Waiting on my turn

8-22-02, 5:00 p.m. (This is the third installment of rookie strong safety Marquand Manuel's diary that takes him through the preseason. The Bengals break training camp Friday before their pre-season home opener Saturday night.)

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ We were still in Indy on the bus waiting to leave after the game Saturday and they were saying on the radio that the reason the Bengals won is because they played their second team against the Colts' third and fourth teams.

And I'm thinking, "Wait a minute, I'm on the third team," and I played in the second half. Guys got mad about that. They were upset. It just shows you have to earn it every week. Coming from the University of Florida, that's just the way it is with us. No one is going to give it to you. No one is going to give you anything. You have to go out and take it.

We break camp Friday and our last night off is Wednesday. I think I'm going back to Cincinnati to get my apartment squared away. And my truck is getting shipped up here Wednesday or Thursday, so it will be good to get around on my own again. Down here LT (fellow rookie safety Lamont Thompson) and I have ended up hitchhiking cars to get around at times.

People don't understand that we have to run errands, too, like finding a place to live They might not know while I'm out there making a check on the defense, there are other things I know I have to get done.

I have to jump on getting the apartment myself because it's just me. It's not like the married guys. They had

some apartment people come down here last week and that's how I decided where I would live. It's nice place, over in Covington, Ky., near Riverboat Row. Being a rookie and new to the city, I wanted to be close to the stadium and I don't need anything big. It's a two bedroom. That's all I need, and close.

Sometimes I felt like I was at boot camp down here. You do the same thing every day at the same time. Since we're rookies, we had five guys sleeping in a four-room dorm. Free-agent receiver Chris Archie (released last week) had a bed in the living room and that made it kind of crowded. Waiting your turn for the bathroom and all that.

LT and I are in the same dorm and we've been hanging out together. We've become close. He's an all right guy. I guess it's because we're rookies and play the same position. But he just likes to chill out like I do. We play video games or just talk about what's going on.

All we play is the Madden NFL game. Being a high-round pick, LT made the cut. He's on the game. When I get on there, it will be all right.

The last night off, we were so tired, we didn't do anything. We hitchhiked a car and I drove us to a Popeye's. Then we just came back and chilled. We'll do something if there's something to do, but down here there's not much.

I grade myself after every game and I gave myself a B-minus/C-plus in Indy. I felt I could have reacted quicker to a couple of reads. I could have been faster. I had a lot of plus-minuses, where if I don't get to the ball, it's a wasted play. I still feel like I'm not playing football yet. I'm still thinking first, then playing. I'm still fine-tuning, trying to get sharp.

My whole thing is if I see something new, I only need to see it once. I won't make the same mistake twice. There's something new every day now.

At a walk through Wednesday morning, we had a couple of different zone blitzes. But the offense uses so many different things, and we may be in the same defense, but we have to use different checks.

The offense might come out in trips one time, balance it out the next time, motion somebody who has never been in motion before. You have to go through a whole bunch of things before the ball is snapped.

I gave myself a couple of plusses in Indy. I came up on some crack-back blocks and I did better on special teams this week. I didn't get blindsided like in the first game. It's like freshman year in college. You know what to do, but you have to think first and that cuts down on your reaction time.

On one play last Saturday night, their quarterback, Brock Huard, threw the ball away and at the last minute, I tried to dive to intercept it. I was thinking I should have been quicker and picked it.

I was looking at my No. 1 key and making sure he didn't go deep. Huard ended up trying to throw the ball to the guy in front of me in the slot just to get rid of it. I should have figured he might try that.

It's not bad. I did my job. It was fourth down and we got off the field, but you have to make picks. If I had made the pick, we're in better position. I don't look at making a play like that in a couple of years, but I look at it in a couple of weeks where I'm playing Marquand football.

Flying around, getting to the ball, getting myself calmed down. If they ask you to play 1,000 plays, you play 1,000 plays. If I play my assignment every down mentally and I play every assignment physically, more good things than bad things are going to happen.

LT got one in Indy, his first interception. He's got one on me. He caught a punt return, but he made a good play. The pressure made that possible. Reinard made him throw it in a hurry.

It's kind of hard for me to sit and watch. Everybody asks me why I'm so quiet on the sidelines. I'm always watching the play and trying to stay focused. I'm just waiting on my turn.

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