7-2-02, 11:45 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Michael Westbrook and Gus Frerotte haven't had the chance to see each other in years. But both can't help be highly intrigued by their impending training camp reunion when the Bengals convene in three weeks.
From 1995-98 in Washington D.C., it will be recalled, Frerotte was the Redskins quarterback and Westbrook his extremely talented but erratic big-play receiver.
"If he's going to be the guy, we'll click right away," said Westbrook of Frerotte Tuesday after he agreed to a three-year deal with the Bengals.
"If he's running as fast as you guys say he is, that's going to be very interesting," said Frerotte of Westbrook when he heard the news Tuesday night. "I'm looking forward to being with him again. You guys saw how big he is and he can catch. I think getting a fresh start is good for guys and this will be good for him."
A new start is what Frerotte sought when he signed up for a training camp competition with Jon Kitna two months ago . After seven up-and-down seasons with the Redskins plagued by some highly publicized tantrums, the 6-3, 220-pound Westbrook is also looking for a rebirth as a consistent go-to veteran leader.
"There were times we had our differences, but we were both young and it sounds like he's matured and I think I have," Frerotte said. "It's a thing where you learn to shut up and just do your job. He went through
some tough times and learned how fickle the league and coaches can be. I think he'll be able to show our young guys some things.'
For instance, Frerotte doesn't see the events of Nov. 23, 1997 repeating themselves. That's when Westbrook was hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for ripping off his helmet to argue a spot in what looked to be the Redskins' winning drive in the fourth quarter against the Giants. Instead, the penalty killed the drive and the Redskins ended up tying New York in overtime in a season they finished 8-7-1 and lost a playoff berth to the 9-7 Lions.
"He took a lot of the heat off me in that game," Frerotte said. "Yeah, I would think you could say we wouldn't do now what we did then."
What people forget is that in the first half of that game, Frerotte celebrated a score by head-butting a wall. His shoulder stiffened and he couldn't play in that fourth quarter.
"There's no question that we hooked up on some nice plays," Frerotte said. "I'm looking forward to getting it going with him again."
The Bengals haven't averaged six yards per pass attempt since quarterback Jeff Blake left after the 1999 season. That's a major reason they went out and got Frerotte's 7.02 yards career yards per pass. It's also a major reason they opted for Westbrook, who has averaged 15.2 yards per catch in his last two full seasons, in response to Darnay Scott's murky status.
Frerotte remembers Westbrook as a big guy who not only could, but insisted on physically overpowering defenders at the line of scrimmage instead of using his speed to release.
"He just wanted to kill people and he could, but it would tie him up," Frerotte said. "The guy is so physically talented. He not only can run down the field, but he's strong enough to break tackles."