Washington hits debut

8-14-03, 11:15 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ On a night the Bengals are expected to mix-and-match certain players with their first units, rookie wide receiver Kelley Washington is probably the most intriguing newcomer.

There are plenty of other things to anticipate when the Bengals play the Lions Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium:

Head coach Marvin Lewis insists he won't take a detour from his plan to pursue a victory.

"When these guys are playing PlayStation they want to win," Lewis said. "We want to win, but we're going to stay with the plan and get guys the correct reps and make sure we get the tools of evaluation."

And the 6-3, 215-pound Washington could be an ideal kid to get a shot with the first teamers in his NFL debut. He thinks he'll get a snap or two with the big guys, but Bengals' fans may not get that glimpse of the future with Washington and Chad Johnson the wide receivers and Peter Warrick in the slot because Warrick could be attending his grandfather's funeral.

But less than a week after leaving the team on the eve of the pre-season opener to get a second medical opinion on his neck, Washington said after Wednesday night's practice he wants to get hit after making that first catch.

"I hope I get hit over the middle or get hit on the outside," Washington said. "Hopefully it's by a linebacker, but whoever, I'm not worried about it. It's not an issue anymore. I'm ready to go out there and play."

Washington sounds like he realizes his 11th-hour move didn't please many people. Lewis was quite impressed that after losing Washington to dehydration during Wednesday morning's practice, he came out rolling at the night practice.

"He came back and practiced well when we didn't expect to see him a lot in this practice," Lewis said.

Washington says he's anxious and excited to play his first game in 10 months, or ever since he suffered a concussion at Georgia in an Oct. 12 game. A month later he had surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck.

"I want to make some plays so the coaches and team will know I'm a gamer," Washington said. "I know mentally I'm a gamer. I want to be able to show it on the field, so I'm excited about it.

Washington is a 24-year-old veteran of minor-league baseball who played just 17 games of football at Tennessee. But in 13 of them as a freshman he caught 70 balls for 1,080 yards. In the four last year before he got hurt, he averaged 19.3 yards for his 23 catches. He has picked up on the buzz and that people are expecting big things from him.

"I think so because they heard what I did in college," Washington said. "They can see me out here running with Chad and the other guys and what this offense can be when it all connects. It's exciting when you have a guy such as Chad who has so much vertical speed on the outside, and Warrick who is so quick and savvy in the middle of the field and Danny (Farmer) and T.J. (Houshmandzadeh complement them. I'm in the mix as kind of a big, physical guy who has speed on the outside."

That's what they want to see. Receivers coach Alex Wood, besides catching and precise routes, wants to see "physical explosiveness."

"With just the speed, a lot of DBs run just as fast as I am. That's where I have to make my game. Being physical along with my speed," Washington said.

The first offensive line, centered by converted guard Mike Goff, will play about a half along with rest of the starters. Bratkowski made it clear Thursday they have options (he wouldn't name them) if the experiment doesn't pan out. Despite Goff's muffed snap on Sunday's third play of the game, Bratkowski thinks, "He's been pretty good."

"He's still fighting some things with the snaps, which a guy that moves to center always does," Bratkowski said. "That's an important issue. The consistency of the snap with all the different things, and we found in the game the other day that there are things he's not used to yet. He made a call, got the late snap, a fumbled snap, which are things we can't live with. He's still growing into the position and hopefully these things get rectified before the preseason is over. We're fortunate that we have a few options at a few positions."

But Bratkowski wouldn't get into options, although Lewis said second year man Thatcher Szalay is the next best option.

"I think Mike is our best option at center, and we have to see where our best options are at other places," Lewis said.

For the moment, he has opted to put Ross ahead of Foley at strong-side backer as Foley hammers at the rust from missing the past 20 regular-season games with injuries.

"Adrian has really improved," Frazier said. (Foley) has missed a lot of time and Adrian is a little further ahead in that regard. We think Steve is going to be fine, but right now Adrian is a little quicker than Steve on some things."

SCREENS AND SWEEPS: TE Matt Schobel (hamstring), DT Ron Smith (arm), and MLB Tito Rodriguez (knee) are out for the Lions game. Rodriguez had arthroscopic surgery this week and must be out at least a couple of weeks. The following players are questionable for Saturday: CB Jeff Burris, RG Matt O'Dwyer, WR Peter Warrick (ankle). Warrick said he could play with the sore ankle, but he may be headed to his grandfather's funeral instead of playing Saturday. . .

Cameron Logan, 10, of Danville, Ky., the Bengal-for-a-Day winner from a contest run by the "Lexington Herald-Leader," nearly caught a touchdown pass during Wednesday night's goal-line session, and quarterback Jon Kitna took some heat for trying to fire it into him.

But Cameron, who won a drawing after writing a paragraph on why he wanted to do this, had fun anyway. Head coach Marvin Lewis called him out to lead cals ("He told me, 'Where were you? Let's hurry up.'") and Lewis let him sit in on a meeting with tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes. When Lewis called the team up after practice, he led the applause for Cameron. As he left, Hayes told him, "Football is great, sports are great, but the first thing you have to do is your lessons." . ..

**

GAME TIME CALL:** After Bengals rookie quarterback Carson Palmer missed his second straight practice at Georgetown College with a sore right foot Thursday morning, the club said it will make a game -time decision regarding his status for Saturday's 7:30 p.m. preseason game against Detroit at Paul Brown Stadium. Running back Corey Dillon, who left Wednesday morning's practice with a twisted ankle and missed the afternoon workout, did suit up Thursday morning and is expected to play. One of his blockers got pushed into him as they tangled on an outside play.

"Carson is on schedule from what our doctors and trainers have told us about his foot and he'll be evaluated shortly before kickoff on Saturday," said club spokesman Jack Brennan.

Palmer is having a bout with "plantar fascitis," which is a problem on the bottom of his foot near the heal that he uses to plant to throw. It apparently comes in many different forms and how each patient bounces back depends on the individual.

For instance, Rams defensive end Grant Wistrom

did it to both of his feet in late June during a personal workout. He had to rest his feet for a good three weeks before returning, but when he did he got a sack in the pre-season opener and looks to be at full speed, so there really is no set time to gauge it.

The Bengals have only a walk-through practice scheduled for Friday, but that could be a key day in how Palmer's responds to treatment.

If Palmer is healthy, he'll be thrown in against the Lions some time during the first half. Head coach Marvin Lewis indicated at Wednesday's news conference at Georgetown College that his coaches feel Palmer is at that stage in his development. Palmer, who practiced in limited fashion in the morning, is to follow starter Jon Kitna into the game some time during the second quarter and No. 3 Shane Matthews will check into the game some point in the second half.

"We want (Palmer) to play with our better group of guys this time and go from there," said Lewis, who played him the entire second half last week against the Jets.

Lewis said he plans to play Palmer only if he has mobility, but the thinking is the treatment will improve it daily. Palmer said it felt good in the morning workout even though the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot near the heel has been partially torn, but he's getting a batch of ice, electrical stimulation, and medication, and a doctor cleared him to go for Wednesday's first practice.

"Just play through it. It will be fine," Palmer said. "Got to let it heal. It's been so swollen after I messed it up, that you have to let the swelling go down and now it feels better. I probably could have sprinted, but it's just not worth it to sprint right now and take off and run just because I want to let it heal as much as possible before the game."

Other Lewis news conference highlights from Wednesday:

On becoming a winner: "Making plays under pressure. . . It's hard to hold other people accountable when you don't make plays yourself."

Also Wednesday, the Bengals released strong safety Deloise Moore, a free agent rookie out of Troy State. Moore missed the trip to New Jersey for the pre-season opener with a hamstring problem.

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