Warrick has incentive

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Bengals rookie receiver Peter Warrick has some money issues with five games left in the season. But he doesn't seem all that harried.

He's 384 receiving yards shy of hitting his $1 million incentive for this season. He needs 801 to get a $500,000 bonus, as well as to trigger a salary bump by $500,000 in each subsequent year of his contract.

Plus, he's getting heat from receivers coach Steve Mooshagian to keep next week's eye exam because he insists Warrick needs contact lenses. If Warrick misses the appointment, it's a $600 fine.

"I've been needing contacts since college," admitted Warrick, who says he'll be there.

But he's not too sure about the incentive. He'd have to average 77 yards per game and he's only done that twice this season and once with quarterback Akili Smith. The last time was last Sunday, when quarterback Scott Mitchell got him the ball a season-high seven times for 79 yards.

"Akili throws a different ball than Mitchell," Warrick said. "Mitchell's ball is more catchable. Akili's ball comes with a lot more heat on them. That's a big factor, too.

"You're putting the pressure on me," said Warrick, asked if he prefers Mitchell or Smith. "Mitchell's going to play, right?. . .Akili's a great quarterback. He's young. I'm young."

Warrick thinks Mitchell's experience was clear against the Patriots, but that Smith can do it.

"Smart quarterback. Puts the ball right there," Warrick said. "If the (defensive back) is right up on you, if the DB is right in front of you, the quarterback throws it behind him, you can adjust. It's smart."

It's called throwing to the receiver's back shoulder and the most experienced player in the Bengals' offense, tight end Tony McGee, thinks it fits this generation of receivers.

"Before, we had big, tall receivers who could leap up and catch it, or run under it," McGee said. "But these guys are quick. They can change direction. That was a smart move on our part. These guys get out of their cuts. That's their game."

Maybe Warrick can get a passing incentive in his deal. If Mitchell can't play, coach Dick LeBeau plans to make Warrick the emergency quarterback if something happens to Smith and Scott Covington.

Warrick, who has already scored a touchdown this season on a sweep after taking a snap at quarterback, is ready.

"I'll get back there and direct traffic," Warrick said. "I'll be like Steve McNair. Donovan McNabb. I'll get back there and hold the fort down."

Warrick shrugs when it comes to his real incentive: "I know it's 801, but I don't know what I get."

It's plenty: P>**

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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 the $1 million with the $500,000 bonus payable on or before March 15.

"We've been very open about it from Day One. We kid about it," Mooshagian said. "I told him when he got to 800, we were going to bench him. But really, I don't think the money interests him all that much. You get around him and he doesn't act like he has any.

"I think what's really driving him right now is getting named to the All-Rookie team," Mooshagian said. "He wants to do well in front of his peers. This kid's got pride."

He has pride, but he most likely won't get the $100,000 that kicks in if he's named AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press or "Pro Football Weekly." That's probably ticketed to Ravens running back Jamal Lewis, 75 yards shy of 1,000 yards.

But Warrick leads all rookie receivers with 37 catches and is third with 417 yards, trailing Kansas City's Sylvester Morris with 565 and Seattle's Darrell Jackson with 428.

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