Bengals' investment in Carter goes beyond on-field performance


When Leigh Steinberg, the super agent who negotiated the megabuck deals for Drew Bledsoe, Ki-Jana Carter and Kerry Collins last week, duels with Mike Brown, the owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, he usually finds himself facing a tough adversary.

"I used to joke that Mike Brown was God's way of telling we were making too much money in our law practice," Steinberg said last week.

Brown blew his fiscally conservative reputation last week when he gave Carter the largest rookie signing bonus deal ever -- $7.1 million -- in a seven-year, $19.2 million deal that voids after four years.

After the deal was signed, Brown was asked to explain it at a news conference. He replied, "I usually let Leigh explain this after I get trounced like that."

It's easy to explain why Brown let himself get trounced. He had to get Carter in at virtually any price.

He needs Carter to jump-start a team that has a 14-50 record the past four years, including back-to-back 3-13 years.

Brown figures he needs to win this year to convince Cincinnati voters to support a 1 percent sales tax increase that will fund a new stadium for the Bengals and Reds.

Even though it was passed by city and county officials, opponents plan to try to get 27,600 signatures to put the measure on the ballot next March.

"Every year is important, but this one has something special about it because we have so much at stake. We want to do well in part to convince people that they should back us and make it easier for them to support the stadium project. When we don't do that [win], a lot of people use that as an explanation of why we shouldn't be provided a new stadium. And the new stadium is the key to our future in Cincinnati," Brown said.

The opponents of the tax increase say the Bengals could win the Super Bowl and the voters still wouldn't approve a tax hike. Raising taxes isn't a popular idea these days.

In any case, it'll be an even tougher sell in Cincinnati if the Bengals lose again.

So what would Brown do if the proposal is rejected?

"I don't want to speculate on that," he said.

He'd likely be knocking on Baltimore's door again, but it's uncertain if the funding still will be in place by March. Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening says he wants to make a decision by December on the status of the funding.

But state Sen. John Pica, a leader of the Baltimore forces trying to keep the funding, says it's unwise to take away the funding when several teams are interested in better stadium deals. He predicts he'll win the battle to keep the funding.

In any case, the Bengals are putting a heavy burden on Carter. The Penn State running back has to convince the voters it's worth a tax hike to see him run in Cincinnati in future years.

Returning to Los Angeles

After the owners approved the move of the Raiders back to Oakland -- pending a debate over sharing of premium seat licenses -- commissioner Paul Tagliabue once again promised Los Angeles will have at least one team, either an expansion team or an existing team, by 1998.

A league spokesman said Glendening wanted to know if the teams would be awarded by December and Tagliabue replied it wouldn't happen that fast.

A league spokesman said the expansion timetable hasn't been set, although the league could begin the process later this year.

Lean cats

Wide receiver Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys said he was so annoyed that his team didn't make the Super Bowl for a third straight year last season that he's dropped his weight from 218 to 208 in an attempt to help his team get back.

"Maybe we were fat cats," he said. "I was so big it was ridiculous. Now I'm eating salads, I'm drinking water. When I step on the field next year, every play I'm taking is out on every corner. I'm preparing to take off."

The visitor

When the Denver Broncos opened training camp, a 31-year-old man named Alex Sanchez of Westminster, Colo., arrived with his gear and said he was ready for camp.

When he was refused entrance and police were called, he started swinging a baseball bat at an officer and then led them on a high-speed chase before being arrested.

"Probably a frustrated third-string quarterback in high school who wanted to show what he could do," said Denver coach Mike Shanahan.


After tight end Kyle Brady of the New York Jets signed a four-year, $5.035 million contract, he said, "The first play in the huddle, Boomer [Esiason] said, 'I'd like everybody to meet the NFL's newest millionaire.' "

His deal was dwarfed though by the ones signed by his Penn State teammates, Carter and Collins.

"We had three guys in our offensive huddle last year [at Penn State] who could start our own yacht club," Brady said.

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