The Future dawns

**

The latest weekly installment of Bengals wide receiver Kelley Washington's diary of life as a NFL rookie finds him preparing for his first pro start as the second wide receiver Sunday in St. Louis. He has started three games this year as the third receiver, including the last two, and is averaging 14.9 yards on his 18 catches with three touchdowns. Two of his scores are at least 30 yards long.

Now that Peter Warrick is sidelined with torn knee cartilage and missing just the second game of his four-year career, the man who has "The Future," printed on his locker nameplate instead of "Washington," is suddenly very much in the present.**

This a big a game for me, the team, and the city. One of the biggest games of my life. I told receivers coach Alex Wood on Wednesday that this game is going to be a glimpse of the future. This is a glimpse of what we're going to have here. This is why they drafted me.

I knew Wednesday that P.Dub probably wasn't going to play. Guys know. When you see a guy like P.Dub who never gets hurt and never misses a practice, never mind a game, you get that feeling, and I was preparing mentally and physically from Wednesday to be the No. 2 guy.

No one pulled me aside to talk to me or anything like that. I think that little rookie thing is past now with me when they look at me because I have played

in a lot of games and contributed. For me, I'm preparing to play a full 60 minutes, every snap, where before I was only playing about 20-25, mainly on third down. I felt like I had a good week of practice. I was more focused, more aggressive.

I really enjoyed working indoors this week. (The Bengals practiced three days at the Wall2Wall Soccer Complex in Mason.) I felt real quick up there. All the receivers did. I watched some one-on-one tape of the practices and I looked fast. There is a difference playing on turf instead of playing on grass. I use the term it's like somebody shot you out of a cannon. I just felt real explosive. At the end of the season, it's good mentally knowing you have that speed and burst.

I didn't change my routine or anything. I got into the playbook with every detail, really went over it so I had it down pat. We really have two playbooks. One is what they give you when you get here. It's the rookies' offensive playbook and it's about 200 pages. The other one is the weekly game plan for that specific team, and that's about 75 to 100 pages.

That's the one I'm studying, the game plan for the Rams. Usually I'm just looking at mostly the third-down stuff, so there's more to know, but I shouldn't have a problem with it.

They play pretty much a zone, that Tampa Cover 2. They mix it up. They play some man along with that Cover 2. We think they'll keep doing that. We don't think they'll just go straight Cover 2, or get out of what they do defensively just to stop one guy, Chad. We do have a running game and we do have guys that can catch the ball and that's all I'm trying to do. Play a solid game, make some plays down the field, and that should help Chad and everybody.

You feel bad for a player like a P.Dub and we're going to miss him. But you have to realize that this is what happens to second-teamers. They have to step up when somebody can't go and it moves on.

I seem to be comfortable in a dome. I've had some of my biggest games in them. I had (nine catches and 140 yards for Tennessee) in the SEC championship in the Georgia Dome. In the preseason, I almost had 100 yards against Indianapolis. Whatever it is, I like it.

I didn't mind the bus ride up to Mason. I guess it was about a half hour each way. It was a nice change of pace. It was kind of relaxing. I looked out the window and did a little sightseeing on the way up. Took a little nap on the way back. And I took my game plan, so it wasn't bad at all.

I didn't change my routine at all. I watched some extra tape, I guess, maybe a little more than usual. I didn't go out. I probably watched more TV than usual because of what's going on in Iraq and the A-Rod trade, just waiting to see if the Red Sox are going to do that. They'll love him in that city. But I was always keeping an eye on the playbook.

Guys are concentrated on this game. Nobody is thinking about Baltimore. Nobody is thinking about Cleveland. Marvin hasn't talked about playoffs much, if at all. He keeps saying game-by-game, and the guys are just thinking about the Rams. Everyone is excited about this one because it's such a big game against a great team.

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