Late June and the only place alive in the NFL is the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The NFL rookies are touring Canton this week during their symposium while the buzz for the 2013 induction class starts to kick in. With the two senior candidates expected to be named to the final ballot in late August, the campaign for Bengals four-time NFL passing champion Ken Anderson is in full swing.
It is officially The Big Lead.
Jason Lisk's story last week on thebiglead.com embraced Anderson's candidacy with, "Every time I look at historical passing numbers, Anderson figures prominently and continually serves as a reminder that narrative can sometimes be wrong," and joined other national publications urging his selection by the Hall's senior committee.
But while friends and scribes rally to his cause, Anderson is embarking on another these days. Huddling with the Bengals again after all these years, Anderson plans a kickoff extravaganza at the start of their season in the heart of Cincinnati on Fountain Square to raise funds for autistic adults.
He's still cobbling together plans for Impact Autism, but says the Bengals have agreed to be one of the sponsors for an event set for the Monday night of the Bengals regular-season opener in Baltimore. At about 4:45 p.m. on Sept. 10, activities begin with bands, food, drink, former players, and Ben-Gals cheerleaders, with the culmination the first game of the NFL doubleheader appearing on the big board at 7 p.m.
"It's just going to be fun," Anderson said this week. "It's a great way to start the season. People are just getting off work, the game is going to start in a couple of hours, we hope to have restaurants and others involved. The Bengals have been very supportive. And it's all for a great cause."
It's fitting, of course, that Anderson is helping lead such a charge into a hopeful season quarterbacked by a No. 14.
The original 14 quarterbacked Paul Brown's best and last team in 1975 to 11-3, led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl as the 1981 NFL MVP, retired as the most accurate passer in postseason history, and is the only man in league history to win back-to-back passing titles in two different decades.
And his effort to create a better quality of life for autistic adults trying to make their way beyond school is a reminder he was just as prolific as a community leader when he played and is a past winner of the NFL Man of the Year award.
"I've got a nephew that is just about that age and it's something that I feel close to," Anderson said. "We've got a lot of great people working on it."
There'll be V.I.P. opportunities on the Square and that, no doubt, is where some of Anderson's former teammates are going to come in. After all, they've already stepped up for him in the exhaustive and effective Hall campaign that began last year with Cincinnati realtor David Kubicki's blast from the past.
As usual, Anderson has found plenty of his ex-teammates and former Bengals to be enthusiastic about his newest venture and now they're just waiting on matching schedules.
"The nice thing about it is now you almost get to have more time with the guys," said Anderson, who just spent last weekend with former Bengals Pro Bowl defensive tackle Mike Reid. "And you find out again that not only were they great players, but they're great people."
Kubicki's colorful collection of stats and testimonials caught the eye of not only the national media last year, but some Hall voters as well. Add The Big Lead to the list.
Lisk examined those teammates and found Anderson didn't have as many Pro Bowlers as quarterbacks in the Hall that started at least eight seasons since the 1970 merger.
"It shows the average number of other offensive Pro Bowlers on the roster each year, and then the league-adjusted passer rating score for that quarterback’s career," Lisk wrote of "those league adjusted numbers are on a scale where 100 is league average, and a higher number is better."
His list showed Anderson on top with a rating of 115 with 1.2 Pro Bowlers. It was the fifth-highest passer rating, but the lowest number of Pro Bowlers.
But, "I had some great teammates, think about it," Anderson said. "You can start with guys like Isaac Curtis and Anthony Muñoz and Lemar Parrish and Kenny Riley, and it just goes on."
Lisk also cited Neil Paine's study on ProFootballReference.com that ranked quarterbacks by their six best seasons and Anderson is No. 1.
"Just ahead of Johnny Unitas. While you may think that is crazy, I think it should also cause you to reevaluate Ken Anderson," Lisk wrote.
Hall voters are doing just that. Like Ron Borges of The Boston Herald, one of the nine members of the Hall's senior committee that selects the two players whose careers ended more than 25 years ago. He's impressed with Kubicki's campaign, but he thinks the 63-year-old Anderson has to wait because of the backlog of candidates from the 1960s.
"I'd be stunned if Anderson doesn't get in the room (for debate) from the seniors standpoint," Borges said back in February. "But I'd be surprised if it's in the next couple of years because there are so many people."
Kubicki thought he was done with the campaign last year, but when four of Anderson's ex-mates insisted he keep it going, he did. Among them were the Hall of Famer Muñoz, Anderson's center Bob Johnson, his Pro Bowl tight end Bob Trumpy, and road roommate Dave Lapham.
It was Johnson who told Kubicki the one Bengals number that should be retired is not his No. 54 but Anderson's No. 14. And Trumpy and Lapham narrate a DVD that Kubicki is sending to the Hall voters.
Anderson appreciates the efforts but, as usual, he's keeping the accolades on the back burner.
"I really don't know much about it," Anderson said. "But it is nice to hear people talking about it."
For openers, his energies are elsewhere.