."
He has rubbed shoulders with some good ones in seven seasons. Randle, Jerry Ball, Chris Doleman, Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Chester McGlockton, James Hasty. He believes Randle and Ball, the soul of those Vikings defensive lines, had the most influence on him. Randle as a player, Ball as a man.
"Johnny Randle can beat you anyway," Clemons said. "He has that great intensity, but he can beat you with speed, beat you with power, and he has that flawless technique. He can do all that and still can get into a player's head and just mentally break you down. If you try to outquick him, he jumps you. If you try to overpower him, he can power you back up."
Ball was the kind of guy who would put an arm around Clemons and tell him not to get down. "The classic savvy veteran," Clemons calls him. Ball also counseled him on how to deal diplomatically with coaches if things weren't quite going the way he thought they should have been going. That's what Clemons saw transpiring in Kansas City this past season, when Dick Vermeil replaced the man who brought Clemons to Kansas City, Gunther Cunningham.
The Chiefs fell from 14th in the league against the pass to next-to-worst in the NFL last year, which contributed heavily to Kansas City finishing last in overall defense.
"The defense was solid, but then they got rid of (tackle) Chester McGlockton and (tackle) Dan Williams and we had two rookie cornerbacks," Clemons said. "We had young guys starting in the middle, we weren't getting any push and they told us, 'We're going to try and overcome some weaknesses by doing some different things with you guys.' We just took a huge step backwards. I guess that's part of making a transition. Sometimes, things just don't work. The whole defense went backwards. The situations that we were put in were unbelievable."
But Clemons, who turns 29 Friday, can believe this situation. He knows that Bengals defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is coming from a Philadelphia defense that logged a NFL-high 56 sacks last year.
"I know he's about pass rushers," Clemons said. "I know he's about letting defensive linemen go out there and make plays."
ON THE LINE:** Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and several of his fellow rookies returned after a NFL-mandated two-week hiatus to Paul Brown Stadium for the second week of the club's on-field coaching sessions Monday. But Palmer hasn't really been away. He has kept in touch with quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese via the phone and DVDs.
"He sent me the DVDs from last week's practices, and I'd call him and we'd talk for about 45 minutes to an hour about what we're watching and the plays they put it," Palmer said.
And while keeping up with the playbook, Palmer managed to find time to buy a year-round home in the Greater Cincinnati area.
"It's going to be for the whole year because I want to be around for all the minicamps and offseason conditioning," Palmer said. "I want to feel like I'm part of the team and the community."
In last week's editions of "The Sports Business Journal," Palmer made front page news for signing the Bengals' loyalty clause, even though it's believed every No. 1 Bengals pick since Justin Smith in 2001 and every contract the club has produced since the summer of 2000 has contained it. It's just that Palmer is the first overall No. 1 pick to have it, and he said he didn't think twice about signing it.
"I'm not a guy that's going to pop off to my boss, or to my coach, or an elder, or anyone else around me," Palmer said. "(The clause) didn't affect me. I didn't think twice about it. No matter how bad it could get, I'm not going to say anything about people over me or around me."
In 2000, the Bengals took the loyalty section of the standard player contract that had been agreed upon by the NFL Players Association and attached it to the signing bonus, meaning the club could take all or part of the signing bonus if a player pulled a Carl Pickens and blasted management and coaches in an attempt to get released. Hence, the Carl Pickens Clause.
The NFLPA protested, but an arbitrator upheld the Bengals' position, and all indications are it hasn't prevented them from getting any contract done and hasn't become the stumbling block some thought. In fact, the Bengals are in the midst of their best off-season haul in history.
"The Bengals make it clear it's non-negotiable and at some point you as the agent have to make a decision on the things you will and won't fight for," said Frank Murtha, one of the agents who signed defensive tackle John Thornton to a six-year deal in Cincy this past March. "In many ways, it flies in the face of the Constitution. But it's pretty limited. It's highly unlikely our client is going to get up on a soapbox and go after people. It's not like they're going to fine him $10,000 for each penalty. That's a horse of a different color.
"If the geography is right, the coaches are right, the money is right, and the team is right, it's hard to make it an obstacle," Murtha said. "It would set off a lot of first amendment lawyers, but it comes down to picking your battles."
One agent who recently signed a deal with the Bengals said he probably would have preferred it not be in there, but he also didn't want it to be a deal breaker: "Any smart player knows it doesn't do any one any good to rip management and coaches in public. You can see it from the club's standpoint because they were burned by Pickens. I think getting Marvin (Lewis) in there helps because you're not going to be getting those kinds of guys. He's looking for people with a positive approach to their job."