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TDBH: Gary’s vicious play on Anderson’s neck incites call for QB safety

Posted Oct 9, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - October 10, 1983

One of the NFL’s most heated rivalries didn’t just surface in the Marvin Lewis Era. Before there is Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward breaking Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers’ jaw, before there is Steelers defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen tearing up Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer’s knee, before there is Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier knocking cold Bengals running back Giovani Bernard on shots the NFL outlaws before the next season, there is Steelers rookie defensive end Keith Gary severely spraining Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson’s neck on one of the most controversial plays in league history.

In the glare of a Monday night game at Riverfront Stadium with the first quarter nearly over and the Steelers leading, 7-0, Anderson drops back on third down from his own 14 and after Gary misses Anderson in the pocket he grabs him underneath the face mask and Anderson’s neck has a horrifying Exorcist moment that looks like his head goes full circle. Anderson looks like a Bobblehead doll with one reporter observing the No. 14 on Anderson’s helmet looks like No. 41 with a backward 4. Gary gets flagged for a personal foul. Anderson watches the rest of the game at Christ Hospital. Sports columnist Mark Purdy of The Cincinnati Enquirer observes Bengals founder Paul Brown had fathered a proposal back in the spring to eject any player that injures the quarterback on a personal foul. It doesn’t pass and as Purdy says, neither does Anderson after the first quarter.

More irony? Paul Brown invented the face mask for safety reasons. Anderson hits five of his first five passes for 60 yards, but Humble Howard, The Giffer, and Dandy Don have to settle for the Bengals’ Turk Schonert vs. the Steelers’ Cliff Stoudt. Pittsburgh wins, 24-14, to just about end the Bengals season at 1-5 in a very weird game four defensive backs score return TDs. Three of them belong to the Steelers, two off Schonert picks. Still, the story tonight and forever is the Anderson play. The Bengals are furious and the play leads to rules over the next decade that protect the quarterback so much that the Steelers’ own Jack Lambert accuses quarterbacks of wearing dresses, but that doesn’t help the Bengals tonight. Gary stays in the game and gets credit for that sack before he’s also called for a personal foul for spearing Schonert while he’s on the ground. “He turned toward me and I grabbed him around the neck. Unfortunately, my hand slipped and got his facemask," Gary says, but the NFL doesn’t buy it and fines him.

“We might have been helped by the penalty, but we lost Anderson,’ says tackle Mike Wilson. Bengals head coach Forrest Greg fumes, “I don’t like it and I don’t think it has any place in our business.” Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver Cris Collinsworth channels his future as an Emmy-award winning analyst: “They can’t continue to allow people who do that to stay in the football game … The only way you are ever going to stop that is to eject the guy and fine him. That’s the bottom line. The National Football League revolves around its quarterbacks.” Paul Brown, who calls it one of the most vicious hits he’s ever seen, says Anderson’s X-Rays are fine but he hopes the national TV exposure convinces the league it has a problem. Anderson misses the next three games and the heated rivalry just gets even hotter long before it sizzles in the next century.

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