Westbrook waits for money cue

6-17-02, 4:40 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

There is no two-minute drill. No hurry-up offense. In fact, with training camp less than six weeks away, there is no clock for Michael Westbrook in his negotiations with the Bengals.

Westbrook said Monday that the talks with Cincinnati, "don't look very promising. But we're still trying with the Bengals. We haven't closed the door. I still think it's a good fit."

Westbrook realizes he probably won't be paid, "what I deserve," because of the lateness of the hour. But he is being firm about one thing.

"It's got to be close," Westbrook said. "I won't do a job unless I'm going to be paid close to what I know I'm worth. I feel like I could start for about 25 teams out there. If I can't get what I feel is something close to what I deserve at this point, I won't play. I'll go do TV."

But Westbrook, who served as a once-a-week Redskins commentator breaking down film for Washington D.C. television station Channel 7 the past few seasons, quickly added he has no plans to retire and wants to keep playing because "there are few things I enjoy more than football."

Steve Zucker, Westbrook's agent, said his client is adamant about wanting to continue to play, "but it has to be right. We hope it can be right with Cincinnati."

Duke Tobin, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel, said even

though the club's offer has been turned down, he believes it was an offer consistent with a June market for a player who has been available for more than three months.

"We've offered him a deal that is more than the minimum and has up-front money and those are two important things at this stage," Tobin said. "Not many players signing now are getting more than the minimum. We were impressed with (his workout) and we think he's got a role here."

Wideout Derrick Alexander got more than the minimum when he went to the Vikings 10 days ago, but it can be assumed the Bengals are offering Westbrook less than Alexander's $1.7 million per year because there was competition for Alexander and because he had been on the market only days.

The Bengals aren't certain there is much competition for Westbrook. But Zucker said while he has no other visits lined up, there have been conversations with many teams.

Asked if he plans to visit Jacksonville, Westbrook said, "We're talking to the Bengals now and we'll see what happens. I told Steve not to even bother me (with teams) if it's not interesting. I'm just focused on working out and getting ready."

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