Work in Sports
Long road ahead
Warrick knows winning with Bengals won't come overnight
Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 08:06 PM
CINCINNATI (AP) -- The slow 40-yard dash time. Cleveland's about-face in philosophy. The No. 1 overall pick slipping off his trusty fingertips.
When three months of uncertainty ended Saturday for Florida State receiver Peter Warrick, his first reaction was more relief than joy. The NFL Draft had become another trial and ended with an anticipated and somewhat disappointing outcome -- the Cincinnati Bengals took him fourth overall.
"Oh, it was a relief," Warrick readily admitted, his emphatic tone matching his words. "I'm glad it's over with, going through the process from January to today. That's all behind me. I'm ready to start playing football now."
The relief won't last long. The elusive receiver and kick returner who drews comparisons Saturday with Deion Sanders gets to play for Cincinnati's other pro team, the one that wins much, much less than the Reds.
When commissioner Paul Tagliabue called his name, Warrick went from one of the top collegaite football programs of the '90s to the NFL's worst team of the decade.
The national champion Seminoles didn't lose a game last season, going 12-0. By contrast, the Bengals lost a dozen games and haven't had a winning season since 1990.
Warrick hadn't followed the Bengals, hadn't seen them play, hadn't even been to Cincinnati when he was drafted. He knew they don't win much.
"I ain't never played for a team like that," he said.
And that's not going to change once he arrives, at least not immediately. He knew that, too.
"I heard that," he said. "In time, though. In time."
Six months ago, draft day was supposed to be the culmination of a joyous year for Warrick. He returned for his senior season at Florida State to win a national championship and did just that, becoming the catalyst in a 46-29 win over Virginia Tech that clinched the title.
But Warrick missed out on the Heisman Trophy because of his arrest in October. He was suspended for two games and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of petty theft - he paid $21.40 for $412.38 worth of clothing at a Dillard's department store in Tallahassee.
"He made a mistake. He owns up to it. I think he paid a tremendous price," Bengals general manager Mike Brown said. "He may have been the Heisman award winner. To lose that opportunity is a tremendous sanction in and of itself beyond what he paid otherwise.
"He's been punished. He's been straightforward about all this. He regrets it and says so. I think in the future he'll fly straight and fly high. We don't have real concerns about his character."
The Cleveland Browns singled him out as the leading candidate for the top pick in the draft, another one of Warrick's goals. They said their priority was to assemble a cast to surround quarterback Tim Couch, last year's No. 1 pick.
By early March, the Browns had changed their minds and were leaning towards defensive end Courtney Brown - whom they chose Saturday - or linebacker LaVar Arrington, who went to Washington with the second pick.
And draft analysts around the country kept bringing up the slow time Warrick had in his 40-yard dash. By Saturday, Warrick knew he'd go no better than fourth.
"I mean, after all the controversy and stuff ... " he said, his voice trailing off.
There was no controversy in the Bengals' minds. A team known for producing receivers like Isaac Curtis, Eddie Brown, Cris Collinsworth and Carl Pickens figured it had gotten another one.
Although the Bengals were willing to consider offers to move down in the draft, they didn't come close to any deal. General manager Mike Brown said the Bengals talked to the New York Jets three days earlier, but not about trading draft positions.
The Bengals are listening to offers for Pickens, a disgruntled receiver whom Warrick will replace sooner or later.
"There wasn't anything that at all enticed us," Brown said. "We like our pick. We're happy with what we get."
The concern will be getting him under contract. Last year, quarterback Akili Smith missed virtually all of training camp in a contract impasse.
Warrick has a different agent - Mike George of SFX Sports Group - but most likely will be facing the same tough-bargaining stance that Smith encountered.
Asked Saturday if he knew who Warrick's agent was, Brown looked to an assistant coach for help.
"You can tell how much we focus on the agents in the draft," Brown said, chuckling. "We just don't. Now we're going to have to. The fun will begin shortly and I'll know his name better."