Why we should be better

8-2-01, 4:35 p.m.

This is the third installment of linebacker and defensive captain Takeo Spikes' twice-a-week diary for Bengals.com during training camp.

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ I think we're going to be better for a lot of reasons on offense and defense.

I think we're going to be tougher mentally. We've got more competition at more positions and I think we're going into the pre-season looking to get a total team effort from everybody. Not just worried about the first team looking good. It comes down from the top and Coach (Dick) LeBeau is talking about winning these games.

We've been doing a lot of one-on-one pass rush stuff to emphasize getting to the quarterback and I think the up-tempo practices are helping both sides of the ball.

This camp is not so tough when it comes to pounding. But being consistent on doing the right thing is where it's tough.

And I think that's where we've been lacking the last couple of years. Being mentally tough. We're not getting out of pads after a week even though a lot teams do that with the heat. We don't want a break. We want to keep running the gassers; keep on doing what we're doing. We have to become mentally tough before we do anything else. That's 70 percent of our problem. I think we're on our way there. We're way more

than last year.

We preparing for the pre-season games like it's a regular game. I think there's more sense of urgency because it's coming from the top. You heard it from some players last year. But now Coach LeBeau is at the top and he's letting all his knowledge leak down to the other players. He's letting everybody know that we can't take a thing for granted. We need to do everything we can to get momentum for the season.

He knows tomorrow is not promised to you. He

made a statement like that Wednesday. He's going to do everything in his power to do what needs to be done to be successful. Which means starting off by winning Saturday. It seemed like before it was OK if the first team played well. But now it's going to be a total team effort. We need that confident boost for everybody.

One of the bigger reasons why it will probably be different is because LeBeau went out and not only got players we needed at certain positions, but even at positions where we thought we were set. He went and got some more players and that competition is what drives these guys. There's no time to slip.

Last year, we had some players who could take a day off or even have a bad day and not really worry about it too much knowing they'd be in there automatically the next day. Now if you get hurt, you're doing everything you can to come back on the field.

I notice it on the d-line. Tony Williams is always going hard. He's a great addition to this team. He's driving Oliver Gibson because O.G. plays the same way.

Oliver drives Tony. They feed off each other. It's not like Tony is going to come after O.G's position. It's like, O.G. can't do it by himself, let's give him some help.

Same thing with Brian Simmons at linebacker with me. If Brian makes a play, there's not any jealousy. It's, "Hey Spikes, let's go." I've got play on this level. Everyone's got to play on a certain level to be effective And that will make the defense a lot better.

I didn't really know where Bernard Whittington came from when I met him. After taking a couple of looks at him and seeing him on film, he gets off the ball real well.

Tom Barndt has made a 100-percent turnaround from last year.

There were times last year when Tom would be in the game with his messed up shoulder, the pec muscle. He just couldn't hold it down because he didn't have the stability playing with one arm. But now I haven't seen him when he had a chance when he hasn't been on the other side of the line. He's on their side of the ball.

We seem to be getting pressure on the quarterback. I think the main thing is we've become more focused on the one-on-one block. If you're one on one, you've got to beat that guy and get to the quarterback.

We've put more attention to detail on that. If there's just one guy, you have to defeat that guy for the rest of your teammates. That's what this defense is trying to do. Find certain ways to get matchups on defense vs. offense. Linebackers vs. running backs. We're putting more detail into it now.

The same guys are at cornerback, but the same guys aren't playing. Artrell Hawkins is having a pretty decent camp so far. I'm curious to see what's going to happen in game time situations. It wasn't all their fault last year. We didn't get a lot of pressure and that gets back to the one-on-one situations.

They're getting a lot more competition, that's for sure because they've got the deep threats in Darnay Scott and Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick in the middle.

They've got their hands full. Every day I can see it in their eyes. They don't have any time to slack. Every time they touch the field, they have to make a play.

The up-tempo practices help the offense and the defense. We can't dwell on the play that happened before. You've got to get up and play and forget about it.

I think that's one of the best things the offense did in the scrimmage. They were at the line, hut, boom, and the defense is thinking, "Damn, they got four yards." And then they're right back on the line. It keeps the defense off rhythm. You can't really chart what's going on. We had a two-hour practice for Tuesday and we got everything done in an hour and 35 minutes. We got all our plays in. That's how intense this camp is.

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