BY GEOFF HOBSON - GEORGETOWN, Ky.
At some point this week, first-round pick Peter Warrick turned to one of his veteran teammates and asked if he thought the guys thought the Bengals were going to be good this season.
"He said 'Yeah,' " Warrick recalled. "And then I asked him if they thought the same thing last year and he said, 'No.' "
Warrick, coming off a national championship at Florida State, knows a good team when he sees one and he thinks this is a good one.
"We might win the Super Bowl, you never know," Warrick told a small group of sportswriters today here at Georgetown College. "Anything is possible."
Warrick later elaborated, "People said this team isn't good and I'm thinking we are good. I just see guys making plays. I've been on good teams and teams that weren't good but still ended up being good. I think we've got a chance to make it. I think the defense is the focal point. They're good. I hear people down on them, but they get after the ball and (linebackers Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons) have something going on."
It looks like the magic number for Warrick is 96 catches. He says he'd like to average six a game. That's not counting reverses and passes. As Warrick floated a pass to receiver Darnay Scott in drills, he exclaimed, "Look at this guy run."
But for all the underneath stuff the Bengals are putting in the offense to exploit Warrick's elusiveness, his favorite pattern is the corner route. Warrick, who along with college teammate Ron Dugans is probably the best route runner on the team thanks to Florida State's pro set, likes to set up the cornerback on a particular 15-yard route.
"Take him to the post, make him turn his shoulders 'I got you' and turn to the corner," Warrick said.
He's reflective about the punishment he received from the state of Florida last year for petty theft. He has three more days to pick up trash along Tallahassee's highways to complete his 30-day community service, but he wonders if his time might have been better served telling kids, "Everything that's free is not good."
"Being on the side of the road picking up trash is humiliating," Warridck said. "A lot of people would ride by me and ask for my autograph and I'd still give it to them, but that's humiliating. I felt like my punishment was worse than my crime. I know I messed up and nobody messed it up but me. I know that's something I had to do."
By the way, at the end of practice today, Warrick was hovering at his prescribed weight of 196 pounds, five pounds lighter than Friday's first day.
KICKOFF COMPETITON:Punter Brad Costello defended his title in the Bengals' second kickoff competition today, but kicker Doug Pelfrey had such a strong showing that special teams coach Al Roberts told him it looked like he was excited to kick off.
"I was one of the best kickoff guys in the country coming out of college, but I got out of practicing it," Pelfrey said. "Brad is going to be our kickoff guy in my mind, but this is going to make me better. Now I'm kicking off, not just trying to kick it down the field."
Whether it's in time to help Pelfrey in his roster battle with sixth-round pick Neil Rackers remains to be seen, but he appears to look more settled than the rookie in the first two kickoff rounds. His best of five kicks was five yards deep into the end zone with a 3.91-second hang time. Pelfrey's visit with Dolphins kicking coach Doug Blevins last month appears to be working on two fronts:
His plant foot, which was too far past the ball, is now aligned so the tee is across from the middle of his foot.
He's keeping his shoulders more level instead of dipping them and leaning back. More of his body is now over the ball.
"It's not like an 8-iron anymore where I'm trying to play it safe," Pelfrey said.
GOFF BALL:Center Rich Braham has missed the last three practices with knee bursitis and the club is concerned enough to have left guard Mike Goff working at center for the first time in his career. Braham expects to work Wednesday morning's practice and doesn't expect to miss any games because of it. But it will have to be drained often the upcoming season and monitored closely.
Meanwhile, Goff expressed amazement at how Braham moved from left guard to center last year in training camp and started all 16 games.
"The linemen are right across from you and all over you, you don't have much room," Goff said. "It's not easy. The toughest thing is taking a step and snapping at the same time. You have to get into a little rhythm."
NICE LEAGUE:How good was the Citrus Belt League in southern California in the mid 1970s? Two Pro Football Hall of Famers played in that loop and one of them, former Bengals left tackle Anthony Munoz, is headed to Canton to see the other, safety Ronnie Lott, enshrined in the Hall this weekend.
Munoz, analyst for the Bengals' preseason games on Channel 12, visited camp today and recalled how he helped recruit Lott to USC. Lott was coming out of Rialto, Calif., and Munoz was a year out of Ontario, Calif. Ironically, when the vote came down last January in Atlanta, Munoz was in the same hotel giving a speech and he rushed down in time to hug Lott before the press conference as his friend broke down.
"He was a point guard in basketball, a shortstop in baseball and a safety-quarterback in football," Munoz said. "I went to his home and what a great mother and father. You could tell where he got his great work ethic. He was just like he is when he was a freshman in college. Just as serious and football meant a lot to him."
* INJURY UPDATE:*
- G Brian DeMarco (low back strain) will practice as tolerated. TE Damian Vaughn ( two bruised knees) is day-to-day. S Lawrence Wright (bruised ribs) could return Wednesday in limited fashion. LB Adrian Ross (bruised ribs) returned today with no problems.