In Their Words: Michael Bates

Michael Bates made five straight Pro Bowls in Carolina. Yet, when he became a free agent, the Panthers opted for youth, allowing Bates to sign with Washington. The Redskins sure are happy. In a season turned ugly, Bates is one of the few bright spots. He's averaging 26.9 yards per kickoff return, which is fifth best in the NFL. And he has eight returns of 30 yards or more. Now he gets to face his old team.

''Of course it will be emotional Sunday. Anytime you've been with an organization for five years and then have to face them--a place where I made a name for myself--it will be really emotional. But I'll be focused and ready for the game.

''I've got quite a few buddies there on special teams. Guys like Chris Hetherington, Damien Richardson, Deveran Harper. There's a lot of guys. Karl Henkton. I took Chris and Damien to the Pro Bowl when I made it last year.

''I was shocked when Carolina let me go. I wouldn't say just because of what I did for the organization, but I was shocked coming off a Pro Bowl season. I didn't think I would have any problems returning. Every game I want to try and win, but this one will be really important.

''People wondered if I lost it because [my numbers decreased]. I've had that asked. I started out hot last year against Washington and thereafter my numbers and returns went down.

''Then again teams were pooching the ball. They weren't kicking it deep. Now teams kick it deep and I don't have to worry about lining up on the 10 and catching it at the 20-yard line. There were all sorts of things teams were doing differently. Maybe that was one of the reasons my numbers went lower as well.

''The scheme that I'm running here fits me better. That's not to say the scheme in Carolina wasn't for me. But this allows me to find my hole and hit it and I don't have to rely on two guys to block for me, or one guy to block for me.

''In Carolina it was a two-man wedge. They'd line up about 10 yards in front of me. When you have that you stick behind those guys and let them make their blocks. Then you cut off and react. Sometimes it works great and sometimes it doesn't. Here I can go anywhere.

''My first couple of years at Carolina it was a similar scheme. I had good success then and I like it. It allows me to use my speed and it allows me to use my vision as well. We just call it man blocking. We match up man to man and allow me to pick the seam.

''Every game we seem close to breaking one. We talk in the meeting room that it's always one guy. It's been like that the last five weeks. It's just a matter of executing and trying to finish a play, running out of a shoestring tackle or bursting around a guy. They've been doing a great job of blocking for me.

''I just hope I have the chance to get back and return one Sunday and bring some excitement to the team.''


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