BY GEOFF HOBSON
It's just not Bengals running back Corey Dillon having a hard time believing he's got the NFL's all-time single-game rushing record.
Rookie receiver Peter Warrick is stunned to hear he's just 16 yards from becoming the Bengals' all-time rushing leader for wide receivers. He's got 149 yards in his first seven games. Eddie Brown had 164 in seven years.
"What year did he do that?" Warrick asked. Then told it was for a career, he said, "I should surpass that this year."
With receivers coach Steve Mooshagian's new stat of "Yards After Block," one of these days Warrick should get a triple triple with 100-yard rushing, receiving and blocking.
He should break Brown's record this week in Cleveland. The guy who two weeks ago wondered why he wasn't getting the ball, said Wednesday, "I love the way they're using me. I want to do everything and anything for us to turn it around."
Warrick's 77-yard touchdown run last Sunday against the Broncos gave him the club's season record set in the Bengals' first year with 133 by Warren McVea. Both Warrick and quarterback Akili Smith believe the rushing assault against Denver will open up the NFL's dead-last passing attack.
"The way we're running the football, (the Browns) can't do the defense they were doing and stop the run," said Smith of the Sept. 10 opener in which Dillon had just 41 yards on 12 carries.
"They were bringing the strong safety down and rode the free safety doubling Warrick and left the X (receiver) and tight end one-on-one. We have to be able to run the football and win those one-on-one battles if they choose to do that. The way we're running, I think they have to put the safeties down in the box."
Even against double coverage, Warrick still had three catches for 80 yards against the Browns, including his longest catch of the year for 46. The Bengals would kill for that right now after a week they had two completions.
But at least Warrick showed against Denver he's an emerging all-around player. He was smiling over Mooshagian's "Yards After Block." He had 153.
"It shows I'm a team player," Warrick said. "It shows it's not all about me."
DAWG DAYS FOR SMITH: Smith knows he's in for plenty of verbal abuse in Cleveland. It's his first time back to the "Dawg Pound," after he taunted them with "the throat-slit move," that has been outlawed since that Oct. 10 game last year he drove the Bengals down the field in the last two minutes for a win in his first NFL start.
"I'm sure I'll be booed. I'm ready for it," Smith said.
Smith, who is ready to start after sitting out last Sunday's second half with a neck stinger, admitted he put too much pressure on himself in the 24-7 loss earlier this season when, "I was absolutely poor."
He also admitted he wished he could continue his rivalry with Browns quarterback Tim Couch, out with a broken thumb.
"My brother and I were talking about that," Smith said. "It would have been Round Three and we're 1-1."
Smith's antics last season included beating his chest at the Cleveland bench after throwing the winning pass to Carl Pickens on the Bengals' last play of the game. Couch's injury and the struggles by Smith and both clubs this season seemed to have doused the fire.
"I think that was a reflexive reaction,' said coach Dick LeBeau, "of us winning our first game and him getting (his first start) and winning. It was just a spontaneous thing. But we want our players to conduct themselves as sportsman at all times." Smith says the Browns are going to see a different team this week than the one that opened Paul Brown Stadium Sept. 10. He says it's not the same offensive line that allowed seven sacks that day.
"Our sack total is down and a lot of them are on me," said Smith, who has been sacked 15 times in the next six games.
DIFFERENT DEAL: Coach Dick LeBeau's smashmouth philosophy seems to have taken hold in the running game. Back on Sept. 10, Smith dropped back to pass 50 times and Dillon ran just 12 times. You figure to see close to the opposite this Sunday.
Dillon believes the LeBeau regime is sticking with the run longer. Just take a look at last week, when five of his first seven carries were for one or no yards or lost yards. Indeed, he actually gained 284 yards on 16 carries, because six carries that were either for no gain or minus yardage lost him six yards.
"That's the type of mode he wants for this team," Dillon said of LeBeau. "We'll be a running team no matter the situation. He already told us that up front. We know that."
DILLON'S DAYS:** Just another day in the Dillon publicity mill. On Wednesday, he accepted the NFL's Miller Lite Player of the Week award. On Thursday, the Bengals will give him a plaque honoring the record and he'll give his shoes, jersey and pants he wore against the Broncos to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
BROWN OUT: Bengals left tackle John Jackson had to admit it. He liked the Browns while growing up in Cincinnati and when Cleveland was out of the league, he missed going up to the Dawg Pound. Or over to the Dawg Pound, since from 1988 to 1995 he went in there as a member of the dreaded Steelers.
"I used to literally be scared to hell," Jackson said.
"First year I was out there, they had us warming up in the Dawg Pound. They were saying, 'What the hell are you smiling about? You're about to get you (butt) whipped.' "I'm like, 'Wow,'" Jackson said. ' "Oh my God. I used to love this team.' It changed my perspective real fast."
Jackson hears it's not as rowdy now.
"They toned it down a lot with the dog biscuits and the batteries," Jackson said. "It's not the same (with) all the police and cameras. It kind of takes away from their edge."
THIS AND THAT: Speaking of fans, linebackers Takeo Spikes, Steve Foley and Adrian Ross honored the Paul Brown Stadium crowd after Sunday's game by standing on the Bengals' bench and giving "The Mile High Salute." . .
By the way, Spikes believes his club simply wasn't ready when they lost to the Browns last month. He wonders about those four days off the team had the weekend before that game because of the bye week: "Maybe it could have been (four) but not shifted toward the end of it. You can't go back and change it now." . . .
C Rich Braham tested his knee for the first time on the field Wednesday since his knee was scoped a month ago. He took part in individual drills and actually took a few snaps in team when scout team center Roger Roesler went down for a few plays. "It felt OK, but it depends on if it swells up or not in the next few days," said Braham, shooting to return Nov. 5 against the Ravens. . .
FB Clif Groce and DE Vaughn Booker (knees) sat out Wednesday's practice, but are expected to play. S/LB JoJuan Armour (toe) is not. . .
Miami-based agent David Levine, who recently teamed up with Jim Sims, brought Sims to town Wednesday. They would like to get a contract extension for defensive tackle Oliver Gibson before his deal ends after next season, but talks won't get going until after this year. Sims also represents Spikes and Ross, which means the two represent seven of the club's 11 defensive players in the nickel package.