TDBH: Collinsworth deal reached over eggs not that easy

Posted Feb 20, 2018

This Day in Bengals History - February 21, 1985q

The Cris Collinsworth contract saga that has raged for nearly two years ends with a twist today like one of the network soap operas that rule the airwaves. Last night the talks are off when Bengals president Mike Brown snaps his briefcase shut after a surprisingly unsuccessful negotiating session at the Queen City Club with Collinsworth, 26, the Bengals’ three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.  Collinsworth is stunned this morning as he and agent Richard Bennett hustle from the Westin Hotel to a 9 a.m. flight back to Florida and what looks to be the end of his Bengals career. Both sides want a deal badly and are shocked it doesn’t happen. The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Peter King quotes Collinsworth asking Bennett, “My God, Richard. What happened?” Little does he know while he’s joking with Bennett about Brown probably being in the lobby waiting for them, Brown  dispatches assistant director of player personnel Frank Smouse to leave them a note and the messenger catches Collinsworth walking out the door carrying his garment bag. Brown can’t get through to their room because they’ve held all calls, so Smouse’s note tells them to meet Brown back at the Queen City for breakfast in one last gasp.

According to King, Collinsworth, wearing a sweater, jeans, and cowboy boots, doesn’t fit the club’s dress code and needs to borrow a Polo tie from Brown and Bennett’s navy blue sports coat. In about five hours they’re at the desk of Bengals founder and general manager  Paul Brown signing a contract that King calls “known to be for at least three years and perhaps as many as five.” The word is the Bengals give in more than normal. “We could have continued this and maybe we could have knocked him down some,” Mike Brown says, “but we’re not trying to sign him for less than his real value in the league.” Two years ago Collinsworth signs with the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits on a deal that kicks in this year. But Collnsworth’s troublesome ankle kills the $3 million contract and his options are limited because a USFL team would not only have to pick up the contract but also compensate the Bandits. King reports in the new Bengals deal there is no payback of the $500,000 Bandits’ loan to Collinsworth.

The toughest part of the talks appear to be the physical with team doctor George Ballou. Ballou tests his ankle so thoroughly that when he asks Collinsworth if it hurts Collinsworth says, “If you did that to any human being’s ankle it would hurt … I told him no. I even got up and did the funky boogaloo for him to show I was okay.” Collinsworth ends up being funky for the Bengals for four more seasons with his last game coming in the Super Bowl after the 1988 season. Like Brown, he’ll take it. “They say good deals are ones when everyone walks out of the room happy,” Collinsworth says. “Well, this is one of those good deals.”

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