Updated: 8 p.m.
If anyone knows you've got to tackle Leon Washington low, it sure is one of the Bengals special-teamers that worked with him long and hard in the weight room this offseason and must stop him in Sunday's game (4:15 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) in Seattle.
"He's a very hard worker and he spends a lot of time making his legs strong," linebacker Vincent Rey said before Thursday's practice. "You can't tackle him up high. We're going to have to gang tackle."
Rey, second only to safety Gibril Wilson's six in special teams tackles with five, worked with Washington for about a month at a facility in Raleigh, N.C., and found him to be extremely generous with advice.
"I was just a second-year guy trying to get another year and he's been in the league awhile," Rey said. "He showed me some things as far as running and gave me tips on how to work hard in the weight room because that's something he does all the time. A very nice guy."
Nice but dangerous. Washington, 29, is a six-year veteran splattered throughout the NFL Record and Fact Book in the return game. He's one behind Cleveland's Josh Cribbs for the most career kickoff touchdown returns in NFL history with seven and last season became the first player in history to return three kickoffs for touchdowns in two different seasons.
Washington actually has no career TDs via punt returns, but he's been more dangerous there this season, where he's eighth in the league, and he appeared to win last week's game in Cleveland on an 81-yarder that got wiped out on a borderline holding call.
Washington is struggling with his bread-and-butter on a 24th ranking in kick return for a 22.1-yard average and no TDs. He points to the new rule that has moved up the kickoff to the 35 from the 30 in order to discourage returns. But he does think it's opened up punts.
"You get (fewer) returns. You see guys booming the ball into the end zone," Washington said this week in a conference call with the Cincinnati media. "But in the punt return part of it, if your defense is really good and you can hold guys up, you get a chance to return the ball because teams are so backed up from not having the kick return."
Washington confirmed he has the green light on any kick, even if it's near the back line. "I'm a veteran of returns. I've been doing it long enough so Coach gives me the green light to do what I want to do," he said.
Not exactly what Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons wants to hear. He sees the 5-8, 203-pound Washington as a nightmarish combination of Cribbs and Chicago's Devin Hester.
"Cribbs is a power runner, very strong. Hester has great speed and is very elusive," Simmons said. "This guy is a combination of both ... he does not go down. ... He's like the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going. It's not a game to miss tackles. It's very important to wrap up. The first guy has to make the play and we all have to rally to him."
Simmons also doesn't want that first punt return to come against the Bengals. He compares Washington's ability to cut to former Bengals punt returner Peter Warrick and noted how Washington caught the Browns with a cut right after he caught the ball and then another one in the middle of the field.
"We have to stay in our lanes," Rey said.
With the help of Mike Nugent's 18 touchbacks, the Bengals are 15th covering kicks, along with seventh covering punts in the NFL rankings and Washington has noticed. Asked which guys he's noticed on the Bengals special teams he said, "Mike Nugent is doing a good job kicking the ball. He has a bunch of touchbacks. No. 57 is doing a good job. I'm just getting the scouting reports this week so I'm still trying to learn these guys' names. They're a good group of guys and they're getting it done. No. 51 does a good job also. It will be a tough task."
No. 51 is middle linebacker Dan Skuta. No. 57 is his man Rey.
"He probably doesn't know what my number is," said Rey, who considered it a compliment.
He hopes Washington will be able to put a number to a name Sunday night.
SAM SALUTES LEWIS: With one more victory, head coach Marvin Lewis passes Sam Wyche for most wins in Bengals history and Wyche offered some vintage one-liners Thursday as they both sat on 64 with a game in, of all places, in Seattle this Sunday at 4:15 p.m. on Cincinnati's Local 12.
"You're going to count that one against the Colts without Peyton? OK, be that way," said Wyche, joking about the 27-17 win over the Colts two weeks ago that put Lewis at 64-71-1.
Seriously, Wyche, who went 64-68 from 1984-91 in a run that included the 1988 AFC title, thinks Lewis is "a top flight coach," and says Cincinnati's 4-2 start reminds him of how the 1988 team started from scratch emotionally coming out of the four-win strike season. These Bengals have moved on from Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco and his Bengals moved past the strike and both were rejuvenated.
"That was the training camp I roomed black players with white players," Wyche said. "You have to look at some things, make some hard decisions, and move on and it looks like they've done that."
One of the original Bengals quarterbacks on that 1968 expansion club, Wyche caught the act of the latest Bengals quarterback when he glimpsed a regional telecast at his Pickens, S.C. home.
"He looked good. He even reminded me of the style of a Kenny Anderson or a Virgil Carter," he said of Andy Dalton. "He threw a good, tight pass and made good decisions."
Wyche, 66, spoke from Louisville, Ky., in another vintage Sam vignette. He's attending a trade show for a lawnmower company that in exchange for his services is donating two mowers apiece to four high schools in Pickens County.
"If they need someone to speak or make an appearance, I'll do it and the schools get the mowers," Wyche said. "That's huge because they cost a lot of money and they can't cut the grass."
Wyche had to be reminded that Seattle is the scene of his biggest controversy in a controversial career when on the night of Oct. 1, 1990, after his team got blown out in a Monday night game, he banned a female reporter from the Kingdome locker room citing the privacy of the players.
It was in response to an ugly incident in New England the week before and Wyche was off on a national crusade with his team headquartered in Seattle that week before heading to Los Angeles for a Sunday game against the Rams.
"That week I was on Good Morning America, the Phil Donahue Show, Sam Donaldson's show and the commissioner gave me the biggest fine in history at the time," Wyche said of his effort to get a separate interview room away from the locker room and his disrobing players.
The fine was $30,000, he says, or one game check and not a dime came out of his pocket. He said he received $71,000 in "unsolicited" funds from fans with the NFL telling him they sent the $30,000 to the Brian Piccolo fund. Wyche gave the rest to his charity for the homeless in Cincinnati.
Ironically, Lewis heads to Seattle in the midst of his own media dustup. After musing to a Yahoo.com reporter on Wednesday, "At what point did Carson quit?" (repeating a similar question, the story said), Lewis continued, "At some point last year he decided he didn't want to be here. This didn't happen at the end of the season. There was a point earlier on when he said, 'This isn't the place for me.' "
After Thursday's practice Lewis said it was taken out of context.
That would have been batting practice for Wyche when it comes to controversy, but as the years go by he's remembered more for his innovative coaching and cutting-edge no-huddle than the Wacky-Whacky stuff. The Super Bowl clock is still stuck on 34 seconds.
"I wish I'd won 164 games for Paul Brown and the family," Wyche said. "They helped me a lot. Really, I wish I'd just won 65 games. Jan. 22, 1989. That would have given PB a championship at every level of football."
Told that four Bengals were born after Super Bowl XXIII (Carlos Dunlap, Clint Boling, Ryan Whalen, Robert Sands), Wyche chuckled.
"I'd have to be able to go back and pick one game for the 65th," he said, "and that would be it."
QUICK HITS: Outside linebacker Thomas Howard (hamstring) returned to the field Thursday for the first time since he got hurt in the third quarter 11 days ago against Buffalo and was listed as limited. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (ankle) remained out. Skuta (groin) and cornerback Nate Clements (knee), limited on Wednesday, were on the field Thursday, and were again limited...With the Bengals practicing on Paul Brown Stadium's FieldTurf Thursday in the rain, crowd noise got blasted in at some points as the Bengals prepare for playing in the NFL's loudest stadium.
» The scuttlebutt among some Seahawks observers in Seattle is that both quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral) and running back Marshawn Lynch (back) are going to end up playing. And when Thursday's injury report came out, Lynch went full go and Jackson was limited for the second straight day. Also back full go were three other starters in tight end Zach Miller (neck, head), center Max Unger (foot) and safety Kam Chancellor (knee).