TDBH: Hot Bengals arrive in frozen Detroit for Super Bowl XVI

Posted Jan 18, 2018

This Day in Bengals History - January 18, 1982

TROY, Mich. - The 49ers arrive at their hotel yesterday in minus-8 degrees and are surprised by head coach Bill Walsh dressed as a bellhop taking their luggage. The Bengals arrive 24 hours later tonight in 10 degrees and head coach Forrest Gregg is wearing a no-nonsense tie six days from Super Bowl XVI when he denies a busload of media access to his players even though they have journeyed the 24 miles from NFL media headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. It may be the first northern Super Bowl ever, but since Gregg played in the very first one anywhere 15 years ago he’s not very impressed. The team bus lurches in front of the packed hotel entrance before parking in front of a side door. “Nice move,” someone on the bus says. Gregg is the one guy that takes questions. “No, they will not be available,” he says of his players. “They weren’t prepared for it and they weren’t alerted to it … We have a schedule and we intend to follow it in the framework of that schedule.”

Today is a snapshot of how Gregg’s discipline and focus put a 4-12 team into the Super Bowl two years later. Before the flight to Detroit on a Piedmont charter and after the team’s workout at Spinney Field, a reporter finds a note on the locker room door that reads, “You may think today is Monday, but it’s not. It’s Friday. Forrest Gregg told me so. Therefore, its installation day for the punt team, kickoff team, kick return team and punt return team.” Gregg can be heard on the phone in his office handling ticket requests with the admonishment, “Remember, I’ve got a football game to coach.” Gregg has ordered all the Nautilus weight equipment to make the trip, as well as the front office and secretaries. In the middle of the morning practice he sends strength coach Kim Wood and the Cincinnati police up Price Hill to find alleged spies after the Bengals receptionist answers a call about two men with sophisticated cameras roaming the area. “Here’s a quote for you,” Wood says to Michael Graham of The Cincinnati Post. “The Cincinnati Bengals were a bunch of pearls without a string until Forrest Gregg came along … They’ve had their steady diet of media attention and they’re sick of it. So when they get to Detroit, they won’t be wowed by it. Also, there’s no ocean to go to. No swimming pools to swim. Nothing to distract them. After all, we’re just moving from Spinney Field to Detroit.”

When Gregg concludes his media session at the hotel tonight he warns, “But don’t you forget this, gentlemen. This is a football game we came to play. And it’s very important these men are able to prepare for it. We will honor all scheduled meetings. Outside of that, I have told my players they have no other obligation.” But it’s still a Super Bowl and the lobby is buzzing with an ABC-TV camera crew desperately flagging down any Bengal leaving dinner headed to their rooms for a promo and you can hear, “I’m Isaac Curtis of the Cincinnati Bengals. Good Morning, America.” The Bengals come in the side door, but they have arrived at the big game.

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