- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Eager to move past his erratic seven-year Washington Redskins career, wide receiver Michael Westbrook signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract yesterday with the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I'm very, very excited," Westbrook said. "I can't wait to show everybody the real receiver I'm supposed to be."
The fourth pick overall in the 1995 draft and a 6-foot-3, 221-pound physical specimen, Westbrook never lived up to his potential in Washington. Early on it was injuries and errors in judgment; more recently it was a torn knee ligament and the plodding offense of 2001 coach Marty Schottenheimer.
Throughout, Westbrook remained extremely confident, always believing he should be catching 80 passes for 1,200 yards a year. But the only season he approached those numbers was 1999, when he caught 65 balls for 1,191 yards and nine touchdowns for the playoff-bound Redskins.
Westbrook expected to duplicate that effort in 2000 but tore an ACL in Week2 at Detroit. Last season, after accepting a paycut to stay with the club, he became a forgotten man in Schottenheimer's offense.
"The political side of it [was the worst]," Westbrook said of last year. "I mean, I took a paycut, then I've got these incentives to try to make it back, and then they're throwing me one ball a game and we're losing."
At 29, Westbrook believes he is in his physical prime, though his role in Cincinnati is a bit uncertain. The Bengals still have Darnay Scott and Peter Warrick as returning starters, with several talented young players behind them. But Scott expensive, coming off an injury and a no-show at offseason workouts now might be expendable.
Regardless, Westbrook feels comfortable with the new staff and believes he will see the ball often.
"They wanted me there," Westbrook said. "That's the major thing. They're going to use me. [Theres] my potential, and this team is actually going to use it."
The deal included a $350,000 signing bonus, and its $1.5million-a-year average represented a modest increase over the Bengals' early offer. Westbrook visited the club June10 and had an excellent workout. Before signing, he had spoken with, but not visited, several other teams.
Westbrook doesn't regret leaving Washington, having long since accepted that he would be leaving his only NFL club. And he doesn't think he'll be missed, believing only "15 to 20 percent" of the fans here liked him, while the other "80 percent hated" him.
"We live, we move on, and that's what I'm doing now I'm moving on," Westbrook said. "I'm going to go have fun for the second time in my career [1999 being the first]."
Notes
The Redskins waived three young players: long snapper Tony Grant and offensive linemen Scott Harper and Terrence Simmons.


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