Updated: 2:40 p.m.
Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons doesn't remember much about that 1994 Cleveland Browns training camp. He was still trying to figure out how to punt for the University of Kansas as he shagged balls for what would turn out to be one of the greatest special teams units in history.
But what Simmons, 40 and in his 11th season coaching the Bengals specialists, can recall is the attention to detail exhibited by the Browns head coach, 42-year-old Bill Belichick, and his longest exposure to the Cleveland special teams coach, Scott O'Brien. Belichick would win his first of 18 playoff games at the end of the season, his fourth in Cleveland, and O'Brien, now in his fifth season as the Pats special teams coach, would become Simmons's mentor, an NFL guru.
"That was a couple of days ago so it's hard to remember," Simmons said this week of a group that had three return TDs and a 92-percent season from kicker Matt Stover. "But they did everything for a reason. They played every situation out and all the options were explored."
Belichick's beginnings in the league (two years after Simmons was born) can be traced to special teams.
"You can tell," Simmons said. "He values field position. Ball control. Give yourself the best opportunity. Make decisions based on situations."
O'Brien brought on Simmons during the end of his run in Baltimore in 1998 and at the start of his tenure in Carolina in 1999. After five seasons with O'Brien, Simmons came to Cincinnati to build a similar model.
"Scott was coming from college when he went to Cleveland and I'm sure what Bill passed on to him was the difference between coaching in the pros compared to college. This is their job. Some of the things that Scott passed on to me; a trickle down," Simmons said.
Sunday is only the second time Simmons and O'Brien have met in the regular season, but Simmons did beat him in the 2009 preseason on a Chad Johnson extra point, 7-6, when Shayne Graham got hurt in New England. They may have laughed about that at the next scouting combine but the 2010 opener never comes up. That's when Pariots wide receiver
"If you can't beat 'em," Simmons said, "join 'em."
Simmons did the Belichick-O'Brien school proud last season when his units led the NFL in a combined ranking of the 10 major categories and the Bengals kept them virtually intact until the preseason ended. That's when they lost linebackers
INJURY UPDATE: If it's Friday, the Bengals secondary must be in critical condition. But this is a red alert with the NFL's top slot receiver coming to town in the name of New England's Julian Edelman.
Complicating matters is that a week after he played his most snaps as a pro, cornerback
But that's why safety
The Bengals have already had to deal with the league's most prolific slot guy this season when the Packers' Randall Cobb arrived two weeks ago. Hall was healthy and held him to five catches for 54 yards. According to PFF, Edelman has been targeted 25 times in the slot and caught 21 balls for 142 yards and a touchdown.
And, it looks like right end