6-26-03, 8:05 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Tight end Sean Brewer may be fighting for a roster spot. But he's doing it in the best shape of his life.
Center Mike Goff may be moving positions. But he's leaving 10 pounds at right guard.
Wide receiver Peter Warrick may have once complained about being used like a tight end. But now he's not built like one as attempts to shear the last of his dozen pounds the club wants off him when he reports to Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., July 27.
"If I come in at camp at 192 where they want me," Warrick mused Wednesday, "I'm going to be special. I'm going to have a hell of a year."
With 32 days left until training camp, the only activity is in the weight room.
The Bengals are pretty much at a standstill roster-wise. With national sources reporting the club about $3 million under the NFL's salary cap (17 teams have more), about all they have left is what they need to ink their six unsigned draft choices, plus a pad for injuries. They are at the point where if they add a player, it is probably going to be for a minimum salary replacing another minimum salary.
The Bengals Wednesday did release cornerback Tierre Sams, a first-year cornerback who just returned from NFL Europe. Yet the only numbers crunching around Paul Brown Stadium these days aren't on a contract, but on a scale or on a body fat percentage as the Bengals brace for head coach Marvin Lewis' first training camp under an extensive off-season conditioning program prepared by first year strength and conditioning coaches Chip Morton and Kurtis Shultz.
Even that stops at the end of this week, when many players break for the Fourth of July and won't gather again until camp. But Morton and Shultz are sending them home with a 70 or so page booklet that contains daily workouts, a nutrition guide, and position drills for the next five weeks.
"Just the addition of those two guys means we're going to win more games," Goff said of Morton and Shultz. "I don't think you're going to hear any more people saying it always takes us five games into the season to play our way into shape."
If Morton and Shultz took their act on the road, their two exhibits of the work they've done since they arrived in January would be Goff, down to 305 pounds from 315, and Brewer, down from 23 percent body fat to 13.
"Those are two guys who have been here since the beginning. Even before we had the new weight room installed," Morton said. "That's 18 to 20 weeks. You should see some type of difference in the body, and to these guys credit, you can."
When the Bengals drafted Brewer in the third round in 2001, they were both ripped for his soft body. He showed up with 23 percent body fat and didn't get rid of it until this year with the help of the strength coaches and a wife who is a fitness enthusiast.
"I've worked as hard as I've ever worked and they've done a good job here," Brewer said. "I've seen it right from the beginning because I've been here when they were getting the new equipment and the weight-room was a shambles. It's not only helped me, but I can see how it's helped other people."
Now, Brewer looks like a different guy, and so does Goff. Goff says he usually played at 315 pounds, but is now anywhere from 302 to 305 pounds. Morton says kindly, "His waist to chest ratio has changed dramatically," which simply means he no longer has the big belly. He's not talking out of school. Goff knows, saying it's the best shape he's been since he arrived in the third round out of Iowa in 1998.
"We have the same program that every team in the NFL now has," Goff said. "My body has been worked in ways it's never been worked. We're doing different exercises, running different kind of agility drills for foot speed, and I think it's going to make me a better player. I do think it's going to make us a better team. Marvin has already told us he's not going to let us be mediocre."
Goff, who has talked about becoming a chef after his playing days, also thinks Lewis' addition of a nutritionist is going to help him even more when the season gets going.
Defensive end Justin Smith needed to spend more time in the weight room like J.Lo needs another photo in "People," but even he has found some benefits of the new program.
"My legs feel a little stronger, the lower half of my body feels a little more stronger," Smith said. "We've got a lot more machines and there's been more emphasis on legs. I see a difference not so much in me, but the team. We're crisper, we're in better shape."
Brewer could be running up against the treadmill against a tight end field that includes newly-acquired Reggie Kelly, Matt Schobel coming off the most productive season by a Bengals' tight end in years, and blocking specialist Tony Stewart. But he has made himself a factor by showing up as much as anyone in the offseason, although he did find time to get married in March.
His wife, a soccer player at their alma mater of San Jose State, has helped her husband change his four major food groups. They are no longer McDonald's, Wendy's,Burger King, and Pizza Hut.
"She told me to think about it more as a lifestyle change than a diet," Brewer said. "We're just eating healthy around the house. She likes to cook. After I get out of work here, I go home to eat lunch and that does a lot."
Morton also gives the chest-to-waist ratio line on Brewer and says he has been a model player. But what do you do with a guy like Warrick who already had the ridiculously low body fat in the high 7s back in March?
"He was already a pretty lean guy," Morton said. "With him, body fat wasn't an issue. Just trying to get him a little lighter, and maybe a little quicker."
Somehow the 5-11 Warrick is still in whole numbers for body fact (5), but he's also at 196 pounds, down from 204. They would like him at 192 on July 27, but he's not sure he can get there. He knows he will definitely be there after camp.
"If I come in at 192, then I'll be 187, 188 at the end of it and that would be something else, that would make me special," Warrick said. "I haven't lost quickness, but we'll see."
Warrick said it's a combination of the program and the fact he's working harder. He's been saying for months, "I'm looking for the Peter Warrick I know," and he says that's a season of 75 catches and 1,100 yards.
"It was like the other day when we did our running," Warrick said. "I came in at 198. I had a long weekend. But when I left that day, I was 195. Last year, I would have showed up at 198 and left at 198."
Morton is confident that if the players use his booklet as a guideline, they can maintain what they've built. He couldn't have made it much easier. For each of the five daily workouts over the next five weeks, players can simply rip out the page. The position coaches also worked with Morton and Shultz in coming up with individual drills tailored to what they're playing.
"If they at least use it as a mark, as a guide, they should be fine," Morton said. "It doesn't have to be the same kind of workout to the letter. But the key is the intensity and the consistency of the workouts."
But there are also guys like Goff and Brewer who are taking a break, but not for very long, and who won't have to go by the book.
"I'll go visit some people around the Fourth," Goff said. "But that's it. I'll be back."