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A new beginning

2-9-02, 5:45 p.m.

On his first day as a Bengal Tuesday, wide receiver Michael Westbrook chatted with Geoff Hobson of as equipment managers Rob Recker and Jeff Brickner outfitted him in stripes.

GH: I guess the equipment guy in Washington sent a note to Rob with your sizes and told him you were great to work with. That's not what the public hears. **

MW:** Everybody on the inside knows it. That's an automatic. The reason (the public doesn't know it) is that I had a rough start with the media. I stopped talking to them for a year after the Stephen Davis thing. I got a reputation because of it.

I didn't understand the whole thing because I didn't have anyone on my side saying, 'You shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that.' Which I think young guys need to have that. It was rough coming up.

GH: The year you didn't talk to the media was after the (practice fight with Davis in 1997)? And you eventually patched things up with Davis, didn't you? **

MW:** Yeah. The last four years we were good friends.

GH: You turned 30 this past Sunday, but you're telling everyone you're 29. Thirty seems a good time to start over. **

MW:** My body feels great.

GH: Do you believe in rebirths? **

MW:** If I was born, I'd have to learn everything all over again. It's not a rebirth, it's just a fresh start. A new beginning. I believe in new beginnings.

GH: Why were you underused in Washington? **

MW:** A long story. It has a lot to do with different coaches, or people just pointing fingers. We weren't winning early, and I guess other people became bitter. It's a long, involved story.

GH: You alluded to (former Redskins head coach) Norv Turner not being consistent. One game you would run the ball and the next game you would come out throwing. **

MW:** We would enter a game with so many pass plays and not very many run plays and we would run the ball. I think it needs to be a mix. I guess I'm just a worker bee, and that's who I am. But I have a brain. I know what I see. I'm on the field playing the game. I can see what is making the other team vulnerable. It's s not like I just started playing the game. I'm not here to put anybody down or cause any trouble. I just want to play football.

GH: Is it a rebirth as more than a player? **

MW:** I think I was beginning to be understood late in my career in Washington. It won't be a new beginning as far as Michael Westbrook the guy.

I read in the Jacksonville paper, 'The controversial Michael Westbrook is interested in coming to Jacksonville.' Controversial. That's going to follow me the rest of my life. Even though the controversy was years ago. You haven't heard a peep from me in six years.

The (Arizona receiver) David Boston thing came up and it was so blown out of proportion. I said to somebody, 'Isn't his Dad a ref?' And I said, 'That's not very fair.' And it went nationwide as fast as that. I couldn't believe how fast. I didn't mean anything by it. I didn't say he was cheating or anything like that. It was 'The controversial Michael Westbrook strikes again.'

Then I got the job with the media (as a weekly Redskins analyst at a D.C. television station) and it seemed like everyone began to understand me.

GH: They think you can help the young receivers. **

MW:** I lead by example. If you want to follow, fine.

GH: You're known as one of those workout warriors. How often do you work out? **

MW:** Every day. In fact, I'm in here now watching these guys work out and it makes me want to get going right now.

GH: You've got a black belt in karate, right? **

MW:** That was three years ago. I don't think it's black anymore. It's probably like green or something.

GH: How badly could you hurt me right now? Could you kick this tape recorder out of my hand? **

MW:** I wouldn't hurt a fly. Only if you were a DB.

GH: Gus Frerotte says when you were younger, you wanted to kill guys at the line of scrimmage even though you had the speed to run by them. **

MW:** That was the mentality when I was in college (at Colorado). Charles Johnson and I were always taught to be physical. Les Steckel was my coach, and he was a Marine guy. He always wanted us to beat guys up. When I first went into the league, all I would do is get my hands on guys and push them away. Now I do both. I know I can run.

GH: What is your scouting report on Gus? **

MW:** Protect him and he'll do the job. Gus is smart. He's got a very accurate arm. I've got respect for him.

GH: Did you guys give him the nickname 'The Sniper," at the Redskins' practices? **

MW:** No, he came in a year ahead of me (in 1994) and he already had it when I got there (in 1995). They gave it to him when he was playing behind Heath Shuler. Shuler and me were supposed to be Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin and it ended up being Gus and I.

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