Sunday, July 22, 2001

Bengals Notebook

Dillon gets right to work

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        GEORGETOWN, Ky.- Corey Dillon, who signed a five-year, $27 million contract, participated in the first training camp workouts Saturday after holding out for almost three weeks last year.

        “It's good to come out and break a sweat,” Dillon said. “I'm in shape. I'm stronger this year than I've ever been.”

        Coach Dick LeBeau mentioned Dillon several times at a news conference.

        “The most important move of the offseason was getting Corey back,” LeBeau said. “That said more to our players, our fans, about our following the direction we want to go as a coach and as an organization.”

        SWEAT IT OUT: LeBeau also said most players reported to camp at their target weights. There were exceptions: Left tackle Richmond Webb, for one, weighed 340 and wants to drop 14 pounds.

        “The weights were not bad,” LeBeau said. “Some of them are candidates to come down a little bit, but if the heat holds like it is right here, I don't think we'll have a problem getting those where we want to.”

        CONTRACT HEADACHES: Think the Bengals have it rough trying to sign first-round draft pick Justin Smith?

        Life is much harder for executives in St. Louis, where the Rams had three first-round picks (Damione Lewis, Adam Archuleta and Ryan Pickett). Seattle's not much better as a pair of first-rounders — Koren Robinson and Steve Hutchinson — are expected to hold out.

        There were some signs of progress Saturday, when Pittsburgh signed its first pick, Casey Hampton, and Oakland signed Derrick Gibson. That means three of 31 first-rounders have signed, including Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick.

        Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn, who's negotiating with Jim Steiner, Smith's agent, is at a loss to explain the trend.

        “I don't know what's holding it up,” Blackburn said Saturday. “Obviously they're asking for something teams aren't willing to do. I'm sure with more time, something will start happening.”

        One reason is the Collective Bargaining Agreement extension, which was agreed to earlier this year but has yet to be signed. There are only three years remaining on the CBA, which means only three years are left for teams to spread out payment of the signing bonus.

        Then there's the Deion Sanders rule. It limits the size of a signing bonus compared to the base salary.

        As for Smith, Blackburn and Steiner talked Friday.

        Progress? “No,” Blackburn said. “But we're going to keep working on it. Nothing is scheduled, but we're keeping in contact.”


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