Sunday, May 4, 2003

Newest receiver should fit right in



By Joe Kay
The Associated Press

Less than an hour after he was drafted, receiver Kelley Washington got a call from one of his new Cincinnati Bengals teammates.

Receiver Chad Johnson wanted to extend a welcome and give some advice: Be prepared to run routes and your mouth.

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Kelley Washington catches a pass at the full squad minicamp Friday.
(AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)
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Washington isn't quite as outspoken as Johnson - he would never think to guarantee a win, as Johnson did repeatedly last season. But the newest Bengals receiver should fit right in with a corps known for its bravado.

"We'll be on the same page," Johnson said. "The talking game is very important.

"When we picked him in the third round of the draft, I called about 30 minutes after that. I didn't even know him. The first thing I said was, 'Kelley, when you get here, you get to talking right away. As soon as you get here, you start talking trash."'

Washington wasn't shy at Tennessee, where as a walk-on receiver he developed a reputation for big plays and bold statements. He once referred to himself in a magazine article as "The Future," meaning the future of NFL receivers.

Last season, some Tennessee teammates worried that Washington was too focused on himself. He liked to predict big games for himself, and would point to his mother in the stands after scoring a touchdown.

He's been quiet at the Bengals' minicamp this weekend, when he got to meet Johnson, Peter Warrick and the rest of the receiving corps for the first time. Washington held his tongue and tried to fit in.

"On the field, I'm an outspoken guy," Washington said. "I talk a lot, get aggressive on the field. But I haven't gotten accustomed to the team, so I don't know how these guys will take it. I have to learn everybody's personality."

He's also learning an offense that could use his speed. The Bengals took Washington in the third round because they wanted another fast outside receiver to complement Johnson.

Washington will get a chance to take Warrick's spot in two-receiver formations. Warrick plays in the slot when the Bengals use three receivers.

Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski would like to have another deep threat to prevent defenses from double-teaming Johnson the way they did last season.

"If you have two deep threats or three deep threats, now the defense is in a bind," Bratkowski said. "If you have people that scare them, they have a tendency to stay back. When they stay back or keep an extra safety back to take away the deep ball, that helps the run game."

Washington thinks he can provide that extra threat, once he fully heals from a neck operation. He had two vertebrae fused last November, and has to be careful for a few more weeks.

He also twisted an ankle in his first minicamp workout on Friday, limiting his work with the offense.

Washington took a meandering path to the NFL. He played four years in the Florida Marlins' farm system, starting out at shortstop before moving to third base. He hit only .213, decided his future was elsewhere, so went to Tennessee and concentrated on football.

He hadn't learned how to hit the curve, but he learned a lot about effort.

"Looking back now, I wouldn't trade it for the world," he said. "It taught me about work ethic. I experienced a lot of humility, the ups and downs, and what it takes to play at a professional level, what type of work ethic you have to have.

"That's something I've carried through college. I feel my work ethic is what sets me apart from everybody else I've ever come in contact with. My work ethic is going to explode off the charts here in the NFL. I feel I'm up for the challenge."

Washington looks forward to forming friendships with the rest of the receivers, most of whom have been in the NFL for three or fewer years. He thinks he can keep up in every way except one.

"I'm very outgoing also, but I don't know about guaranteeing wins," he said.




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