Wilkinson apologizes to Cincinnati for 'racist' comment

CINCINNATI -- 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

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

Brown was right. Wilkinson, in his third season in Detroit, said
he has matured over the years and wishes he hadn't said those

"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."