Cincinnati's success against San Francisco's intricate pass patterns in Sunday's Super Bowl could hinge in part on how closely the game officials monitor the 49ers' use of picks, which are illegal under National Football League rules.
Although San Francisco Coach Bill Walsh denied today that the 49ers use picks (a receiver setting a screen on a defensive back to free another receiver), the Bengals say the 49ers are among the league's best at this tactic.
"Lots of teams use picks but they (the 49ers) do it better," Cincinnati cornerback Ken Riley said. "They disguise it better than other people. You can't really do anything about combating it. They utilize everything they have, including picking."
The Bengals say they will make sure the game officials are aware of San Francisco's alleged tendency to use picks, even though the tactic rarely draws a flag.
"You just never see it called," said Hank Bullough, Cincinnati's defensive coordinator, "but if you think the other team is doing it, you tell the officials so they will be more aware of what's going on, so you can have things kept within legal grounds.
"I keep reading their players talking about how they run the picks. If that's so, then something should be done about it.
"How do you defense it? You can't. If a guy runs into you, there isn't much you can do about it. We are aware of it, and our people can look for it."
Cincinnati cornerback Louis Breeden said by notifying the game officials, "It will have an effect on San Francisco, even if they don't call anything. The 49ers can hear, too. They'll be aware that people are watching them.
"It's all at the discretion of the officials and you really can't rely on that. You have to study films and see the formations where the picks are most likely to come. They like to use them especially on man-to-man coverage."
Walsh, however, said he doesn't believe in the use of picks. "We had it called on us only once this year and the game films showed it really wasn't a pick," he said.
"Against man-to-man coverage, we use a lot of crossing patterns and you hope someone (defensive back) will get lost in the shuffle. But we'd be foolish to look for contact. The officials will spot that and, besides, we want to keep all our receivers free. We don't want one held up hitting into somebody."
Both teams went through another busy session of interviews and workouts today, although Walsh contends the hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl is not the problem some have said it is.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you," he said, "but I don't think the atmosphere is traumatic. I don't buy the spectacle aspect that some of us keep hearing about. It's not a spectacle, it's a game. I don't put near the impact on the atmosphere as the media does. We've had some big games before and I haven't noticed any Cecil B. De Mille production about this one."
Cincinnati Coach Forrest Gregg seems more awed by the attention the game is receiving, but welcomes the extra preparation time.
"It gives you time for your nicks and bruises to heal," he said. "We are on our regular weekly schedule now, just like if we were in Cincinnati. So this is a good routine for us."
Much is being made about the contrasting personalties of the coaches. Walsh is more cerebral, Gregg more in the Lombardi mold. The 49ers have a 1 a.m. curfew that Walsh says is being loosely monitored. Cincinnati players must be in their rooms by 11 p.m.
Gregg did let his players participate in a whiffle ball game before practice earlier this week. And, for the first time in the franchise's history, the Bengals won't be isolated from their wives the Saturday night before a game.
"Forrest isn't the taskmaster he's made out to be," Walsh said. "In my case, I try to relate to my players on a one-on-one basis. They don't want someone standing over them all the time, telling them what to do. The players are more responsible now, I think. You don't have quite as many free-lance indentities and personalities in football any more."
Ricky Patton, the leading 49er rusher, will start Sunday after missing the NFC title game because of a sore knee. Lenvil Elliott, another 49er halfback, has been slowed this week by a knee injury, but he practiced today . . . Cincinnati receiver Steve Kreider was hurt slightly in an automobile accident after the AFC championship game, but is expected to be ready Sunday . . .
The Colts and Chargers reportedly have discussed trading Bert Jones for Dan Fouts. San Diego officials denied the story . . . Players attracting the most media attention here are quarterbacks Ken Anderson and Joe Montana, Bengal receiver Cris Collinsworth and tackle Anthony Munoz, and 49er defensive end Fred Dean and linebacker Jack Reynolds.