10-18-01, 8:40 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Peter (Warrick) Principle is this:
He'll do whatever it takes to win. He'll practice hard every day. He won't put his stats above the team.
But he also feels that every play can be a big play.
Warrick calls them his homeboys and they remember the gaudy days at Florida State when he averaged 15 yards every time he touched the ball.
And they are in his ear after every Bengals' game, where he has averaged 11 yards per touch in 21 NFL games.
Which, if they check, is a first down in Cincinnati as well as in Tallahassee. And only three wide receivers in the AFC Central have more catches than Warrick's 22 receptions.
And he's on pace to cash that $500,000 incentive that eluded him last year. As well as rack up the most prolific Bengals' receiving season since Carl Pickens caught 82 balls in 1998.
But that doesn't seem to matter to the guys who saw him score 38 touchdowns in four years.
"Tell them to take you out of that slot."
"Put you back on the outside like you were at Florida State."
"They don't think you can go deep."
"I feel like that sometimes, too," said Warrick Thursday of that elusive deep ball. "At least try sometimes. Nobody's going to catch me, I know that. . .I'm happy with what I'm doing, but I wouldn't mind going deep once in awhile."
Warrick is saying all the right things. He knows it's not all about him being the man, but about helping the team win. He looks back to
last year at this time when the Bengals were 0-5 and thinking, "This can't be true," and how much better it is now with a healthy Darnay Scott and the impending return of an injured Chad Johnson taking the receiving burden off him.
"I'm not mad," Warrick said. "If I was mad, I'd let it be known."
But he is concerned. Just like running back Corey Dillon, the Peter Principle feels it needs to get the ball to get into the flow. He'd like to get it at least every quarter and run at least one reverse every game to get a rhythm. To feel it.
Sometimes, Warrick feels like the Bengals forget about him for stretches. Plus, he flogs himself because he's only scored one touchdown all season after scoring eight last year three different ways.
His two big plays that set up both Bengal touchdowns last week against Cleveland got him a game ball. But it also served as a reminder that his 33-yard catch was his longest since his first NFL game, and his 31-yard punt return accounts for all but 18 of this season's return yards.
Yet, the Bengals are quite pleased with how Warrick has played. After five games last year, he had
just 16 catches for 225 yards and one touchdown, and two rushes for 11 yards, and no punt returns.
This year, he's already got 22 catches for 198 yards and a touchdown, and 23 yards on three rushes, and 49 yards on eight punt returns.
Modest numbers, maybe, but he has contributed consistently to three wins and hasn't had nearly the dropped passes of his rookie season.
Not only that, if he gets 801 or more receiving yards, or averages 18.6 yards for at least 32 catches, or scores 76 points or more, or catches at least 70 balls, he gets a $500,000 bonus and his salary in each of the next four seasons gets bumped $500,000.
And he's on pace for 70.4 catches.
"That's his personality," said receivers coach Steve Mooshagian. "Pete is always looking to make the big play.
I think the frustration is probably with his yards per catch. But you saw some things Sunday that show you he's going to get more yardage. He's starting to make that one move and then go north instead of all the jukes."
That's what happened on his 33-yard catch, his longest since a 46-yarder against the Browns 13 months ago. He also did it on the punt return, but he doesn't want to admit he was a little more north than usual.
"I try to see the whole field and run off the first butt," Warrick said. " If I was north and south, I don't want any of that. That's a kick returner. I'll leave that to (Curtis) Keaton."
With Johnson out at least six more games, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is going to keep Warrick in the slot in a three-receiver set, which the Bengals aren't always in. He's on the outside when the Bengals go with two receivers.
Bratkowski is going to keep Warrick in the slot because he doesn't want to respond to the Johnson injury by making two players switch instead of just one.
"We're all about balance," Bratkowski said. "We try to get the ball to a lot of different people. Some games it's going to be there. Some games it's not going to be there. We've been doing reverses and handing off to him, but you can't do the same thing with the same guy all the time and become predictable."
Mooshagian is counseling patience. He figures Warrick gets his 70 catches, about 20 runs, and about 30 punt returns before the year is through.
"He'll have chances to break some big ones," Mooshagian said.
The Peter Principle is this:
"I can make something happen," Warrick said.