- NFL/TRAININGCAMP00 - RB Basnight hopes to be poetry in motion for Bengals

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 Tuesday, July 25
Basnight taking on some big foes this season
 By John Clayton

GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- Michael Basnight has been writing poems for 15 years. He's done it for fun. Now, he has a purpose.

"The illiteracy rate is pretty high in this country, particularly between the ages of 18 and 30," said Basnight, a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. "I think it's like 40 percent. There isn't recognition with any authors because they are much older. I'm trying to give people a venue."
Michael Basnight
Michael Basnight hopes to be there to fill the gap if Corey Dillon doesn't report to camp.
Basnight has published a book of poetry that he soon will put on his Web site and sell at Bengals home games this year. "My poetry touches the streets, love, thinking, theorizing and a lot of things," Basnight said.

While 40 percent of this group might not be into reading according to Basnight, it's safe to say 99 percent of the country doesn't know who Michael Basnight is. They also don't know Brandon Bennett, Sedrick Shaw and Curtis Keaton. These four horsemen are the running backs left in camp to battle for the starting job left open because of Corey Dillion's contract holdout from the Bengals.

"I'm sure everybody is saying, 'Who are they?' " Bengals quarterback Akili Smith said.

Fans, for the moment, support Basnight, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound undrafted back from North Carolina A&T. They voted for him as their favorite in an informal poll. That's a breakthrough because at least some fans know enough about them to vote.

As a group, they have only three career starts and 789 combined rushing yards. Camp opened with Basnight in a good battle with Bennett, but the speedy Shaw is catching up quickly.

"We're trying to be the unsung hero," said Bennett, with an emphasis on unsung. "We all bring different things to the table. I catch the ball out of the backfield and I think I'm an elusive type of runner. Shaw, he's the fast one. He gets to the outside and can take off and run with it. Basnight is big and can run in and outside the tackles. Keaton (the third-round draft choice this year) is a slasher with quick, happy feet."

Dillon is threatening to hold out until maybe 10 weeks into the season. And here is a sentence that hasn't been said about the Bengals since free agency started almost a decade ago: once they sign their two holdout draft choices, they are close to being at the salary cap limit.

"I think that's pretty much out because of the cap situation," coach Bruce Coslet said. "Who do we cut? At this point, if we sign somebody, we have to cut somebody."

In practice Sunday, Basnight showed some escapability on draw plays. Bennett, a 220-pounder, has the most chiseled body of the four, but he also is coming off a missed season because of major knee surgery.

If Dillon holds out into the season, Coslet will likely have a backfield by committee, designing plays for each of their skills. What each of the quartet wants to make sure is that they don't fail and join the Dead Poet's Society.

John Clayton is the senior NFL writer for

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