Former Player Says Spurrier 'Didn't Have a Clue'
Now With Lions, Wilkinson Also Apologizes for Calling Cincy Racist
By JOE KAY, AP
CINCINNATI (Dec. 14) - Dan Wilkinson apologized Wednesday for calling Cincinnati a racist city, a comment that led the Bengals to trade their former No. 1 draft pick to the Washington Redskins after the 1997 season.
The defensive tackle also criticized former Redskins coach Steve Spurrier, who went 12-20 in Washington from 2002-03 before quitting. Marvin Lewis was the Redskins' defensive coordinator in 2002, and became the Bengals' head coach the next season.
"Marvin should have been our head coach," Wilkinson, who now plays for Detroit, said Wednesday in a conference call with Cincinnati writers.
"Actually, Marvin was our head coach. We had Steve Spurrier, but Spurrier didn't have a clue how to train and get an NFL team ready. He just didn't have a clue of how to train a team and coach the team and understand what all went into it.
"Marvin did everything. Marvin did everything as a defensive coordinator, but he was able to keep himself humble in the situation and move on after that one year."
In his third season in Cincinnati, Lewis has the Bengals (10-3) one victory away from clinching a playoff spot and making a clean break with their troubled past - one that prominently involved Wilkinson.
The Bengals made him the top overall pick from Ohio State in 1994, when they were coming off their second straight failed season under coach Dave Shula. Wilkinson failed to develop into a Pro Bowl player in four years with the Bengals, becoming disillusioned with the organization and the losing.
Wilkinson blasted the city in December 1997, saying residents were "prejudiced and uptight and stiff." When the Bengals used their franchise designation on him, he grew more unhappy. Finally, he went on a radio show and called Cincinnati a "racist," city, a remark that prompted owner Mike Brown to trade him to the Redskins.
"It's a factor in our way of thinking," Brown said at the time. "It's a burden for him and a burden for us. He's still a young man, and I think one day he'll wonder why he said these things."
Brown was right. Wilkinson, in his third season in Detroit, said he has matured over the years and wishes he hadn't said those things.
"I have no negatives or grudges toward the Bengals organization or the city or anything," he said. "I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to those I've hurt or bothered or made upset or anything else."
Wilkinson, 32, grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and still has family there. He said he was wrong to call Cincinnati racist.
"That was just blatant ignorance," he said. "Again, that's the immaturity I'm talking about as far as some of the things I've said and done. If I had a chance to go back, I would certainly correct some things, and that was just wrong. Saying the city is racist and conducting myself in that way that I did was bad.
"As a young man at the time, all I can remember is feeling trapped, that I have to get away from this team. That's what I recall from eight years ago."
He also recalls that the Bengals' facilities and coaching staffs were among the league's worst, contributing to their 14-year run without a winning record. Wilkinson had three different defensive line coaches in his first three seasons in Cincinnati.
"I think that's where the organization dropped it," Wilkinson said. "I think my first three years in Cincinnati, we had defensive line coaches that never coached defensive line on any level. Any level."
Asked if he had one thing he regretted about how he acted in Cincinnati, Wilkinson said, "There were a lot of things. Looking at it in hindsight if I had it to do all over again, there are many things I regret. Some of the things I've said and done were so out of character for me that it still bothers me today when I think about that stuff."
12/14/05 18:39 EST