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Bengals' problems mounting

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 20, 2002

The Bengals (0-6) are off today, but that doesn't mean things are quiet around the Queen City. In fact, things probably couldn't be worse.

The team's only stars -- running back Corey Dillon and linebacker Takeo Spikes -- publicly vented their frustrations over the team's losing history, and there are hints both may want out after this season if things don't change.

Also, coach Dick LeBeau is rumored to be on the hot seat with the Bengals having been outscored 181-51. Fullback Lorenzo Neal called the start "embarrassing" and said what everyone else already knew, that the Bengals were "the laughingstock of the league."

As if that isn't bad enough, the team also learned last week that the Hamilton County commission unanimously approved a measure to seek possible breach of contract charges against the team for failing to field a "competitive team.

There reportedly is a sentence in the team's stadium lease agreement that ties a sales tax to "competitive and viable major league football and baseball teams in Cincinnati."

It's probably a frivolous pursuit, but others see it as a reflection of an entire city's frustration.

Said team president Mike Brown: "When you're in the position we're in, you're going to have this kind of thing."

WELCOME BACK CARTER: The Dolphins are trying to sign the retired Cris Carter to beef up their injury-depleted receiving corps, and he could join the team this week.

Several Web sites said Carter agreed in principle to an incentives-based contract with Miami that has yet to be completed. If the contract is worked out, Carter is prepared to join the team as early as Monday, according to the reports.

The 36-year-old Carter, who had been working on HBO's Inside the NFL, is expected to replace injured receiver Oronde Gadsden. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Gadsden will have surgery on his injured left wrist and be out for the season.

COURAGE: The search for Matt Millen's Cowardly Lion got under way Friday, but Millen wasn't involved.

Shortly after stirring up a tempest by accusing an unidentified player of being a "devout coward" on a Chicago sports talk show, the Lions team president took a very unpresidential sidestep -- he left town.

Although the players declined to criticize Millen, they were obviously upset by the accusation of cowardice, which was used in such general terms that it could have applied to any of them.

"Honestly, if that's how he feels, he needs to come and talk to the player and to the team, and address that issue," defensive tackle Luther Elliss said. "That's the kind of stuff that -- to me -- you keep in-house.

"We all have our opinions about people. It might be an opinion where, "I personally just don't like you,' or, "I think you can't play this game,' but you need to come and talk to me, or talk to that person individually and say, "Hey, you need to pick up your game or I'm going to let you go and find another team.' "

HE'S BACK ... SORT OF: Recently-retired Broncos running back Terrell Davis showed up recently at the team's headquarters and said he doesn't miss the game as much as he feared he would.

"You hear a lot of guys say that when they don't play, it's hard for them to watch games. It hasn't been hard for me to watch them," Davis said. "I'm glued to the television on Sundays. I have (satellite television), so I watch them all."

Davis was vague when asked if he might consider a comeback one day.

"If for some reason I feel like there's a chance I can come back, who knows?" he said. "I just want to leave my options open. Not to say I will, or that I intend on doing it ... because it seems the longer I stay out, the more comfortable I get."

SCORE, SCORE, SCORE: The Saints aren't disillusioned about why they are 5-1. They average 31 points.

"If I thought before the season started that we'd average 28 points, I'd have thought that would be an outstanding figure," offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy said. "You will win a lot of games in the National Football League if you average that many points."

Despite the team's start, sellouts at the Superdome aren't a given. As of midweek, the team had more than 4,000 tickets unsold for today's game against the 49ers.

Said quarterback Aaron Brooks: "For the game to not be sold out is mind-boggling."

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS: The Bears have been ravaged by injuries, and their bye last week brought no relief. Long snapper Pat Mannelly strained a knee ligament during practice and is questionable today.

HE SAID IT: "Touching a woman's face and putting my face against hers excite me. Soft cheeks are so appealing."

That's from Lions quarterback Joey Harrington in the latest edition of Cosmo magazine as part of an item titled Getting Cheeky.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I said it in camp. "We're going to play boring football.' And we are. Tough. That's the way it is. The explosive days of Vikings football are over. We have to try to win this way. It may not be exciting, but that's the way it goes. I don't see it changing."

Vikings coach Mike Tice on the team's conservative offensive approach.

STAT OF THE DAY: The Cardinals are off to a 3-2 start and are only a game behind the first-place 49ers in the NFC West. However, the last time the Cards were above .500 after Week 5 was 1991, and they lost their last eight to finish 4-12.

DID YOU KNOW?: A Seahawks receiver has not caught a touchdown pass this season. Seattle's passing touchdowns have been scored by tight end Itula Mili, running back Shaun Alexander and fullback Mack Strong.

The Seahawks' offense is ranked 27th in the league.

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Redskins coach Steve Spurrier continues to draw attention even though his team has struggled.

The Steve Spurrier Story: From Heisman to Head Ballcoach by Tampa author Bill Chastain is the latest book on the high-profile coach to hit bookstores.

The biography chronicles Spurrier's development into one of the nation's most loved and controversial coaches.

HONORING JOHNNY U: At halftime of today's Jaguars-Ravens game in Baltimore, the Ravens plan to unveil a statue of legendary Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas. The stadium's main entrance will also be renamed Unitas Plaza and Unitas, who died of a heart attack on Sept. 11, will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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