BY GEOFF HOBSON
For what looks to be the first time ever, one of the agents for the Bengals' No. 1 pick is a hometown guy who has worked well with the team. In a bizarre marriage of Walnut Street and Wilshire Boulevard, former Los Angeles Laker Norm Nixon teamed with Cincinnati businessman and veteran NFL agent James Gould to end a 10-day mystery that began when wide receiver Peter Warrick dropped SFX Sports.
Both sides hope that means Warrick can get signed before training camp starts July 21. Gould, a managing general partner of the Walnut Group, went as far to say he's never had a holdout with his two dozen past and present NFL clients and, "Norm and I talked a lot about this, Peter's talked with us and there's no reason for it and I don't expect it to happen and it won't happen."
While Warrick locked up his agents today, the Bengals continued to think they locked up the best player in the NFL Draft after watching Warrick in the three-day minicamp that ended this afternoon.
"He's got good hands and he looks dangerous with the ball," said Bengals President Mike Brown. "He can help us by doing more than just playing receiver."
Gould, whose partners include Fred Mayerson, Dan Staton and Joe Gantz, has as much on the line in Cincinnati with a possible holdout as do the Bengals. Katie Blackburn, the club's lead negotiator who will do the Warrick deal, sees advantages in a local agent because of face time. But she also knows the negotiations won't be a walkover.
"Whenever you have the ability to sit down with anyone face-to-face, that's going to help," Blackburn said. "We're glad Peter has made a choice. We don't expect it to be easy, but we look forward to sitting down and talking and that should be easier with Jimmy in town."
When Brown heard Gould and Nixon are officially Warrick's agents, he joked, "We've got to get the deal done now or Caroline is in trouble with her playing time."
Caroline is Brown's 5-year-old granddaughter, the daughter of Katie Blackburn. Gould is her soccer coach. As Gould shook Brown's hand in the Spinney Field lobby tonight, he was back in the spot where two years ago he and Brown worked together to trade disgruntled Bengal Dan Wilkinson to Washington for the No. 1 pick that turned out to be one of Cincinnati's top players in linebacker Brian Simmons.
"That's where the trust factor is," Gould said. "I told Mike I wouldn't embarrass him or attack him. I have high regard for Mike and Katie."
It was in the Spinney lobby where Brown told Warrick's stepfather, Charles Williams, that the Bengals have high regard for his stepson after watching him this weekend. JoAnn Willams flew back to Florida with her son, but Charles stayed to take a stadium tour with Gould, Nixon and Jeff Berding, the club's head of community affairs.
"(Warrick) is a bright guy, you can have a good conversation with him," Brown told Williams. "And I don't have to tell you that on the field he's capable of doing many things. We're glad to have him. I think he's going to help us. We've got a good young quarterback and I think they're going to be together for a long time and that should work out for both."
Williams, a minister at the Mount Raymond Full Gospel Baptist Church in Palmetto, Fla., told Brown he thought God put Warrick in Cincinnati for a reason as Paul Brown Stadium nears completion. Williams said, "I know you play hard ball (in negotiations), we just want him treated fairly."
Brown told him, "We plan to," and brought Williams over to a model of the new stadium.
Nixon, Magic Johnson's backcourt mate on two NBA champions, is the point guard of this deal. Otherwise known as Mr. Debbie Allen, Nixon has done more big deals in the entertainment industry than in sports. But he's used to producing big numbers. He did a $25 million deal for the musical group TLC, a $10 million package for the NBA's Jalen Rose, and he figures he's done more than a hundred million dollars worth of deals.
Gould and Nixon, who have known each other a few years, started working on this partnership on Friday after Nixon had Warrick in the fold. Warrick was clearly attracted to Nixon's on-court success "It's a great honor meeting someone like Norm Nixon and we're a team for life," and Nixon emphasized post-career deals loom for his client.
Warrick wouldn't say why he dropped SFX, only that, "they were great." Nixon disputed reports Warrick spent much of the $500,000 line of credit SFX gave him.
"Not even close," Nixon said. "Whatever he owes them, they'll get paid." Nixon felt Warrick wanted to deal with a smaller company.
With Mayerson's ties to Broadway, Nixon hopes to bring some shows to Cincinnati, such as his wife's one-woman portrayal of Harriet Tubman. Allen takes that show to Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center next spring.
"This partnership can benefit the community, the Bengals and Peter," Gould said.
At the moment, Warrick isn't trying to look past the 24 days he has left on his community service, stemming from his problems when he got $400 worth of merchandise for about $20. From 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Warrick figures he walks "eight country miles," picking up trash along the Tallahassee roads. It's made even tougher when nearly everyone who spots him knows who he is. But he's good enough to sign autographs when requested. "We knew that everything would blow over, that we wouldn't continue to dwell on it or make us sick," Charles Williams said. "(But) everybody has always wanted to hold on to it. ... Let it be buried. He made a mistake. He always opened his statements, 'I'm moving forward.' Let the past be the past."
Warrick continued to say it after the last workout of minicamp.
"I'll be a man about it," Warrick said. "They want you to walk and think about what you did. It's a learning experience for me. It's making a better man out of me."
Warrick says he now has plenty of time to think about the Bengals' playbook: "All right, let's go ahead and run this stick route."
The stick route is a 10-yard stop pattern, the kind the Bengals hope he can bust for 30 more yards with his elusiveness after the catch. Coach Bruce Coslet is already starting him in Carl Pickens' old split end spot, and plans to use him in the slot and on the outside when the Bengals go with three receivers.
"We knew what we had athletically," Coslet said. "He absorbed the offense fairly well."
Warrick said if one thing surprised him at minicamp, it was that he's learning the system faster than he thought. He's getting help from veteran receivers Darnay Scott and James Hundon, and the Bengals were also impressed with his soft hands, body control and good routes.
Plus, his mindset helps: "That football is mine or it's nobody's. That's the attitude you have to have as a receiver."
The Bengals are glad he won't have agents on his mind when he arrives for voluntary workouts May 16.