4-05-01, 11:05 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Peter Warrick is opening eyes with his eyes during the four weeks he's caught everything at Paul Brown Stadium but the mumps.
Warrick's case of the drops got so bad last year during a rookie year he caught 51 balls that he got shipped to the doctor's office to get contacts for his vision.
But Warrick has felt so good and sharp during these informal workouts, he never plans to wear them. It turns out hand-eye coordination exercises, those endless basketball shooting games of HORSE in the PBS gym, and flat-out concentration have done wonders for allowing him to see the tip of the football well enough and getting him thinking of a 100-catch season.
"It's all a mind frame," Warrick said after Thursday's session. "Last year, I was thinking so much. Now I'm just worried about catch and tuck, catch and tuck. That's all. And I'm lighter. I was at 204 pounds last year and I'm looking to be at 195. I'm about 198 now and I feel quicker and better."
Warrick may be lighter, but his goal isn't. He's shooting this season for, "96 to 100 catches. Keep it real. That's just a goal. You have to set your goals high. It's the only way you get good."
Receivers coach Steve Mooshagian says this is the best Warrick has looked since the Bengals drafted him: "He's maturing. It's his second time around. I think he was embarrassed a little bit by the drops and to get kind of labeled with that bothered him.
"He's worked hard. You have to hand it to him," Mooshagian said. "They shoot baskets for hours in there and I think that's one of things that have helped him."
MILI PASSED: The Bengals have decided not to pursue Seattle tight end Isatula Mili. Mili, a restricted free agent, visited PBS Thursday, but the Bengals have decided to concentrate on signing defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield. Stubblefield is the Cincinnati product the club feels is the best free agent on the market. Plus, the Bengals are having a tough time signing one of a trio of cornerbacks in Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber, Chicago's Walt Harris, and San Diego's DeRon Jenkins. The club is talking to the agent for its former corner, Tom Carter, a month after releasing Carter's $2.4 million salary.
The Bengals felt there are bigger needs for a team that has two tight ends signed in Tony McGee and Marco Battaglia.
Plus, Seattle has about $7 million under the salary cap and is talking an awful lot like the Bengals. About $4 million is for the 10 draft choices in their rookie pool, so they would have enough money to match a possible offer sheet on Mili.
Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren told free agents this week that the market is going to be tight. Then on Wednesday he promptly signed Steelers former Pro Bowl linebacker Levon Kirkland to less than $3 million per year. It's believed Kirkland's deal is for three years and $7.5 million with $2 million to sign.
The Bengals could also be thinking about Mili and next year and broke the ice by having him visit. Two years ago, the Bengals set up a visit with restricted free agent Ton Barndt, a Chiefs defensive tackle, and didn't make an offer. But they signed him last year, once Barndt was unrestricted.
ROBINSON STRUGGLES: Mooshagian went to North Carolina State to see Koren Robinson's workout and came away disappointed again.
During the last week in March, Robinson, projected as a top 10 pick, pulled up lame at his college workout day on the 40-yard dash. Robinson tried to do it too soon again Thursday, even though the hamstring pull clearly bothered him through a slower than expected 40.
"You have to hand it to the kid," Mooshagian said. "He tried. But it was tough for him."