Weathersby treading to Cincy

6-6-03, 4 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Rookie cornerback Dennis Weathersby is not only up and around, but he's working on the treadmill as he prepares for his first visit to Cincinnati in 10 days.

Weathersby, injured in a drive-by shooting Easter Sunday in his hometown of Duarte, Calif., said Friday the plan continues to be that he'll be able to work in training camp's first practice on July 28.

"They tell me my blood (level) is pretty much back to normal, but I can't really tell you how I'm going to feel until I get out there and start doing things," he said.

Weathersby can't be here for next week's mandatory minicamp because his class at Oregon State doesn't graduate until next weekend. After he walks down the aisle to get his degree in liberal studies, he'll go home for a day and then get to Cincinnati on Tuesday, June 17.

"The news recently is very encouraging," said secondary coach Kevin Coyle. "For awhile, things slowed down a little bit, but in the last

10 days or so, he seems to be back on a quick track. The big thing is once he gets here, he'll be able to get with our conditioning people and they'll be able to see how far he's come and what he needs to do."

The fact that Weathersby was able to start running less than six weeks after the April 20 shooting is a bit amazing in itself. Although he got shot in the back and the bullet went out his torso and lodged in his bicep, it apparently didn't do any major damage except for massive blood loss. He said Friday the bullet did nick a lung, but he said he hasn't had that much trouble breathing while he runs.

"I'm not obviously back to where I was before I got shot," Weathersby said. "It's going to be a process. But I'm feeling better."

Weathersby said he's now able to get out of the house and drive a car. The coaches have been impressed with the work he's doing on the tapes they've sent him.

"It looks like they're playing more zone than I'm used to playing," said Weathersby, a bump-and-run corner in college.

Coyle and assistant Louie Cioffi looked into visiting Weathersby in California last week so they could at least walk through some concepts with him on the field. But since rookies can only be at NFL facilities for no more than three days within two weeks after the April 26-27 draft and then not again until their college graduates, the club discovered it also couldn't visit him in the same time frame.

"You can tell he's watched and studied what we've sent him because we've had good conversations with him about the defense," Coyle said. "But there's no question it's going to be imperative we spend a lot of time with him before training camp."

Coyle and Cioffi are going to tag team him through the end of this month and July. If one of them isn't on vacation, chances are the other will be at Paul Brown Stadium working with Weathersby. Some observers have penciled in Weathersby to start almost right away after slipping out of the late first round on some boards into the first pick of the fourth round. But defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is more cautious.

"I don't know about starting," Frazier said, "but we are hoping unlike some rookies that come into the league that he would be mature enough to handle the cornerback position early on to give us something. How soon? Who knows? His situation is so different than other rookies. We're looking for him to contribute. But how soon, it's hard to say. The news is encouraging, though."

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