- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2001

Washington cornerback Darrell Green may have to relinquish his title as the fastest Redskin. Newly signed kickoff returner Michael Bates knows that many fans expect him to dethrone the 41-year-old cornerback.
"I was wondering how long it would take for comparisons," Bates said jokingly. "Darrell might be quicker. I've heard of his [40-yard dash] times. He's amazing."
Bates will report to Redskin Park shortly before the start of training camp July 29 as the team's premier offseason free agent signing. After chasing seemingly every marquee free agent last year, the Redskins had been largely idle this offseason. However, when the Carolina Panthers released Bates as a salary cap casualty, Washington found a bargain by signing the five-time Pro Bowl player to a two-year, $1.32 million deal Monday.
Bates gives Washington its best returner since Brian Mitchell led the NFL in kickoff return yardage in 1995. It wasn't a hard sell to sign Bates despite poor special teams play in recent years that prevented Mitchell and James Thrash from excelling. But an influx of special teamers under coach Marty Schottenheimer has convinced Bates he can continue to flourish with the Redskins.
"Marty expressed his desire to have a great special teams," Bates said yesterday. "A lot of coaches don't have that kind of attitude."
Nonetheless, Bates researched the team closely by speaking with former teammates before choosing Washington over the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. That it was close to his Charlotte, N.C., home, where Bates' family may remain during the season, also was an important factor.
"Some of the players like [tight end] Walter Rasby and [guard] Matt Campbell expressed to me how they really like the Washington area and the coaches," he said. "Carolina felt like they tried to commit to me, but Carolina is trying to go young. I want to get on to a team that within a year or two has a chance to make it to the playoffs and Super Bowl. Washington has all the intangibles. It's just a matter of us coming together."
Bates, 31, reached the Pro Bowl as a returner or special teams specialist during all five seasons with Carolina after stints with the Seattle Seahawks (1993-94) and Cleveland Browns (1995). While ranking only 17th last year in kickoff return yardage, Bates scored a 92-yard touchdown against the Redskins only his fifth-longest career return.
A 1992 Olympic bronze medalist at 200 meters, Bates soars through seams. His breakaway speed prevents cheap tackles. Many teams traded shorter kickoffs for smaller returns last year by giving Bates less time to reach top speed before meeting coverage.
"The key to the return is having a seam and hitting it full speed so an arm tackler will not bring you down," Bates said. "My blockers have to have leverage on their guy so there's not a full body in the hole."
Bates is also a standout coverage man. Knowing how returners look for seams lets him get to the ball quicker. And after taking hits, Bates likes to retaliate.
"I love showing my speed and making a tackle. There are times I hate to get hit hard, but now I can return it," he said. "Being a returner, you have different schemes. You know what blocks will do to set you free. As a cover guy, you figure those keys out, and that makes it easier."
Meanwhile, agent Harold Lewis refuted a report that receiver Darnerian McCants, a fifth-round pick, has agreed to a deal with Washington. While a three-year contract is expected, Lewis said final compensation hasn't been decided.

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