Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Bengals notebook

Draft picks won't agree to 'loyalty' clause

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bengals officials said Monday their “loyalty” clause is the final sticking point in signing draft picks Curtis Keaton and Robert Bean.

        Both players have agreed on three-year contracts with the team but have yet to sign.

        Fourth-round pick Keaton, a running back from James Madison, has agreed on a three-year deal worth $1.126 million with a $300,000 signing bonus.

        Fifth-rounder Bean, a corner back from Mississippi State, agreed to $940,000 for three years with a $114,000 signing bonus.

        The loyalty clause is tied to the signing bonus. A player could lose some or all of the bonus if he criticizes the organization in public.

        “We're trying to bring this to players' attention forcibly,” Bengals president Mike Brown said, “in a way no player will trifle with.”

        The NFL Players Association is reportedly against the clause, and, a Bengals official said, has asked player agents to not agree to it.

        NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw, reached Monday morning at his Washington, D.C., office, hung up the phone when asked about the clause and the union's position.

        Some players' agents say the clause violates a player's right to free speech. Brown said the Bengals, as a private business, have the right to monitor what their employees say to the media.

        The loyalty clause was reportedly dropped from first-round pick Peter Warrick's contract, which still has provisions that tie millions of dollars in bonuses to Warrick's off-field behavior.

        As for third pick Ron Dugans, other points beside the loyalty clause are holding up an agreement, the Bengals said Monday.

        The Bengals have been stung by player criticism twice in recent years.

        In 1999, wide receiver Carl Pickens insulted coach Bruce Coslet and offered to buy out his contract. He was threatened with a one-game suspension and fine that would have cost him more than $260,000 if he didn't apologize.

        A year earlier, punter Lee Johnson questioned the team's decision to re-sign Coslet and wondered why fans would buy Bengals tickets. Johnson was released.

        “After our experience with Carl Pickens, we don't think it's too much to ask for a player — and they're all well-paid — to keep their complaints internal,” Brown said. “We've had some players who go public with the purpose of trying to get out.”

        The team has had a fine schedule in its playbook for more than 20 years that covered such issues, Brown said. The loyalty clause covers comments similar to those made last year by Pickens.

        “Outrageous things,” Brown said. “Not "Joe should have caught that ball' or "Al shouldn't have fumbled.' That's bad form, but it's not malicious.”

        ON THE BALL: Eric Ball, the team's new director of player development and community relations, started work Monday.

        “Paperwork, lots of paperwork,” he said at Spinney Field.

        Ball, 33, doesn't have an office and was carrying several notebooks and folders with him.

        The former Cincinnati running back will work with Bengals players on personal matters and organize their civic and charitable events.

        On Monday, Ball and director of stadium operations Troy Blackburn took running back Corey Dillon on a tour of Paul Brown Stadium. Dillon was at Spinney Field with his agent, Marvin Demoff, for a session to negotiate a new contract.

        Ball's hiring is the result of a league directive in response to several high-profile acts of violence by players. The Bengals have not been immune to such problems.

        Defensive back Tremain Mack has had repeated arrests for drunken driving. Former defensive lineman Dan Wilkinson went to court for domestic violence in 1995; he punched his then-pregnant girlfriend in the stomach. In 1990, 20 Cincinnati players were accused of raping or aiding the rape of a Seattle-area woman.


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