June 25, 2004
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, a driving force behind the 2002 creation of USA Football, appears at the first National Conference on Youth and Amateur Football today at the Cincinnati Marriott at RiverCenter in Covington, Ky. Tagliabue meets the local media and takes time to praise the work of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis on the field and in the community. “He's got the self-confidence and the level of commitment in everything he believes, it's almost magnetic,” Tagliabue says. “ When he walks into a room, he doesn't have to raise his voice. He just has to clearly state his ideas and you want to believe it. He's been great getting out into the community, talking to young people, talking to parents, talking to everybody. I'm sure with his energy, and his self confidence, it's a big impact on the organization and the Bengals.”

Lewis is coming off his first season with the club and finishes runner-up to New England’s Bill Belichick as NFL Coach of the Year when he oversees the Bengals’ biggest turnaround in the league from 2-14 to 8-8. That gives the Bengals multiple prime time games for the first time in a decade. “Everyone knew based on his track record with the Super Bowl success the Ravens had when he was there, that where ever he ended up it was going be a blessed organization at some point,” Tagliabue says. “How quickly it would happen was one of the questions, but there was a good pool of talent here that had been selected earlier, he made some changes, and then he brought the edge out of that talented pool and I can see that continuing this year. We've got them prime-time in two games, we're counting on it.”
June 24, 2009
Willie Anderson
Today hunts down the great Willie Anderson in his first year of retirement and's All-Decade NFL team doesn’t escape his scroll. Earlier this week the world-wide leader taps two left tackles, leaving the greatest right tackle in Bengals history again taking sides when he saw that Jonathan Ogden and Walter Jones were on the team. "I've always said it and I'll say it again," Anderson says. "I'm not saying I'm better than them. But you put my tape on and I know I played just as well as they have. That's the way the sportswriters see it. But teams know. That's why I got a big contract and why the left ends are making as much as the right ends." Anderson has his own backers in the media who think he is the best right tackle in this, the first decade of the 21st century. It begins with him in his fifth season and ends with him retiring this spring after one year with the Ravens.

Gil Brandt of says Anderson is the victim of the weight everyone puts on the left tackle and Alex Marvez of says Anderson has clearly had the biggest impact of any right tackle over the last nine seasons. "He was definitely considered. We just decided to go with the overall best tackles," says's Bill Williamson, who writes the story. "We were also looking at Willie Roaf and Orlando Pace, two more left tackles. So you'd have to say going by position, it would probably have to be Willie on the right." Anderson isn't altogether surprised, but he is a bit disappointed since he had hoped his career would help create equal footing for right tackles when pitted against the glamour position of left tackle. "Just because it's the blind side. Just because they say the quarterback can see your man coming," Anderson says. "Do you think offenses said, '(Colts end) Robert Mathis isn't on the blind side so forget about him'? Julius Peppers had over half his sacks playing left end. Michael Strahan was playing over there late in his career. Do you think teams in the NFC East were hoping their best tackle was on the right side?" Anderson points to the pass rushers he faced from 1999 to 2006, a stretch he dueled Jevon Kearse twice a year when the Titans were in the old AFC Central from '99 to '01. He says he never allowed a sack to Kearse then "when Kearse was Kearse," and says 2.5 of the estimated 4.5 sacks he allowed in those seven seasons were to Steelers all-time sack leader Jason Gildon. "To me, that stuff about the blind side happened in the '80s and they're still writing about it," he says. "But look at the pass rushers on the other side."
June 23, 2004
Paul Brown Stadium's new synthetic rug, replacing a grass field that sprawled through the building’s first four season, takes shape in a labor of anonymity before a capacity crowd of empty seats. Installation won't be complete until next week, but the orange-and-black striped end zones with the block-lettered word "Bengals," and the orange-and-black striped leaping tiger at midfield are sewn in place for the media to view today. The hope is it will soon be etched in the public's mind. "We think when people tune in for that Sept. 19 game on Sunday night, they will be wowed by Paul Brown Stadium," says PBS manager Bob Bedinghaus of the home opener on ESPN against the Dolphins. "We think it has the most distinct look of any field in the league."

A crew of eight from FieldTurf is putting the finishing touches on a project that began about a month ago. The process of rolling out more than 40 rolls of carpet, each 180 feet long and 15 feet wide, and sewing them together is pretty much complete. The carpet consists of 2.5-inch pieces of synthetic fiber that is tuft through polyurethane backing every three-quarters of an inch, and now the only major piece left is to insert the in-fill of rubber and sand by brooming it into the surface. "We've gone from a concrete desert to an oasis," says business manager Bill Connelly. "Certainly one of the benefits is there isn't as much maintenance as there is with a grass field."

Two top Bengals aren't so much concerned about the aesthetics as they are about the athletics. As a pass rusher, it is imperative Justin Smith gets quickly out of his three-point stance. At times, that was difficult on the old field of loose grass. "The old field chunked up so much, you'd try to take off and the big chunk would come up," Smith says. "When it would get wet, you just couldn't take those big strides. It happened to everybody, but that's the way it is with grass. This is good stuff. You don't get any turf burns, really. The only bad thing is sometimes when you make a tackle the rubber flies up and hits you in the face." Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson gets his first look from above in one of the offices and wants to know when he can run on it. Groundskeeper Darian Daily tells him early next week if things go well. "Nice. Promising," Johnson says. "No more excuses. No more falling down. It's promising." "It's sharp," Smith says. "It's going to look real good on TV."
June 22, 2009
Rey Maualuga
The Bengals have some popular rookies in the mandatory minicamp just ended. The coaches love third-rounder Michael Johnson and the fans can’t get enough of second-rounder Rey Maualuga. Johnson, the 6-7, 266-pound pass rusher from Georgia Tech, can be named the rookie defensive MVP of the spring after he lines up at defensive end, tackle, and SAM backer. "Playing linebacker has helped me learn more of the defense and understand more what the guys are doing around me. The more positions you learn the better you understand how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together," Johnson says. "I'm trying to make sure I lower my hips when I engage because I'm so tall. That's the key point they want me to focus on."

Maualuga’s No. 58 has been the biggest off-season seller on the club, which means merchandise manager Monty Montague makes the right call after the draft when he decides which rookie jersey to market. It was really a no-brainer. An offensive lineman is an offensive lineman and never comes in with much fanfare. Plus, first-round Andre Smith's No. 71 is more associated with Willie Anderson's freshly earned four Pro Bowls.

And the other top picks are pretty much regional names. But Maualuga comes in with great national presence as the most recognizable player on USC's historic defense and jogged some local connections as the guy that made the biggest play (an interception return) in the win over Ohio State. Montague is on his third order of the adult No. 58 jerseys and has ordered up a Youth jersey as well as T-shirts. And when the rookies signed at the Pro Shop last week, Maualuga drew the maximum of a little more than 200 autographs.
June 21, 1976
With a corps of young linebackers knocking on the door they deal one of their old reliables today in a Paul Brown original Baby Bengal from the 1968 inaugural team when they send linebacker Al Beauchamp to St. Louis for a fourth-round pick. Beauchamp, a fifth-round pick from Southern University in that first draft, has started the last 83 straight games since he won the job at left linebacker in 1970 and helped them to three postseasons. “Al has been a real credit to our organization,” Brown says in a news release. “It was a hard move to make. However, we have to make room for the fine young linebackers we have coming up. It was with this in mind we made the deal. Al understands and leaves with all good wishes from us.” Beauchamp, four days shy of 32, says “There are no hard feelings,” but he admits it got boring always hearing how he was going to lose his job to the next kid coming up: “After eight years in this league I didn’t feel there was anybody who could beat me out of the position.”

Brown has youthful numbers at backer that includes last year’s first-round pick Glenn Cameron and third-round pick Bo Harris and this year’s third-round pick Reggie Williams. Along with Jim LeClair, all three start in the 3-4 defense that will lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl in 1981 and Williams, Harris, and LeClair are starters on the NFL’s No. 1 defense in 1983. But Beauchamp’s mark is still here 40 years later. His 15 career interceptions are second only to Williams’ 16 among Bengals linebackers and, most importantly, he and fellow backer Ken Avery are remembered as the Bengals’ first integrated pair of roommates.
June 20, 2014
Jason Campbell
It really is a small world after all. today features radio play-by-play man Dan Hoard’s sit down with new backup quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell, with 79 starts, is the club’s most experienced backup since Jon Kitna nearly a decade ago. But he’s already had a massive impact on the Green-Dalton Era stretching back to their rookie year, when Campbell was the Raiders starter working under rookie head coach Hue Jackson, now in his first year as the Bengals offensive coordinator. On Oct. 16, 2011 against the Browns, Campbell breaks his collarbone in the last game before the trade deadline and as Jackson a driving force Oakland deals for Bengals disgruntled quarterback Carson Palmer, holed up and holding out in California. The trade certainly works out well for Cincinnati as they convert the draft picks for big-time contributors in Dre Kirkpatrick and Giovani Bernard while the team goes 26-16 since the trade with three straight play-off appearances. Oakland finishes that year out of the money at 8-8, fires Jackson, and promptly goes 4-12 in each of the two seasons since.

Hoard asks Campbell what if he is never injured. “I believe that the Raiders would have made the playoffs and it would have been a different story for me and Hue,” Campbell says. “We would have probably still been there. But things happen and you move on. You count the blessings that you’ve had in this league and understand that sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.” Jackson is delighted at the reunion. “I think he brings a veteran’s presence,” he says. “He’s been around the league, he’s been with different teams, and he’s seen a lot of different defenses. I think he has a calming effect on most people. He’ll be good in the quarterbacks room with Andy and he’ll do a good job that way.” Dalton agrees. “He’s been around for a long time and came in with a good understanding of the game … This is year ten for him – we always joke around about how old he is – but he’s had a good career. He’s a cool, easy-going guy and we have a great relationship.”

It’s a small world, but it still continues to turn for the Bengals. It turns out Dalton stays healthy all year in another play-off season. Campbell will get in at the end of four games and throw what turn out to be the last 19 passes of his career as the Bengals turn over No. 2 to AJ McCarron. Campbell serves as the perfect bridge, but his biggest impact on the Bengals will always remain what happens to him in another uniform years before.
June 19, 1984
Providing a glimpse into the future of a team that in a few years will quietly make him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, second-round pick Boomer Esiason quickly signs a contract that gets him into a training camp where first-year head coach Sam Wyche has said Bengals all-time passing leader Ken Anderson is No. 1, Turk Schonert is No. 2, “and everybody else is No. 3.” But Norman Julius Esiason is clearly the future. Assistant general manager Mike Brown, now turning his attention to signing three first-round picks, calls him “an outstanding prospect with the potential to be a starting quarterback in our league. He performs best under pressure in games. His record shows that.” Since Esiason isn’t disclosing his deal, per Bengals policy, The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Tom Groeschen is left to speculate it is in the neighborhood of three-years, $1 million. “I don’t think I would have got any more money if I had gone higher,” says Esiason, who says he never considers offers from the USFL’s Generals, Federals, and Showboats. “Anybody who listened to me knew I was a pro NFL player all the way.”

Esiason also flashes that Long Island swagger when incumbent No. 3 Jeff Christensen invites a turf war. In the last month Christensen has said, “Sometimes it seems like if you’re not from Stanford (read Schonert) or not a Heisman Trophy candidate (read Esiason) you’ve to keep proving yourself time after time,” and, “I think I’m the best quarterback here (other than Anderson). I figured last year (Esiason) was playing college and I was practicing against the No. 1 defense in the league. I’m not worried. I’ll be somewhere this year.” Esiason responds with, “I don’t want to say anything about Jeff. He did enough talking for both of us already.” Christensen ends up somewhere in ‘84, but it’s not the NFL. He doesn’t re-surface for three more years, when he starts two games as a strike replacement quarterback for Cleveland while Esiason strengthens his grip as locker room leader on the other side of the picket line.
June 18, 2008
Chad Johnson Maybe because it’s a full moon tonight. After months everyone under the sun advises Bengals five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson to take care of his ankle, he finally relents this morning after he struggles through his only full practice of the spring following a boycott of the voluntary workouts. The Bengals say in a rare press release addressing injuries that he's expected to be ready by the time of the first training camp practice on July 28 after arthroscopic surgery removes what are thought to be bone spurs and chips from his right ankle. It’s another twist in a Theatre Of The Absurd offseason Johnson spends on ESPN and NFL Network lobbying for a trade. Bengals president Mike Brown surgically removes that thought from his mind and his concern is the ankle now it has met the scalpel.

“I’m good, but this is just scaring me right now,” Johnson tells the day after his surgery. Johnson says he held off getting surgery the club recommended after last season because he's afraid it will lead to a setback despite advice from his agents and the club's front office. "I just didn't want to go messing with anything because, knock on wood, I've been so healthy," he says "Everybody's been on me. Drew (Rosenhaus). Mike (Brown). Troy and Katie (Blackburn)." Johnson, who has played 103 straight games since missing four with a broken collarbone as a rookie, wins four straight AFC receiving yardage from 2003-2006 and Brown doesn’t think he’ll get equal value in a deal, plus the acceleration of his bonus would doom the club’s salary cap for a few years. Johnson seems ready for football now. "I did everything under the sun to get out of here. I acted psycho. I posed my case. I talked with my owner, who loves me dearly. He must. Those offers were unheard of. And he still said no. Really, I'm not that good."

Johnson certainly doesn’t think he is in his one practice. He says he knew he needed to get the ankle done after getting tossed around by starting cornerbacks Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph. "On one leg I should be able to beat anybody," Johnson says. "They were able to put hands on me, which I don't like. Usually I can do stuff to dodge and get away. Leon hit me in the throat and J-Joe embarrassed me on a dig (route) knocking the ball down." And he says it’s not about the money. “But I could use a little extra for gas," he says.
June 17, 2006
The hangover from the ghastly and ghostly 2005 Wild Card Game is beginning to lift. It has been barely five months since the Bengals carried Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer off the Paul Brown Stadium turf with a blown ACL on the unbelievable second snap of the game on a hit delivered by a Steelers defensive end now known in Bengaldom as Kimo John Wilkes von Oelhoffen as Palmer uncorked a 66-yard beauty to wide receiver Chris Henry. But thanks to a monstrous, gutty rehab that features Palmer and the Bengals’ cutting edge underwater treadmill on a Sports Illustrated cover and with teammates and coaches raving about how he has looked this week, head coach Marvin Lewis uses the last day of mandatory minicamp to pronounce that Palmer is “most likely,” to work when camp opens on July 29 at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky. “Just keep moving forward and keep preparing the other guys as though he won't be there, but chances are he will be," Lewis says.

Lewis rules out playing him in the Aug. 13 pre-season opener against Washington at PBS and he doesn’t know if Palmer is going to take the starter’s snaps on July 29. But the announcement still begins to ease the angst that has paralyzed the Bengaldom countryside ever since Palmer got hurt in the wake of a sizzling season he sets Bengals records with 32 touchdown passes and a 101.1 passer rating. Palmer doesn’t work today, Saturday, the last day before summer vacation, but the rest isn’t because of soreness or swelling. The idea is to rest Palmer's reconstructed left knee after taking the bulk of the snaps in Friday's two practices. The Bengals are extremely encouraged because Palmer is able to strap it up in Friday morning’s practice after his first major work of the spring in Thursday's double session.

"When you're in his situation, what you're looking for is if he's able to come back after two practices the day before," says offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. "He was a little sore. It took him awhile to get loosened up early, to get his blood flowing. But then he looked really good. You can tell he's getting his rhythm back. He looked more comfortable, more balanced (than Tuesday). It was encouraging. I don't know what it means in the long run, but for now it's positive." Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who makes a one-handed grab from Palmer in the back of the end zone on some red-zone work, isn't surprised Palmer has emerged with so many snaps so soon before camp. "He's got no trouble dropping back there and throwing the ball," Houshmandzadeh says. "It's going to be how he takes a hit, and he's got two months to get ready." "Not really,” says Palmer, asked if he’s ahead of schedule. “I'd like to be full speed and be completely healthy right now. Just because I'm greedy a little bit. It feels good. I still have two months to really get it better. It feels strong. Everything feels good right now." He’ll ending up feeling good enough to go back to the Pro Bowl after the season with 28 TD passes and a 93.9 rating.
June 16, 1975
The Bengals roll the dice a bit in the game of youth today when they trade long-time kicker Horst Muhlmann to old friend Mike McCormack’s Eagles in exchange for a third-round pick in the 1976 draft. The popular, colorful Muhlmann, a native of Dortmund, Germany, is known for livening up training camp, where he introduces German checkers and nicknames his favorite American beer “Weisers.” He also just happens to have the second highest career field-goal percentage in NFL history behind only Jan Stenerud, a guy headed to the Hall of Fame. Muhlmann loses a camp duel with Stenerud in Kansas City when the Bengals trade for him and a fourth-round draft pick six days before the 1969 opener for wide receiver Warren McVea. Muhlmann then makes 120 of his 186 Bengals field goal tries for 64.5 percent. His last-play 42-yarder in Buffalo beats the Bills, 16-13, and ignites a season-ending six-game winning streak that gives the Bengals the 1973 AFC Central title, his five field goals in the 1972 Riverfront Stadium opener stun the Steelers, 15-10, and his 549 career points are seventh among AFC kickers.

But he hits just 11 of 18 field goals last year (only 3-for-6 from the 40s and no tries from 50) and the Bengals feel with Muhlmann now 35 and 25-year-old punter Dave Green showing promise as a two-way performer it is time to make the change even though Green’s last regular-season field goal is from 1971 while he is at Ohio University. “Horst is sound and capable,” says Bengals head coach Paul Brown. “But we feel Dave Green is a young, fine placekicker and this trade should show him that we have a lot of faith in his ability. We want to put the responsibility of the kicking job squarely on Dave so he knows now the job is his and he can prepare himself accordingly.”

The newspapers pat themselves on the back because the trade has been percolating for three weeks and McCormack, one of Paul Brown’s greats in Cleveland, makes the deal. But it doesn’t save his job. McCormack is in Cincinnati the next season coaching the offensive line. Green won’t be there because the Bengals let him go after he makes just 10 of 21 field goals dodging bullets in an 11-3 season. Green hangs in the league for just two more years and Muhlmann spends three years with the Eagles hitting the same 64 percent before retiring.
June 15, 1988
Reggie Williams
Reggie Williams, the most productive linebacker in Bengals history, becomes the ultimate two-way player today when he is appointed a member of Cincinnati City Council despite having a year left on his contact that marks his 13th with the club. “When I’m on the football field, football will be my priority,” says Williams at a hastily-arranged news conference this afternoon at Charterite headquarters. “When I’m in City Hall, Council will be my priority.” For the last few years the popular Williams has been courted by all three of the city’s political parties for a council seat, but when Arn Bortz of the Charter Committee suddenly resigns this week, the next morning Williams is meeting with Bengals president general manager Paul Brown, assistant general manager Mike Brown, and head coach Sam Wyche before appearing at the news conference. The Charterites appeal to Williams because the party, “believes in the way I do, in non-partisan local government and what is best for the city.”

There is much concern about Williams’ schedule during the season. Wyche says ominously, “We’ll do what we have to do if Reggie can’t do both.” Council meets Wednesday afternoons, a heavy work day for the Bengals, and has committee meetings Mondays and Tuesdays. The Bengals say Williams will spend the mornings on Monday and Tuesday at Spinney Field with the team before going to City Hall in the afternoon. Wednesdays? “Wednesday will be a very interesting day,” Williams says with a laugh. Mike Brown attends the news conference and says, “The short time Reggie misses on the field will be made up for by the player’s experience.” Williams is not only one of the most visible players in Cincinnati but in the nation as the NFL Man of the Year two years ago and a Sports Illustrated Co-Person of the Year last year and the Charterites bank on his popularity winning the seat in the 1989 election. He does return to end up serving three years on council with his leading issues drug abuse and health and urban development. But he says, “My first priority is to listen and learn. It’s a little premature for me to espouse an agenda.” The next day the city’s two estimable cartoonists feature Williams. Jim Borgman of The Enquirer draws Bortz in a No. 1 Bortz jersey running off the field high-fiving Williams in his No. 57 jersey. Jeff Stahler of The Post has an aggressive Williams being admonished, “No, Nooo, Reggie. When we disagree with a fellow council member we don’t tackle.” Wide receiver Cris Collinsworth jokes that players are lining up to run for office and guard Max Montoya quips, “It’s not going to have an effect on me. I live in Kentucky.”

But there is also a lot of respect and admiration here. “It sounds like a great thing for him. I don’t see it having any affect on him playing. I think he can very easily handle the dual roles,” Montoya says. Williams warns, “I’m not running up the flag and say this my last season.” The Bengals keep Joe Kelly at inside linebacker instead of moving him to Williams’ spot on the outside and keep third-round pick Kevin Walker on the bench. Williams not only starts every game as well as the Super Bowl while sitting on council, he signs up for one more year and the election to end up playing 206 games, one game behind Ken Riley’s franchise record. Nearly 30 years later the Bengals strength coach from that era, Kim Wood, will remember of Williams, “He’s in city council and he comes down to work out and he takes off his suit,” Wood says. “It would be 15 to 20 minutes of hell. And he’d put his suit back on and go back to city council. He had to budget his time. We were fortunate that we had guys willing to do that.”
June 14, 2012
One of Bengals founder Paul Brown’s most enduring innovations he brought to pro football is the playbook. His descendants are now making sure it becomes just as relevant in the 21st century. On a day the Bengals unveil their playbook iPads to the media, by the time the video of today's practice has been loaded most of the players have already vacated the Paul Brown Stadium premises for summer vacation.

The Bengals are one of about 12 teams with the system that uses audio, animation and video to boil down what used to consist of hundreds of pages in loose-leaf notebooks. The Bengals figure they've invested "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in a project that has called in local organizations such as Pomeroy and Northern Kentucky University. "The big thing is how quickly they can get the video to you," says quarterback Andy Dalton, heading back to his Dallas home. "I'll be able to look at this practice in about an hour."
June 13, 2005
Rudi Johnson
On this day documents a moment last week when two extraordinary people dominate a Paul Brown Stadium practice field. Katherine Hevener, a West Virginia native who has lived off and on in Cincinnati for 20 years while working across the nation with the blind and visually impaired, has followed the Bengals for many seasons on the radio even though she has never seen a snap. Running back Rudi Johnson, who set the Bengals’ single-season rushing record last year, allows her to see the game through his eyes. "When they say, 'Carson Palmer rolls out,' I can only picture him rolling around on the ground," Hevener says. "But I'm pretty sure that doesn't happen." With her knowledge of the game vacuumed from radio broadcasts, she becomes the perfect middle man for Radio Reading Services of Cincinnati. The group provides access to current print media for people who are unable to read due to blindness or a visual, physical or learning disability, and the Bengals are a topic. P.J. Combs, the Bengals assistant director of public relations, makes it happen so this sub-broadcast can be heard on Dave Uhlman’s show on the public radio station WGUC on a special frequency. With Johnson and Hevener forming such a powerful question-and-answer combination, Uhlman thinks he comes away with enough fodder for a couple of half-hour shows.

At one point Johnson explains “24 Power,” the play on which he got so many of his 1,454 yards. Right guard Bobbie Williams and right tackle Willie Anderson push straight ahead. Left guard Eric Steinbach pulls to the right and Johnson follows him and fullback Jeremi Johnson. "I wanted to put a picture in her mind from the huddle until the end of the play," Rudi Johnson says. "Let her know what everybody is doing besides me. J.J., Willie and Bobbie and Steinbach. The wide receivers. To make that play work, a lot of people have to be successful. I'm facing Carson and I've got my back to the goal posts," is how Johnson describes his spot in the huddle. "Chad (Johnson) is on my left. The tight end, whether it's Reggie Kelly, or Tony Stewart, or Matt Schobel, to my right. I told her she's going to be hearing a lot about that play this year." The hand-off mystery becomes much clearer once Johnson tells Combs to go get a football. He takes Hevener's arms, makes a pocket, and then takes her arms through the various stages of the play. "Because our society being what it is, there is a discomfort with people touching," Hevener says. "I think Rudi picked up that he needed to do that to show what it was really like. Now I have a much better understanding of it.”

She has never thrown a football until now, when the Pro Bowl running back urges her on. She doesn't even know how to hold it, and there is Johnson showing her the laces with his fingers, and as she makes her first throw she feels a wonderful breeze on her face. "I didn't want to hit anyone. I think he picked up on my feeling because he told me, 'I'm OK. Just throw it toward this spot,'" Hevener says. "In my mind, that's the one thing that sticks out in my memory from that day. I threw the ball and it didn't bounce. I heard the sound of the ball hitting his hands." It is a touchdown anywhere, any day. "At first I explained to him this is an opportunity to share his passion for game and he did. He brought the game to life for me," Hevener says. "He handles it all well. He's unassuming. He's very quiet, but when he got the ball and talked about it, he seemed comfortable. You hear about professional athletes sometimes can get caught up in themselves. I didn't see it that way."
June 12, 2008
Domata Peko
It just so happens that when nose tackle Domata Peko's parents make one of their two or three annual trips from American Samoa, their 320-pound baby today becomes the richest defensive tackle in Bengals history. After he signs a five-year extension that can max to $30 million before today’s practice, he’ll go home tonight and the Pekos will do what they always do when they get together. After eating, they will pray. Then the father, Rev. Tupe Peko, reads some scripture. Then the youngest child, Domata Peko Sr., plays his guitar and sings. "Tonight it's going to be 'Bless My Lord,' " says Domata Peko. "It's my mom's favorite and we really have been blessed." "He's our youngest, so ever since he began his football career we've lifted him up in our prayers every night," says Sua, his mother. "He has kept the faith and he's never forsaken it. Growing up in the church I think is 100 percent why things have happened for him the way they have. He always has to keep this in mind."

The Bengals keep in mind that they have a third-year player who is superb against the run and an emerging leader. They are convinced after watching just one year of him as a starter in 2007 with 65 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a pass defensed, and a crucial midfield fumble recovery in the fourth quarter of a one-point game against the Jets. John Clayton, "The Professor" of ESPN fame, pronounces the deal "a good one for both sides. The going rate for a D-tackle is $5 million. Let's face it. There are none out there and they've got him for his whole career." Peko leaves nine years later for Denver, but over the course of that first extension he’s in the middle of a Bengals defense that finishes in the NFL top ten four times and makes the postseason four times.

"A lot of young guys come up to me and tell me, 'Man, what year is this for you? Is this like Year Six? Year Five?' And I say, 'No, it's my third year,' '' Peko says. "They're just looking up to me now. It's time to step up as a leader on this defense. To have my voice out there and to play hard and step up as a leader for this team … I'm ready to play for our fans. I want to get a ring." Which is how he becomes one of the more popular players in club annals during a career that eventually spans 171 games, second most up front behind only the legendary Tim Krumrie.
June 11, 2012
Mohamed Sanu
In what officially ends one of the odder moments in the NFL Draft, the Bengals reach a deal with Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, one of their third-round picks. The story stretches back six weeks, when the Bengals are on the clock at No. 27 in the first round. Someone calls Sanu and says they’re from the Bengals. In the days leading up to the draft, Sanu is linked to them because of their need to find a No. 2 receiver opposite Pro Bowl rookie A.J. Green. But the caller is a prank. They tell Sanu Cincinnati is picking him when the team is actually telling Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler he’s the newest Bengal. Even though they aren’t involved, the Bengals reach out to Sanu's agent the next morning before the second and third rounds with vice president Troy Blackburn and director of player personnel Duke Tobin calling Mike McCartney. They are told it is a Rutgers student. Head coach Marvin Lewis also phones to tell Sanu to hang in there.

“I think he had turned his phone off, but I got to speak to his agent," Lewis says after they actually pick Sanu. "But I left a message (with Sanu). But I think a couple other people reached out to them, too. We talked to the agent and he was OK. It’s an unfortunate situation. I think the guy that played the prank on him really thought it was funny ... I’m glad it worked out that way. It was a fun phone call to call him." Sanu is just relieved. “I’m hysterically laughing about that now,” he says when asked if he can laugh about it right after the Bengals take him with the 83rd pick. “It was a terrible experience. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I’m just thankful that God gave me the blessing to be picked by the Bengals, and I’m very thankful to be a Bengal.” Today, he makes it official when he signs a four-year contract and it’s no joke.
June 10, 2004
Brian Simmons
After last season’s sweeping transition involves switching positions and playing without 1998 draft soulmate Takeo Spikes, linebacker Brian Simmons comes into his seventh Bengals mandatory minicamp not reeling from a losing season for the first time in his career. Simmons, dean of the defense with 79 Bengals games even though he won’t turn 29 until next week, believes the Bengals believe in head coach Marvin Lewis after an 8-8 season put a stop to the five previous years at 19-61. In a Q and A with in the run-up to minicamp, Simmons can feel the confidence building.

“I really believe last year we felt that way,” Simmons says. “We knew that the games that we lost, we felt like we were right there, and it was just a matter of making that one play to get us over the hump. I don't think at the beginning, even though we lost those close ones, we didn't think that was the way the team was going to go. And then when we started winning, I don't think guys were surprised. I think guys were like, "OK, this is paying off; this is what it's like." Happy with it, enjoyed the taste of it and wanted more of it.” Simmons, who moves to WILL backer from the middle when Lewis arrives last year, has as much to do with the turnaround with three huge plays in that 2003 season.

When the 1-4 Bengals are about to fall behind the Ravens, 14-0, and certain death with Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis in the wings, Simmons grabs the ball from Ravens rookie quarterback Kyle Boller for a fumble recovery at the Ravens 47 and moments later Jon Kitna and Matt Schobel stun the Ravens with a 45-yard touchdown pass on third-and-a-million for a 7-7 tie midway through the first quarter. The Bengals go on to win, 34-26, and win six of their next seven. The next week as they try to protect a 27-24 lead against Seattle in the last six minutes, Simmons intercepts a Matt Hasselbeck pass deflected by tackle Oliver Gibson at the Bengals 34. Then with just under two minutes left Simmons deflects a Hasselbeck pass caught by cornerback Jeff Burris to end it at the Bengals 24. “It was getting used to reading different keys,” Simmons reflects of his move outside. “From the middle, you're using different keys than from the outside. You've got different things that you need to be looking at to tell you what you need to do and where you need to fit. I had to constantly remind myself not to try and look at the keys that I was used to looking at playing in the middle.”

Now a year into it and Carson Palmer set to start at quarterback after a year of being groomed and the first Monday night game of his career looming on the schedule and the optimism palatable, The Dean is his customary cautious and focused self when it comes to playoff talk. “We definitely want to have a better showing on the national stage. Sunday night is a poor man's Monday night. It's second best. Monday night is the showcase. That's when everybody is watching. I can't ever remember not watching a Monday night game,” Simmons says. “There are 31 teams with veteran quarterbacks, some are 10-year vets, and they don't know if they're going to the playoffs, either. It's not how Carson plays, it’s how we play as a team.”
June 9, 2007
Chad Johnson
After sauntering into the paddock and looking the horse in the eyes while telling him he will lose to a mere human being, Chad Johnson stuns everyone from vegetarians to veterinarians by silencing a thoroughbred named “Restore The Roar,” by 12 lengths in their match race when he goes end zone to end zone in 11.1 seconds. It’s not exactly Ali beating Liston. But Johnson, the Bengals’ ringmaster receiver, tames the four-year-old at jam-packed, steamy River Downs while raising $7,000 for the charity “Feed The Children,” that took him to Kenya back in March. The horse, which has run four races, is donated, by owner and rabid Bengals fan Patty Genn of Lebanon, Ohio. "I've never rooted against a Bengal," says Genn, who names the horse after seeing a TV special in head coach Marvin Lewis' first year of 2003. "And I'm not going to start now."

As River Downs caretaker John Engelhardt explains his 110-yard head start in the 220-yard race, Johnson crows, “Can't catch me. Can't catch me.” When Engelhardt tells him that horses can gobble up 20 to 25 feet on one jump, a flicker of doubt pops up on the Ocho's face. He can’t remember the last time he ran 110 yards all out. But draped in black-and-orange silks emblazoned with No. 85 and "Ocho Cinco," Johnson doesn’t disappoint the crowd that Engelhardt says is sitting in places he has never seen used before today.

"That is a very fast man," says P.J. Cooksey, once the winningest woman jockey of all time who can’t repeat her win over former Bengals receiver Cris Collinsworth in a 1993 photo finish. "Kudos to Chad. If we had the same start I'm not sure we still could have beaten him." But she says the crowd of about 8,000 gives her a repeat of the same roar she felt when she went into the gate at the '84 Kentucky Derby. "It was so awesome. I heard it and I'm thinking, 'Where am I? The Kentucky Derby?'" Johnson, still sauntering, credits the kids he hopes to help feed. "How can I take the little things for granted?" Johnson asks. "Like having three meals a day."
June 8, 2011
Andy Dalton
In one of the more odd debuts in franchise history, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton practices for the first time as a Bengal at the University of Cincinnati with no helmet and no coaches in a session planned by players such as veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth and backup quarterback Jordan Palmer. Welcome to the 2011 NFL Lockout, where players can’t have contact with coaches and team employees and where the bizarre is the norm. Especially for the Bengals. With Whitworth informing the media a few weeks ago that he's got a copy of new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's playbook (the lockout was lifted one day during the draft), it can be assumed that Dalton also has a copy. The Bengals are grappling with trying to install the new offense without Gruden and disgruntled quarterback Carson Palmer, Jordan Palmer’s brother.

Jordan tells the media after the workout that he views his brother as “a former teammate,” more proof the Bengals and Carson Palmer aren’t budging in their respective hard-line stands in the wake of Carson’s trade demand. In the Bengals’ first spring workout not quarterbacked by Carson in five years, the Associated Press reports that Dalton "made tight, on-target throws during a relaxed 7-on-7 session." His top target, first-round pick A.J. Green, is expected next week as he throws to another draft pick, Ryan Whalen, as well as little-used veteran wide receiver Jerome Simpson. Veteran right guard Bobbie Williams, who began his Bengals career when Palmer did in 2004, endorses Dalton and has the line of the day noting the differences: "Andy's picking up the tempo … Yesterday we kidded around with him, told him he needs to deepen his voice, get some bass in it. But he seemed to have adjusted pretty good to it."

Whitworth and nose tackle Domata Peko are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to planning the practices and putting teammates up for the two weeks of practice. “You can’t replace having pads on but for this time of year we have guys executing and working on technique," Whitworth tells The Cincinnati Enquirer. "Our thing is right now no matter what happens (when an agreement is reached) we have to go and play football, the other side doesn’t. Let those guys do that and we have to prepare to play well.”
June 7, 1984
Isaac Curtis
The newspapers are filled today with the announcement that Isaac Curtis, their all-time leading receiver, has agreed to a two-year deal. Even though there is a new head coach (Sam Wyche) and he turns 34 during the season (Oct. 20), Curtis is ready to return. “I just sat down with Mike Brown and we talked a while and after about 15 or 20 minutes we had an agreement we could both live with,” Curtis says of his meeting with the club’s assistant general manager. “Two years is just about right for me. I still enjoy playing the game. It will be 13 seasons for me when the contract is up and by then I’ll probably be looking at my time to retire.”

While future generations are left to speculate how many millions Curtis would be worth as the prototypical modern wide receiver, he confirms he gets a raise from his $220,000 salary in 1983, which he earned with his best year since 1980 on 13.6 yards per his 42 catches to go with a signature 80-yard TD catch, second only to Pro Bowler Cris Collinsworth on the team. Those numbers jack his all-time club records to 405 catches and 53 TDs and put him on the doorstep of 7,000 yards. It also guarantees that Curtis is the only Bengal besides quarterback Ken Anderson to play for both Paul Brown and Wyche, a backup quarterback on Brown’s original Bengals.
June 6, 2001
In an attempt to give their young secondary some experience, the Bengals go for another hometown guy today when they tap Forest Park High School cornerback Carlton Gray in a two-year deal. Gray becomes the fourth local product on the roster, joining left tackle John Jackson of Woodward High School, defensive end Vaughn Booker of Taft High School, and cornerback Rodney Heath of Western Hills High School.

Gray, 30, a veteran of eight seasons, four teams, and 62 games, hasn't been a regular since he started 13 games for the 1997 Colts and his last interception is with the Giants in 1998. But he becomes the Bengals' most experienced corner with Tom Carter. His dozen career interceptions are five more than those produced by the young quartet of Heath (3), Artrell Hawkins (3), Robert Bean (1) and Mark Roman (0). But the move is short-lived when the youngsters get a foothold in training camp and the Bengals release Gray after the second pre-season game.
June 5, 1985
Reggie Williams
Reggie Williams, one of the most popular players in the history of the franchise and one of the most active ever in the community, reaches a contract with the Bengals earlier this week that keeps one of the NFL’s most productive linebackers in Cincinnati for three more seasons. The deal struck in virtual secrecy doesn’t hit the morning paper until today and momentarily quells a turbulent offseason that has seen defensive end Ross Browner jump to the USFL and wide receiver Steve Kreider have a loud contract dispute. At the opposite pole even though Williams comes off an improbable season with a team-high nine sacks AND a team-high 92 tackles, he refuses to demand a trade, talk to the USFL, or threaten a trade. “The NFL is the best football in the world and I feel fortunate to be a part of it,” Williams says. “I wasn’t trying to back anyone against the wall …. It’s more important for me to be a well-conditioned ballplayer than make a few more dollars.”

Williams, a third-round pick out of Dartmouth in 1976, heads into his tenth season as a staple of Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense. Of those on the roster as of today only quarterback Ken Anderson, with 14 seasons played, wide receiver Isaac Curtis, with 12 played, and linebacker Glenn Cameron, with 10 played, have been here longer. “Talking dollars and cents like that can interfere with what you’re doing in the community,” Williams says and the next year he’ll go on to win the NFL’s prestigious Man of the Year for his charitable works. Head coach Sam Wyche points to the Williams signing as proof the Bengals are trying to keep their best players with commensurate salaries. In the decade before free agency, NFL news is dominated by how players can get the best deals without it. “I occasionally would like to read about sports on the sports page,” Wyche says. “We’re one of the most harmonious teams in the league and Reggie Williams exemplifies that … Reggie showed he has a lot of class, which we all knew anyway.”
June 4, 2000
Bengals first-round pick Peter Warrick, Florida State’s game-wrecking wide receiver, gives his contract negotiations the tear-away jersey treatment when he strikes a deal more than a month before training camp. It goes down during a neighborly Sunday morning get-together at Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn’s Indian Hill home with Jim Gould, one of Warrick’s agents. Gould, a familiar figure in Cincinnati business circles who repped Dan Wilkinson when the Bengals traded him to Washington two years ago, lives a few doors down and has dealt with the Brown family for 20 years. In fact, at the moment he’s also the soccer coach for Blackburn’s five-year-old daughter.

But the seven-year pact that can max out at $42 million is no child’s play. A few days before, Gould and his partner Norm Nixon start what turns out to be a four-day process with face-to-face negotiations in the last days of the Bengals’ Spinney Field offices. Nixon, Debbie Allen’s husband whose second best claim to fame is he was Magic Johnson’s running mate with the Showtime Lakers of the ‘80s, helps get his client into a camp on time where reps are going to be at a premium for a starting rookie wide receiver and a second-year quarterback in Akili Smith that only played four games last year. Warrick ends up playing five of the seven seasons in Cincinnati under three head coaches and three Opening Day quarterbacks, but he’ll save his best for last in the 2003 game at Paul Brown Stadium that puts the Bengals in first place for the first time in November in 13 years. His frenetic fourth quarter features a 68-yard punt return for a TD and a 77-yard catch for another that stuns the unbeaten Chiefs.

June 3, 1987
The front page picture of this morning’s Cincinnati Enquirer says it all. When he announces his retirement yesterday after 16 years with the Bengals, quarterback Ken Anderson and his grade-school daughter Megan stand in the seats at Riverfront Stadium shortly after the news conference in the Bengals offices. The caption says she wants to see the new scoreboard and her dad wants to check out seats for next year. Bengaldom wakes up this morning to founder Paul Brown’s ultimate compliment when he says Anderson should be sitting in Canton. “Someday he belongs in the Hall of Fame,” says Brown, who has been in the Hall for 20 years. Up until last week, it is thought Anderson is returning to serve as Boomer Esiason’s backup for the third straight year. But citing doctor’s concerns about shoulder issues, Anderson stops the ride after 192 games, which 30 years later is still the most by a Bengals offensive player.

“I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to retire,” Anderson says. “It’s never an easy decision. There comes a point where enough is enough and I think I’ve gotten to that point.” Anderson, 38, is called the first Bengal to retire who is a strong candidate to go to the Hall. And 30 years later Anderson still waits to join Anthony Munoz, the left tackle who blocked his blind side in Anderson’s NFL MVP season of 1981. The only man to win back-to-back NFL passing titles in two different decades, Anderson is one of only four quarterbacks to win at least four passing titles and the other three are in the Hall. Len Dawson is in this year’s class, Roger Staubach went in two years ago in the Class of 1985, and Sammy Baugh is a charter member from 1963. Anderson also retires as the most accurate passer ever with the NFL records for best completion percentage in a season and game, as well as in a post-season career.

Precision and production define a remarkable career on the field as well as a memorable stint off it as a one-time NFL Man of the Year for his work in the community. Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, channeling his future as an Emmy-award NFL broadcaster, has just the right call as he remembers how Anderson came back from an Opening Day benching to resoundingly win MVP. “Kenny was the consummate pro. I learned more about the way he handled himself in that situation than I ever learned from any person,” Collinsworth says. “I think that’s how he’ll best be remembered. Not by the way he threw the ball or played, but by the way he handled himself as a man.”

June 2, 1983
Jack Thompson
Mike Dodd will sum it up best in the next day’s editions of The Cincinnati Enquirer. “ ‘The Throwin Samoan,’ is goin.” No one is shocked today when the Bengals deal the man the newspapers call “disenchanted” back-up quarterback Jack Thompson to Tampa Bay for the Buccaneers’ first-round pick in 1984. Ever since the Bengals select Thompson with the third pick in the 1979 draft out of Washington State to succeed Ken Anderson it has been a rocky road, culminating in November of 1982 when Thompson doesn’t report back from the players’ strike and informs the club he has signed with the Panthers of the USFL. The Bengals sue and win in April when an arbitrator rules that the Bengals didn’t have to pay him during the strike. And then a few weeks ago he agrees to return to the Bengals after modifying his contract.

It may be an object lesson why another backup quarterback, AJ McCarron, is still a Bengal in 2017. The Bengals get interested only when the Bucs approach them a week ago at the NFL owners’ meeting in, of all places, Tampa. Sources indicate they offer the Bengals a couple of high draft picks for the well-liked Thompson but are turned down. Cincy holds out for a first-rounder even though Thompson has started just five games in his four years, one the last two years, and none when Anderson is healthy. “We were not looking to get rid of Jack. This was not a retaliatory move. On balance taking the future into consideration it seems best for the Bengals and for Jack,” says Bengals assistant general manager Mike Brown. Brown calls Thompson and tells him, “Hold on to your seat.” A pleased Thompson tells the Tampa writers, “I feel like a kid waking up on Christmas morning in June.”

For the Bengals it turns out to be Christmas in May. The next May. The Bucs’ pick turns into the 1984 overall No. 1 pick and the Bengals unload it to New England for two more picks later in the first round. It is not as bountiful for Thompson. He goes 3-13 with the Bucs in ’83 and ’84 (Anderson beats him in ’83 even though he throws for 316 yards) and is out of the league in 1985 when future Hall-of-Famer Steve Young surfaces in Tampa. But Thompson, who becomes a successful coffee company executive, remains classy all the way and is delighted 17 years later when Jon Kitna, a one-time 10th grader at Thompson’s quarterbacks camp in Everett, Wash., signs with the Bengals. He takes the opportunity to reminisce to with humor and good-natured admiration about that 1981 quarterback competition: "Kenny and I had a great competition through the summer and I hurt my ankle. He had a tough opener and I had to watch with my big ankle and Turk (Schonert) won it for us by handing off to Pete Johnson. I could have done that. But I give Kenny credit. He went in and had a heart-to-heart talk with (head coach) Forrest Gregg and then he took us to the Super Bowl. I like to think I helped him, that I pushed him with competition and made him better. That's what makes sports sports. Competition makes everyone better."

June 1, 2012
Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation
The plans for Andy Dalton and his wife Jordan to dive head first into the Cincinnati community of giving are pretty much put on hold during a break-neck season the Texas Christian rookie becomes the Bengals’ latest franchise quarterback. Last June, Dalton’s ability to transition into the league is a victim of the NFL Lockout, where no players can have contact with coaches and the team. But now it is time as Dalton heads into this June as the first rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead his team to nine wins while throwing 20 touchdown passes. His debut is The Gridiron Challenge at Paul Brown Stadium, a flag football fundraiser for The Athletes United Foundation that is one of former Bengals kicker Doug Pelfrey's many local good-works efforts. Dalton is taking notes from the greats. Before watching Pelfrey work, Dalton views last month’s Marvin Lewis Golf Classic, the Tri-State's Cadillac of charity fundraisers.

The plans are multiplying quickly. Next week Dalton plans to host Celebrity Waiter Night at Jeff Ruby’s in downtown Cincinnati, the first fundraiser for the Jordan and Andy Dalton Foundation created to offer opportunities as well as support and resources to needy children and families when it comes to special needs, medical issues, or just plain finances. And there are ideas like this one percolating: shut down a large venue for a morning or a day for families with disabilities or for underprivileged families. "You see all the people that come out for Marvin's event; it's unbelievable," Dalton says. "We can make an impact … It comes with it … When I've been going to these (charity) events, I've been taking notes. ‘I like this.' Or, 'I wouldn’t do that.' We're excited to get it going."

“The Red Rifle,” calls his shot. Five years later the Daltons’ Foundation is now a familiar force thriving with efforts aimed at hospitals and families for those children living on the fringe of health and welfare. Celebrity Waiter Night is now an anchor on the Cincinnati community calendar, as well as King for a Day, the one day during the summer the Daltons close down King’s Island for hours to host needy families.

May 31, 2003
Akili Smith
It will officially happen two days later on Monday morning for salary cap accounting purposes, but it really happens this morning when the new Bengals head coach informs Akili Smith’s agent they’ll cut his client as Marvin Lewis’ massive overhaul continues. Lewis makes the call when the one-year deal for veteran quarterback Shane Matthews is finalized, giving them a 10-year No. 2 behind Jon Kitna while overall No. 1 draft pick Carson Palmer gets his feet wet in the No. 3 spot. Everyone knows it’s the only move that can be made with Lewis and Palmer now the faces of the franchise in the wake of the biggest coaching staff change in history. Smith, himself a No. 3 pick in 1999, never gets his career back on track after his 2000 benching following the 10th game. In the next few weeks they hire offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and sign Kitna before Smith loses camp derbies in 2001 and 2002 to veteran free agents the Bengals acquire that offseason.

"It's a great day," Smith says from San Diego. "I'm looking to get a fresh start on my career. There was a fresh group of coaches that came in this year, but I didn't really think it was like a fresh start and that's what I'm going to get now … I think the only thing that can do that is a change of scenery. I just don't know why they drafted me if all they were going to give me were those 10 games. To tell you the truth, when Brat came and then they brought in Kitna, I thought that was a wrap then." Injuries contribute heavily to Smith's inability to translate his athleticism and accuracy at Oregon into the NFL. His rookie season ends in his fourth start when he severely sprains his right big toe. In his only 2001 start, Smith leads the Bengals on a game-opening 20-play touchdown drive against the Jets in which he accounts for 50 of the 81 yards, 35 on four-for-four passing and 15 yards rushing. He gives a glimpse of what might have been when he converts three third downs on two passes and a run. But he tears his hamstring so severely getting hit running out of the pocket on the third series of the game that he needs surgery in the offseason to repair a 90-percent tear.

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. "This is the best course for the Bengals and for Akili," Lewis will say in the Monday news release. "We're pleased now with the lineup of other quarterbacks we've put in place, and we know Akili will get another opportunity. We credit him for the way he has stuck with it through this off-season, and we wish him well." Smith agrees: “I think that's a move that came from the top and I can't blame them. You have to fill the seats and the fans wanted Carson."

May 30, 1997
A day after the Bengals and Hamilton County ink a 29-year stadium lease, a broad coalition ranging from team officials to local pols to sports writers bask in the name. For the first time Paul Brown Stadium, in honor of the Bengals founder and first head coach, blankets the headlines. Mike Brown, the club’s current president, is proud his father’s name is on the 11-story riverfront monument to the 21st century. “His name on the stadium is one of the best things about all this. It honors our game and recognizes the heroes of our game,” he says. The Bengals’ decision not to exercise their rights to sell the stadium name (up to $16.7 million) is a hit. A few days later Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty will write, “Bengals emperor Mike Brown has saved us from corporate sponsor hell. We’ll have no 3-Com aberration in this town. No Pro Player mistake. The notion of really big fortune 500 company feel won’t be entertained any time soon. No. No. It will be Paul Brown Stadium. That’s it.” From the negotiation of the 1966 Riverfront Stadium lease to the 1995 Draft Day trade for Ki-Jana Carter to the call to keep the team in Cincinnati and work out a stadium solution, Mike Brown has been at the center of every major Bengals’ decision. But he says this deal for PBS marks the dawning of a new era. The night before the stadium agreement is announced he is helping his wife babysit their grandchildren while their mother, Bengals corporate secretary Katie Blackburn, and their father, the club’s director of stadium development Troy Blackburn, finalize the deal at their Spinney Field offices. “They were doing what I did. They carried the ball,” Mike Brown says. “I’m taking the applause only because of my position.” But when Paul Brown is enraged over final details three decades before and this latest deal nearly collapses at the last minute, it is Mike Brown’s calm that paves the way. “Mike is giving me way too much credit,” says Troy Blackburn, 30, the same age when Mike Brown finishes off the Riverfront lease. “Mike never lost sight of the big prize. He said the goal is not to win every battle but to win enough to keep the focus on the prize.”

May 29, 1984
In one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history and their best deal ever, the Bengals today acquire a little-used back just as little in the Chargers’ 5-10, 177-pound James Brooks. In exchange is Pete Johnson, the consummate power back who is nearly 100 pounds heavier than Brooks and leaves with a club-record 70 touchdowns after leading Cincinnati in rushing all seven seasons following the Bengals’ selection of him in the 1977 draft’s second round.

Both teams and players are delighted. Johnson, 30, embroiled in a year-long contract dispute, says he has no hard feelings and may send the Bengals roses. Brooks, 25 who denies he sat out the second half of a game against Pittsburgh last year because of too much blocking and not enough running, says from his home in Warner Robins, Ga., with the bluntness Bengals fans will come to know, “They didn’t let me do the things I’m capable of doing … I think I’m able to run the ball with any back in the league. They wanted Chuck Muncie to run it. When I ran it, we moved the ball. When Chuck ran it, he didn’t get the job done.” Johnson, who romped for Woody Hayes at Ohio State, feels like the Bengals don’t appreciate him anymore and says, “So it’s time for me to go. I’m sure as a new coach Sam Wyche didn’t want any unhappy players around.” Instead, the Bengals’ new head coach, who is an amateur magician, gets a major prop in what will become a ground-breaking act known as the no huddle offense displaying Brooks as a matchup nightmare for teams that can’t cover his wide-receiver moves in the passing game. “We’ll probably have so many formations that the times when you’d say we have a legitimate fullback in the formation will be rare,” Wyche says. “Sometimes we’ll have two backs in the backfield. Sometimes we’ll have just one. Brooks will be used like all the others. Charles Alexander will be a big back for us and so will Larry Kinnebrew. We have less size in our backfield but more speed.”

Chargers offensive guru Ernie Zampese, whose son Ken will be the Bengals offensive coordinator 35 years later using Giovani Bernard in the Brooks mold, assures the Bengals are getting a good player. Just how good is staggering. While Johnson ends up playing three games for the Chargers before ending his season and career in Miami, Brooks goes on to four Pro Bowls on his way to passing Johnson as the club’s all-time rusher with three 1,000-yard seasons on 4.8 yards per carry during eight seasons in Cincy. He’ll also rack up three 100-yard receiving games as he ends up fulfilling both canons of his trade day pledge: “I do want to gain 1,000 yards. I think every running back wants to do that. But my main goal is to win. Everything else will fall into place.”

May 28, 2002
Bengals second year right end Justin Smith is back at practice today, the Tuesday after Memorial Day and he’s musing about how he spends the holiday. No surprise here. He’s in the Paul Brown Stadium weight room. But then, here’s a guy who works out three hours a day during the offseason on his own just because it is part habit. But a big part if it is desire, too. “Ten sets of 10," is how many pullups Smith does Monday to ease into his holiday workout. "I don't lift the most weight, but pullups and dips get me strong for what I have to do on the field." He'll go overtime in the weight room, but he won't blow you away on the bench press like left guard Matt O'Dwyer with something like 38 repetitions of a 275-pound bar. “I can probably do 22, 23 at 275," Smith says. "I did some today, but only to warm up for the week. I'm not the strongest guy, but I'm trying to be strong for what I have to do. I know I'm going to have to slide in there at times and mix it up with the tackles."

It is a sneak peek at the work ethic that allows him to set a Bengals rookie record 8.5 sacks last season. It’s also a window into what will end up being one of the most underrated Bengals careers ever when he leaves for the 49ers in free agency after the 2007 season. In those seven seasons, he misses just one game and with more than a staggering 95 percent play time he averages six sacks per season to go with an astounding 70 tackles per season. "What else am I going to do?" Smith asks of the holiday. "The season is only two months away. It's time to get ready."

May 27, 2009
Antwan Odom
The Bengals are on the field this week for voluntary practices and it’s clear that right end Antwan Odom has volunteered to wipe out last year’s nightmarish three-sack season after the Bengals made him their richest free agent ever with $11 million guaranteed. Odom reveals earlier in the spring that he got treatment for sleep apnea over the offseason and instead of waking up 40 to 50 times a night; he says he's sleeping like a new man and it's given him a new energy. Add to that the 30-plus pounds he has put on at the end of last season per the plan of strength coaches Chip Morton and Ray Oliver to bulk him up to 285 pounds to strengthen the shoulder he sprained last season after several college injuries had weakened it and Odom admits after one practice this week that he’s a different player.

"I'm enjoying it because I like to feel like this," Odom says. "I've got a lot of confidence. I'm not worried about getting knocked off the ball as much. It's working out for the best right now." Defensive line coach Jay Hayes agrees: "He could always run. I don’t think that's ever going to be a question with him. He's always going to be athletic … I don't think he's slowed down at all. Personally, I think it's going to benefit; help keep his shoulder intact, make him a better, stronger athlete." The season certainly will certainly start out that way. When he blows out his Achilles in the sixth game of the season, Odom is leading the NFL with eight sacks, seven in the first two weeks. But he’ll play only four more games for the Bengals and in the NFL.

May 26, 2010
Paul Gunther
Even though the Bengals are coming off a No. 4 overall defensive ranking that is their highest in 26 years and is the centerpiece of the 2009 defending AFC North champs, they come into the voluntary camps emphasizing a weakness. They rack up 10 wins despite generating the second fewest turnovers of the Marvin Lewis era and second fewest in the league with 25. So they are emphasizing picks, tips, strips, punches, scoops, and anything else that translates into turnovers. The defense is getting a steady diet of turnover drills to start each voluntary field workout, even “making sure the ball doesn’t go out of bounds if you’re trying to get a fumble,” says WILL linebacker Keith Rivers. Not only are there more drills geared for creating turnovers, but the players also feel the urgency from the coaches in any group activity, whether it is 11-on-11, 9-on-7, or 7-on-7. “If the ball is on the ground,” says assistant linebackers coach Paul Guenther, “it doesn’t matter how it got there. You pick it up and run the other way. If you intercept the ball, you go to the nearest sideline and pick up a block. In any team drill.”

“It started right when we came in for OTAs; they put it right up on the screen,” says cornerback Johnathan Joseph. “The difference between being 12-4 and how many games are won by seven points and three points. If you (score) off a turnover, your chances of winning the game go up by something like 85 percent. And they showed how the stats from last year fit into that.” It will take a few years to take hold because they need the help of two rookie defensive linemen. When they come of age in 2012, defensive tackle Geno Atkins (12.5) and left end Carlos Dunlap (6), along with third year right end Michael Johnson, lead a pass rush that nets a club-record 51 sacks while forcing 26 fumbles. They recover 16 while picking off 14 passes for a total of 30 turnovers that translate into four return TDs and help pave the way for a 7-1 finish, 10 wins, and a play-off berth .

May 25, 2016
Andrew Billings
Some had massive defensive tackle Andrew Billings going in the first round in last month’s NFL Draft but the Baylor strongman survives into the fourth round, where the Bengals hope he keeps up that fourth-round royalty in the defensive trenches that include Robert Geathers (2004), Domata Peko (2006), and Geno Atkins (2010). They may have just signed their strongest player ever. Billings, a Waco High School product, shoots to fame for setting the Texas prep weightlifting records with an 805-pound squat and 2,010-pound combined lift in the squat, bench, and dead lift, all of which makes for an animated conference call with the Cincinnati media the day he is drafted.

The media lights upon another intriguing stat. In his final two seasons at Waco he is so powerful that he is credited with 266 “pancake,” hits that jolt his opponents off their feet. Perhaps stunned by the huge number and maybe mesmerized by the lifting prowess, one confused scribe asks Billings if he ate all the pancakes in one sitting. The NFL meu is just as daunting, which calls for the 6-1, 325-pound Billings to eventually help replace Peko, an all-time Bengals great, and he does after Peko plays his 171st game (eighth most in club history) in the 2016 finale. That’s the plan even though Billings misses virtually all of his rookie season with a knee injury he suffers in drills with the Vikings just before the pre-season opener. But the mega-talent who has just turned 22 in March assures the scribes on the eve of the 2017 OTAs that he’s 100 percent. So is his sense of humor. When he moves his locker from the rookie wing into the big room he continues to display the box of pancake mix given to him by the confused scribe a year ago.

May 24, 1967
Bengals Helmet
It takes two years, the courting of a pro football icon, and a 24-hour delay along with an all-night session to fend off other cities. But Cincinnati becomes a two-sport major league city when NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle emerges this morning in New York to announce the city has secured the 10th franchise in the American Football League to begin play in 1968. The league won’t announce the ownership group for four more months, but it is an open secret it is going to be headed by Paul Brown, the former long-time Cleveland coach recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Until then the city fathers realize they not only have a foot in the door of an NFL merger expected in the next two years, but they believe their crusade for a pro football team has rescued major-league baseball’s oldest team. “We saved the Reds for Cincinnati here because if we had failed in this the Reds eventually would have moved to a more happy and progressive climate,” said Cincinnati city councilman Myron Bush after the all-nighter. Bush, fellow councilman Eugene P. Ruehlmann, and Ohio governor Jim Rhodes convince Rozelle in the marathon huddle not to open it up to other bidders. While Rhodes has used the power of the state house to help sway the league, Ruehlmann’s nuts and bolts work in the nooks and crannies of civic government has the city on the verge of a downtown multi-purpose stadium on the Ohio River. “It is another step in building our stadium,’ Ruehlmann says. “The stadium will be one step in a chain reaction because it will generate business after business for the city.”

May 23, 1993
Boomer Esiasion
In a stunning story both heart-lifting and heart-breaking, Bengals icon Boomer Esiason announces what will become one of the country’s most recognizable crusades when he declares war on cystic fibrosis while revealing his two-year-old son Gunnar has the No. 1 genetically transmitted fatal disease. At their Northern Kentucky home the only clue Gunnar has been diagnosed two weeks earlier is the IV taped to his left arm sticking out of a New York Jets’ T-Shirt, his father’s new team after the St. Patrick’s Day trade from the Bengals. “We’d rather have support than sympathy,” says his mother, Cheryl, and his father shows the same fiery resolve that yielded a league MVP and Super Bowl berth in Cincinnati: “You hear about people having the denial stage. I never had a denial stage. I immediately said this is my son and I will do everything I can.”

No one can do more. Boomer Esiason, with Gunnar sitting on his shoulders, will soon appear on the cover of Sports illustrated as an NFL Man of the Year who will continues to raise millions of dollars, incalculable awareness, and an urgency for a cure through the Boomer Esiason Foundation. What is now the 20-year-old Gunnar Esiason wing at Cincinnati’s Children’s Medical Center is just one of the enduring legacies from this day, not to mention Gunnar himself who has become just as devoted to the cause. A 26-year-old graduate of Boston College who is a Long Island high school hockey head coach at Friends Academy while blogging about his life and battle, Gunnar has teamed with his dad to help reduce the formidable numbers. When Boomer Esiason is a Bengals rookie in 1984, the lifespan of a C.F. patient is about 25 years. Now the median predicted survival age is close to 40 and Boomer says, “I fully expect Gunnar to outlive me.” He has been saying it ever since this day he reveals the diagnosis, when he remembers the doctors telling him the gene is located on the seventh chromosome. “That’s when I knew we’d find a cure,” says the eternal No. 7.

May 22, 2001

With the NFL’s 32nd team set to begin play in Houston in 2002, the NFL owners approve this morning a realignment of eight teams with four divisions boasting the long sought format for even scheduling. The consistent rotation is a big selling point for Bengals president Mike Brown and cushions the loss of Indianapolis joining the old AFC Central core of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh in the new AFC North. Instead, the fourth team is defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore. “The most important thing for us is Cleveland and Pittsburgh," Brown says. "We do have the reigning Super Bowl champions. That has to have some appeal, doesn't it? I think that's good. I'd like to prove we can do a little better against them than we have."

Brown isn’t the only one looking for a different set. Houston owner Bob McNair wants his expansion team in the AFC North so the city can bask in the defunct Oilers' old rivalries. Titans owner Bud Adams, who moved the Oilers from Houston to Nashville five years ago, also wants his Titans to stay in the AFC North because of the current AFC Central rivalries. But they end up in the AFC South as Steelers owner Dan Rooney pushes for Baltimore because of historical connections with the Steelers and driving distance from Pittsburgh. It’s OK with Brown: "There just wasn't an organized exception to it. A team or two wishes it was different. No one says it's perfect. It's recognized or understood it would be hard to come up with something better. The people up there weren't orating. It was clear there wasn't a force that could oppose it."

The irony, of course, is that less than two years later Brown taps former Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis as his head coach, in large part because of his success in the old AFC Central with the Ravens and Steelers. The hire helps the new AFC North become the most competitive division in the league. In the North’s first 15 seasons, Lewis leads the Bengals to four division titles while the Ravens win four and the Steelers seven.

May 21, 2013
James Harrison
In what must seem like a Bengals fan’s ultimate fantasy, former Steelers linebacker James Harrison lines up in a black No. 92 jersey on the first day of the voluntary practices. A week ago the 35-year-old Harrison, a five-time Pro Bowler and universally acclaimed as the baddest man in the NFL with the help of commissioner Roger Goodell’s frequent admonitions, brings his special brand of fire to a Bengals team looking for one final piece to get over the top. He arrives as advertised as defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer watches Harrison take extensive notes, right end Michael Johnson watches him compete in the weight room with the early morning group, and linebackers coach Paul Guenther watches him come through his door so many times in this spring semester of extra office hours.

The impact on his new teammates is palatable. Harrison offers Johnson to work out with him in Arizona after OTAs. Defensive tackle Devon Still, who came home from the hospital when he was born swaddled in Steelers stuff, takes a question from his father who wonders just exactly how big Harrison is: “He’s like a big muscle walking around.” Although Harrison will only be here for one year, his advice to guys like Still leave an imprint. "Just stay focused as much as possible. A lot of guys get complacent at this level," Still recounts. "They get lazy. But if you want to get to the NFL, you have to step it up to another level and let people know that you're here. He's been talking to a lot to guys, sharing his knowledge of the game."

May 20, 1997

The Bengals, Reds, and Hamilton County are in the red zone in their bid to secure two new stadiums on the riverfront as the 21st century beckons. At a meeting in San Diego NFL owners, except for the obligatory abstention of the Raiders’ Al Davis, approve financial portions of the Bengals’ stadium lease with the county. It’s a fitting site. It is in nearby La Jolla, Calif., three decades ago where Bengals founder Paul Brown and son Mike Brown formulate the blueprint for the franchise. With a June a 1 deadline looming, Mike Brown, now the club’s president, leaves the meeting to fly back to Cincinnati to help finalize the agreement with the county. His departing words prove prophetic: “In my heart of hearts I don’t see anything that could arise to not get it done.”

May 19, 2004
Carson Palmer
During the first week of on-field work with Carson Palmer as the Bengals No. 1 quarterback, the kid is as advertised. The year before, when he sits behind Jon Kitna as the draft’s No .1 pick, quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese offers a glimpse: “He can make every throw.” On this Wednesday, the middle day of drills, the Palmer-Chad Johnson combo is unleashed, helped along by a more efficient way to operate the two-minute drill that makes Palmer’s deadly arm even deadlier. “I have to admit it, that out route is very nice," says veteran safety Kim Herring. "That come-back route is the hardest pass to cover and it's the hardest throw for a quarterback. It's so far outside and so deep, and he's thrown it in there a couple of times to Chad."

But it is the long ball Palmer patents with Johnson; "That's his route. That's what puts fear in people," Palmer says. "That's how he's going to get open off of that route. Because everybody is going to be so afraid of him just running deep and he breaks it off into a post, or a come-back, or curl, or whatever it may be.” Johnson will win the next three AFC receiving yardage titles after defending his 2003 crown and Palmer will go to two of the next three Pro Bowls. By the time they are done in 2010, they’ll hook up 44 times for TDs in seven seasons. That’s seven behind the team record of Ken Anderson-Isaac Curtis and three behind the 47 of Jeff Blake and Carl Pickens. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green can pass them into third place with their first TD strike of 2017.

May 18, 2015
Justin Smith
The retirement of 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith closes the book on the Bengals’ most successful draft ever. In the 2001 edition the Bengals select four players that end up in the franchise’s top four all-time for receiving, rushing, and sacks. Smith, out of Missouri, plays 111 of his 221 NFL games during his first seven NFL seasons in Cincinnati as a 4-3 right end. After they take him with the fourth pick, his 43.5 sacks put him fourth on the Bengals’ all-time list before Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap come along a decade later.

Then in the second round they take wide receiver Chad Johnson out of Oregon State and 751 catches, 10,783 yards, and countless TD celebrations later he leaves after the 2010 season as the club’s all-time leading receiver and one of its most celebrated personalities. In the fourth round they pluck running back Rudi Johnson out of Auburn and in seven seasons he finishes as their third all-time rusher with 5,742 yards. They finish it off by going back to Oregon State for Johnson’s running mate in the seventh round, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. In eight seasons he catches 507 balls for third most all-time in Bengals history, and sets their season record with 112 catches in 2007. The four combine for 13 Pro Bowls.

May 17, 2011
Robert Heidt Sr., who set one of the most famous broken legs in NFL history as the Bengals team doctor as well as set the tone for the first generation of sports medicine in the region when he created the Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine group, passes away from prostate cancer at age 85. Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz fondly remembers the man who patrolled the Bengals sidelines from 1980-98 while bringing on son Rob Jr., to help and eventually replace him. “I had dislocated my elbow against the Giants and the pain was excruciating," Muñoz says. "Rob Jr. came out on the field with another young guy and it seemed like an hour went by. I'm sure it wasn't, but those two guys were trying to get it back into the place. Then I felt the hands of experience manipulate the elbow and suddenly it was back in place. It was Rob Sr. A special man. We had a special relationship."

When Pro Bowl nose tackle Tim Krumrie goes down with a gruesome broken leg in Super Bowl XXIII, it is Heidt Sr. who handles it. "Dad said, 'Timmy, this might hurt a little bit,' and Krumrie said, 'I know,' " Junior recalls. Krumrie will never miss a game until he retires six years later. The Bengals are in Heidt’s blood and bones. He still keeps going to the home games despite his illness and the day Heidt leaves his home for the last time hours before he dies his son lets him leave only one way. “In his Bengals team shirt,” the younger Heidt says. “I think that’s the way he would have wanted to leave.”

May 16, 2006
Dan Ross
Bengaldom goes into mourning with the sudden death of one of the NFL’s first great receiving tight ends when Dan Ross collapses after a jog and dies at age 49 in his New Hampshire home. Bengals president Mike Brown spends the next day penning a note to Ross’ widow Joan before releasing a shaken statement: "Dan was a tremendous player for us, a big factor in us making our first Super Bowl. He and Kenny Anderson timed up so well in the passing game. ... Beyond that, and more importantly, Dan was a special person. He was held in high regard by everyone around here. It is stunning news that he is gone so prematurely."

Long before Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, Ross is one of the first tight ends to consistently put up numbers usually reserved for wide receivers in Bengals offensive coordinator Lindy Infante’s scheme. Ross sandwiches a club-record 71 catches in the first Super Bowl season of 1981 with 56 in 1980 and 47 in the strike-shortened season of 1982, making it 174 balls in 41 games before he leaves for the USFL after 42 catches in ’83. When Infante goes to Cleveland, he makes future Hall-of-Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome watch Ross tapes. In that magical ’81 season, his precise routes and uncanny knack for finding crevices help Anderson win NFL MVP and get the Bengals into the Super Bowl, where Ross sets the big game’s record with 11 catches. He shares it with Jerry Rice and Deion Branch and it stands for three decades.

A huge photo of one of Ross’ two TDs that day in Detroit is still plastered across a wall in the hallway of the meeting rooms. Ross, a popular suburban Boston native, is also best known for putting a pig in Anderson’s dorm room at training camp. “It was payback. He was just a nice guy and a great tight end. He was a big reason we were so successful,” Anderson says. "Beat the linebacker down the middle and that's what he could do. He had that speed, and we could read each other, and he could take the (defender) one way and go the other. He put tremendous pressure on the defense."

A Cincinnati native, Ray Oliver, the Bengals assistant strength coach who grew up in the West End, sums it up best on one of the franchise’s darkest days: "This is a sad day for every Bengals fan. I grew up watching Dan Ross. I loved him. He wasn't flashy. He caught everything. He blocked. The moustache. They talk about Pittsburgh being blue collar. So were we. That's the only No. 89 I know."

May 15, 2007
Domata Peko
After losing a playoff spot on the last play of last season in overtime to the Steelers, the Bengals’ overhaul of their front seven is seen in the first voluntary practice of the year and offers a glimpse of what is to come A day after veteran nose tackle Sam Adams is released, 22-year-old Domata Peko replaces him in the starting lineup off a nice rookie year. Robert Geathers off a 10.5 sack season and a six-year, $30 million deal, moves in as a full-time starter at right end. For the second straight year after his near Rookie of the Year season, middle linebacker Odell Thurman is suspended and the franchise’s most versatile linebacker ever, Brian Simmons, has ended his nine-year career in Cincinnati by going to New Orleans after he was cut. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis turns to a player he drafted in Baltimore and backed up Ray Lewis, Ed Hartwell. They put Hartwell at WILL and keep second-year man Ahmad Brooks in the middle. In the back end, No. 1 pick Leon Hall is getting a lot of snaps in the nickel at slot cornerback while the No. 1 pick from last year, cornerback Johnathan Joseph, settles in as a starter to complete the facelift.

Crushing injuries at linebacker eventually eat away at the rehab and early in the season the Bengals are forced to sign a journeyman off the street in middle linebacker Dhani Jones after Geathers has to finish a game at backer. It turns out that Jones is the guy they need and will team with Peko, Geathers, Joseph, and Hall to form the core of a defense that two years later finishes fourth in the NFL and paves the way for an AFC North title.

May 14, 1975
Mike Reid
It’s not exactly a stunner when word comes that All-Pro defensive tackle Mike Reid, their first round pick out of Penn State five years ago, retires from the Bengals at age 26. The 1970 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year has been trying to balance his music and football for a few years now. Head coach Paul Brown recalls Reid very nearly didn’t report to camp the year before and Pro Bowl tight end Bob Trumpy calls Reid “a super athlete, but a free spirit that hated the regimentation of football. He abhorred training camp.” Bengals NFL passing champion Ken Anderson says he’s never seen a quicker defensive lineman than Reid and Bengals defensive line coach Chuck Studley says no one in the NFL is quicker laterally. A decade before it is an official stat and four decades before Geno Atkins, Reid, captain of the Penn State teams that go 22-0 in 1968 and 1969, has 12 sacks in both 1971 and 1972 on his way to two Pro Bowls and the monster 1973 season with 13 sacks.

But Reid knows better than anyone. Injuries hold him to seven sacks in ’74 and he’s quoted today saying, “I thought about going to camp, but I really don’t think I could give them a complete effort. I would spend half my time in the whirlpool and on the training table and I would be giving it a half effort on the field.” Maybe he could have gone to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he does go into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 as a country music giant. In 1984, he wins the Grammy Award for Ronnie Milsap’s Best Country Song, “Stranger in My House,” and writes 12 No. 1 hits in the ‘80s and’ 90s before writing seven musicals. It all starts with daily drives on Eastern Avenue from his Cincinnati home in Mount Lookout. In 1978, Jerry Jeff Walker is the first to record one of his songs with “Eastern Avenue River Railway Blues.”

May 13, 2009
Hard Knocks
A Paul Brown Stadium news conference is set for the next day uniting the under-the-radar Bengals with the behind-the-scenes HBO hit “Hard Knocks,” the NFL Films documentary that carves training camp and preseason into five episodes. Even though they’re coming off a four-win season, the Bengals have a bevy of story lines enticing to the invasive crew of 24 expecting to shoot 1,000 hours of video. They start with outlandish Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, quarterback Carson Palmer coming off a season he played just four games because of an elbow injury, and two charismatic leads that starred in previous seasons with different teams in head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. In fact at the news conference announcing the seventh edition of the series, Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports, will call Lewis a "Denzel Washington-Tom Hanks," and Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, will offer him as “our leading man.”

When words leaks out today via, the concern is distractions. But Lewis-Washington-Hanks believes his players are mature enough with guys like Palmer on offense and safety Chris Crocker on defense. "You're all distractions. You're every day. You're more of a distraction," says Crocker with a smile of the media. "It's a chance not only for us, the secondary, to get exposure, but also for our team. I don't think people know a lot about the Cincinnati Bengals."

There is also concern that since Lewis’ Ravens went to playoffs as a Wild Card team after the first Hard Knocks in 2001, no subject has gone to the postseason. But it turns out to be a winner for everyone. Lewis is right. His guys can handle it and become the first Hard Knocks team to win a divisional title. The series wins two Emmys and Sabol says later Bengals president Mike Brown offers the most access of any team yet for “unprecedented access and honesty … Ratings-wise and critical acclaim, the best yet." America’s Team? The ratings of the first four episodes are 45 percent more over last year’s first four episodes with the Cowboys.

May 12, 2012
Vontaze Burfict
On the second day of the Bengals rookie minicamp Arizona State’s Vontaze Burfict continues to have the coaching staff thinking it has found one of the best linebackers in the league. At some point this weekend head coach Marvin Lewis comes off the field with Bengals president Mike Brown comparing him to Ray Lewis. Publicly when he wraps up the camp for the media he’s guarded but encouraged: "Very pleased, very pleased. He's done well. It will be great once we get deeper into special teams. In order for linebackers to stay around they have to be a big-time contributor on special teams … I thought in the (three days) of special teams work we've had out here he's done a nice job of picking up the assignments. He's in great football position. Those are things. If you watch the tape of him you see him do it two or three times a game. Now you're seeing him do it three plays in a row. That's the key. He'll be fine."

How does one of the top players in college go undrafted and become a $1,000 afterthought? Indifferent production last year, a poor combine, bad conditioning, and some ill-chosen quotes. But he finds a believer in Lewis and this weekend Burfict is showing his strength, explosion, and instincts. "We went for lunch and he pretty much showed me the ins and outs and I went home and studied it, and here I am today," Burfict says of Lewis’ visit to Arizona during his daughter’s wedding. "I don't know how to explain it. There is a connection between me and him." A little more than a year later Burfict turns the grand into a four-year deal for $20 million after leading the NFL in tackles and going to the Pro Bowl in his second season.

May 11, 2001
Corey Dillon
Less than seven month after breaking one of the game’s most hallowed records, running back Corey Dillon goes into the books again when he becomes the richest Bengal ever with a five-year deal averaging about $5 million per year. It’s been a bumpy ride complete with a three-week holdout in the last training camp, but since the Bengals have moved into Paul Brown Stadium in 2000 they haven’t been spending shy in taking quarterback Akili Smith No. 3 in the 1999 draft and making Willie Anderson the richest offensive lineman ever a year later. This one gets done when the Bengals give Dillon more than $17 million and Eddie George in the first three years for one of the best deals ever for a running back. Dillon, whose 278 yards on Nov. 22, 2000 broke Walter Payton’s single-game record, is well on his way to becoming the Bengals’ all-time rusher with more than 8,000 yards in seven seasons.

May 10, 1969
AFC North
After a bizarre and bitter overnight meeting of NFL owners in New York where Bengals president Mike Brown still remembers Lamar Hunt of the Chiefs sprawled on a couch to grab some sleep, the merger with the AFL is completed when Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore receive $3 million each to move from the new National Football Conference, made up of NFL teams, to the new American Football Conference, made up of American Football League teams. It turns out the Bengals’ Riverfront Stadium lease becomes a player in equal re-alignment of 13 teams in each.

Bengals founder Paul Brown has based his much celebrated return to the NFL with the belief that both conferences would be equal and says as much in the stadium lease. But there is blowback from the NFL establishment that wants the NFC to be dominant with its 16 teams and spawns the all-night, short-tempered meeting Paul Brown wants no part of that arrangement and gets a major ally when Washington owner Edward Bennett Williams reads the Riverfront lease. Williams, the best trial lawyer in the country, advisers his fellow owners that a 16-10 alignment makes the league vulnerable to legal action. “I think that cut some mustard with them,” Mike Brown says later as he reflects on the meeting he and his father remain in their chairs during the night. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Cincinnati have been together ever since in either the AFC Central or the AFC North.

May 9, 2003
In his first spring as head coach of the Bengals, Marvin Lewis sends a powerful, poignant message that his team is not only going to be involved in community works but will become a fabric of the community. On a day of celebrity and solemnity he leads a Bengals' contingent of cornerback Jeff Burris and guard Matt O’Dwyer that tours the Pentagon in the morning and the National Naval Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., during the afternoon. With the national press corps waiting to be briefed by the top players of Operation Iraqi Freedom the Bengals are positioned in the same Pentagon hallway with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks, commander of the United States Central Command.

A flash of recognition crosses Rumsfeld's face when he sees Lewis, a Capital figure from his days with the Ravens and Washington. Told the Bengals are here to visit the wounded, Rumsfeld shakes hands with the coach, saying, and “Wonderful. Thank you for coming here and visiting them. My wife and I try to go to (the hospitals) every other Sunday."

"Who is the real Secretary of Defense, Mr. Secretary?" a staffer calls out to Rumsfeld. "The President gave it to me a few years ago," says Lewis of George W. Bush's salute when he feted the Super Bowl champion Ravens at The White House. "But you took it over and did very well." Rumsfeld smiles, says, "Thank you," and leaves to meet the press.

May 8, 2015
Terrelle Pryror
The Bengals’ rookie minicamp turns into one of the most high-profile tryouts in their history when former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor shows up in an orange No. 3 to throw to the likes of Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, and Jake Kumerow. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wastes no time after the Chiefs cut him earlier in the week. It is Jackson who as head coach of the Raiders took Pryor in the third round of the 2011 supplemental draft and when Jackson is fired after one season Pryor’s career flounders. The Bengals can’t talk him into playing wide receiver, so here he is and they sign him after the weekend when his mechanics look better following a stint with QB Dr. Tom House at USC. But they cut him the next month. It’s a small world. Jackson becomes head coach of the Browns in 2016, when Pryor becomes a 1,000-yard receiver for him. Yet Pryor has just three catches for 21 yards in two losses to the Bengals, which is another story.

May 7, 2006
Brian Leonard
The Bengals’ first player-for-player trade in nearly 19 years (everyone remembers defensive end Jim Skow for Tampa cornerback Rod Jones on Sept. 1, 1990) turns out to be more than a leap of faith. They move a backup defensive tackle, Orien Harris, to the Rams, a guy they get back later when the Rams cut him. In return they get a versatile third-year back-up running back in Brian Leonard, maybe best known for his leap over tacklers that he perfects at Rutgers in a move known as “The Leonard Leap.” Leonard is one of those quiet great gets that solidifies rosters, backing up running back and fullback while roaming special teams for four seasons and 53 games during three play-off appearances in Cincy. He’ll deliver memorably early this season at Paul Brown Stadium with the Bengals trailing the Steelers, 20-15, and facing a fourth-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 15 with 36 seconds left. Quarterback Carson Palmer is flushed out of the pocket sees Leonard in check-down mode across the middle of the field as the fourth option in a progression of four options. Linebacker James Farrior has the angle on Leonard, but Leonard cuts to the outside and at the 6 he gives it that little leap for the extra yard and first down. When Palmer hits wide receiver Andre Caldwell for the win four seconds later and then finds Leonard again for the two-point conversion, the Bengals are 2-1 and on their way to the division title. “He converted the fourth down and then he converted the two-point conversion. Then he sprinted down to cover the kickoff because he is on the kickoff team,” Palmer says. “He didn’t say a word. He didn’t smile or laugh. He’s a workhorse.”

May 6, 2009
Roy Williams
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer stages a reunion with Roy Williams, his four-time Pro Bowl safety in Dallas, when the soon-to-be 29-year-old Williams agrees to sign with the Bengals and revive a career heading into its eighth season. We have some drop-down guys (in the box) and he does it well,” Zimmer says of Williams. “He's always been a good blitzer. He's been a big playmaker over the years. He's intercepted a lot of balls; he's made a lot of big hits. When we had him, he could do anything we wanted him to do. The guy was one of the best safeties of all time. But time catches up with all of us and we'll see what he can do.”

Williams starts only 16 games in two seasons as a Bengal before retiring and plays in just four this year. But his presence helps Zimmer solidify a defense that was 27th before he arrived in 2007, finished 12th in his first season, and will go on to finish fourth this season in leading the Bengals to the AFC North title.

May 5, 1994
Dan Wilkinson
A mere two weeks after making Ohio State defensive tackle Dan “Big Daddy,” Wilkinson the top pick in the NFL Draft they sign the Dayton, Ohio native to a six-year, $14.4 million deal that includes a rookie record $5 million signing bonus. The contract offers foreshadowing on several fronts as the NFL moves into unfettered free agency. It’s believed to be one their earliest first-round signings ever in negotiations marked by Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn taking over the heavy lifting from her father, president Mike Brown. They strike a compromise with titan agent Leigh Steinberg on “voidable years,’ a distasteful mechanism for the club in which the player can shorten the deal. But he’ll have to play 35 percent of the defensive snaps in his rookie year to do it.

“Why did we do it?” asks Brown, who jokes the deal has “tarnished my reputation,” which is one of the NFL’s toughest negotiators. “Because we wanted to get the deal done because we wanted him here on time.” But his rookie year is remembered for a snap he doesn’t take. In the season finale the 21-year-old Wilkinson steps aside to allow legendary nose tackle Tim Krumrie to start in his 188th and final game.

May 4, 2011
Dan Hoard
While revamping their radio marketing and production and bringing it in-house, the Bengals name popular University of Cincinnati football and basketball announcer Dan Hoard as their play-by-play man to form a formidable duo in the radio booth with long-time analyst Dave Lapham. In a response to the changing platforms of the new century, the Bengals now have control of the sales and operations of the broadcasts as well as the production and location of special shows during the week. The in-house move also opens up more opportunities for Lapham and Hoard to be involved in programming on Bengals TV,, Bengals Facebook, and Bengals Twitter.

The day is the culmination of a dream for Hoard, who has paid his dues calling minor-league baseball in Syracuse and Pawtucket. On this day of dreams he remembers sitting in front of his TV as a Jamestown, N.Y., schoolboy working on his craft. One of Hoard's heroes is long-time Bills play-by-man Van Miller, a voice he lives and dies with from O.J. to the K-Gun. His arid wit and relentless homework in pursuit of the all-important “nugget,” of interesting information will prove to be an excellent match with Lapham’s enthusiasm and bubbling knowledge.

“When the National Football League calls, you go,” Hoard says. “It's a tremendous honor. When I was 13 years old talking into a tape recorder, I would have been happy working at a local station. To grow up and be one of 32 NFL announcers is a great thrill."
May 3, 1977
Eddie Edwards
The Bengals go big or not at all with two of the first eight picks in today’s first round. The 6-5, 256-pound Eddie Edwards, a defensive end from Miami, goes No. 3 and 6-3, 265-pound defensive tackle Wilson Whitley, out of the University of Houston, goes No. 8. They’ll form the bulwark of the 1981 front of the AFC championship club and Edwards goes on to play 12 seasons here, play in both Super Bowls, and becomes the club’s all-time sack leader : “His body looks like an anatomy chart,” says defensive line coach Chuck Studley after the pick.

But it is a solemn day, too, for Edwards. The previous October his mother is killed by a hit-and-run driver as she is returning to her Fort Pierce, Fla., from her job as a cook. His family has been living on Social Security ever since.

“I’ve put a lot of years into football. Now it’s time to pay off for me,” Edwards says softly. “I’ve got a lot of responsibility and a lot of people to take care of.”
May 2, 2010
Villanueva Alejandro
Rookie minicamp becomes literally a star-spangled affair when the Bengals invite Army tight end Alejandro Villanueva even though they know he’s got no shot to make their roster. Because the 6-9, 220-pound Villanueva, who must be the tallest future platoon leader in the history of the U.S. Army, is already scheduled for duty in the tinderbox of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border after he attends ranger school. But the Bengals led by their East Coast scout, former Army assistant coach Greg Seamon, have high regard for the military and think he deserves a look before he goes. And it may help the Bengals down the road. “Honestly sir, I was very surprised,” he tells the media of the call. “It caught me off guard.”

Six years later he’ll meet the Bengals again. Lt. Villanueva, rifle platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, comes back with a bronze star and surfaces as the Steelers left tackle. Through three tours in Afghanistan and countless fire fights, Villanueva keeps Bengals tight ends coach Jon Hayes’ business card in his wallet in another twist of one of the NFL’s hottest rivalries. “The fact someone in the building in Cincinnati thought that I could play in the NFL means I’m playing today,” says Villanueva the week of another Bengals-Steelers game that he knows is not really war. “It means I had enough courage to pursue a career in the NFL. Whoever it was in that building, I owe them everything I am now.”
May 1, 1984
Boomer Esiasion
The NFL’s tug-of-war with the upstart USFL has cost the Bengals BYU quarterback Steve Young and so a month before today’s draft they trade the overall No. 1 pick to New England for the more sure-fire seventh, 16th, and 28th selections. “This gives us four of the first 38 picks,” says Bengals assistant general manager Mike Brown, and wouldn’t you know it the pick that makes all the difference is the 38th and 10th in the second round when they select Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason.

As head coach Sam Wyche sets up for his first Bengals draft, Brown tells him the one guy he wants when the dust clears is the southpaw Esiason. And Wyche also admires the arm, brain, and flat-out charisma. But this is after Esiason has steamed through much of the first round in front of cameras catching the first modern draft free-fall. Once he arrives in Cincinnati the next day, Esiason gives fans the unplugged candor they’ll come to love: “I believe in talking freely. I’ve got nothing to hide. It’s important for me tell people how I feel … About four or five teams told me they were going to take me in the first round. The LA Rams told me they might even trade up to get me. When that happens and your phone still hasn’t rung by noon, it can make you feel a little bitter.”

But good things come to those that wait. The Blond Bomber becomes one of the most recognizable faces and voices in NFL history, winning the 1988 NFL MVP and leading the Bengals to the Super Bowl while running Wyche’s cutting edge no huddle offense to perfection before leaving for a star-studded career in the broadcast booth. Even he seems to sense things have turned after dancing into the night at a Second Street disco the night after the draft: “I think Cincinnati is a great sports town. I love the idea of playing for a young coach with a wide-open offensive philosophy and learn from a great veteran quarterback like Ken Anderson. I can’t wait to get up and play those teams in the Northeast.”
April 30, 2015
Cedric Ogbueh
The Bengals use the first round of the NFL Draft to show off their depth when they select Texas A&M left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi with the 21st pick. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander wonders how many teams can afford to use their top pick on a player with a torn ACL who won't be able to play until November at the earliest. The Bengals can do it because their incumbent left tackle is Pro Bowler Andrew Whitworth, at 33 a franchise staple heading into his contract year. The Bengals are universally praised for the out-the-box pick. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is on the bandwagon with, “He’s a gifted left tackle prospect. He reminds me of (Jets left tackle) D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Great feet, a lot of upside, and since Cincinnati has Whitworth and (right tackle) Andre Smith, he can get healthy before he has to play.” Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham says he would have been a top ten pick if healthy, maybe even top five. Alexander has had a nice of first-round tackles with Smith (2009), Levi Jones (2002) and Willie Anderson (1996). “Those are the tackles that have played for me, all right?” Alexander says. “And I said, ‘I expect you to be just like them.’ He got all fired up.”

April 29, 2000
Akili Smith
The Bengals’ new era dawns in the downtown sun of minicamp when they practice for the first time on the fields adjacent to sparkling Paul Brown Stadium, set to open in August. A young, hopeful team quarterbacked by sophomore Akili Smith and fortified two weeks earlier by the first-round selection of renowned Florida State playmaker Peter Warrick has moved out of Spinney Field’s cozy confines into a sprawling locker room replete with 21st century amenities. Bengals President Mike Brown feels the vibes as he watches them on the panoramic patch he has staked his franchise's future: “We're grateful for all the people's efforts that made this possible and those people are legion. The whole county is involved. Once people see it as we're seeing it today, I think they're going to be glad about it … I feel new myself.”

April 28, 2011
A.J. Green
It is one of the most surreal and significant days in Bengaldom. The NFL Draft is tonight and the Bengals hold the fourth pick after a 4-12 implosion, but they haven’t been able to talk to any of their players because of a labor lockout. Which means they haven’t been able to talk to Carson Palmer, their franchise quarterback for the last seven seasons who has demanded a trade. Not only that, but a wrinkle in the lockout language bars new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and new receivers coach James Urban from attending No. 1 target A.J. Green’s pro day at Georgia. But Green is so monstrously good that seeing his tape is believing. A no-brainer. And the skies begin to lighten into a new era. The Bengals resist a lucrative offer from the Falcons to trade out, they take Green (aka Randy Moss Jr.) and he ends up helping lead Marvin Lewis’ re-boot with six straight Pro Bowl berths, the first five culminating in postseasons after he teams up with Andy Dalton. But before the Dalton pick the next day, Green has inspired everyone in Bengaldom, such as Gruden, a former Arena League quarterback: "I might come out of retirement for this guy. I am fired up … Even though it looks like he’s covered, just give him a chance. He makes circus catches look easy. Somebody will be here, and somebody will be delighted to have him.”
April 27, 2005

Less than a month after losing the only public address announcer they ever had, Bengals president Mike Brown doesn’t go very far to replace Tom Kinder Sr. Tom Kinder Jr. gets the call to replace his father after Senior passed away April 10 at age 78 and he’s still manning the mike with an assist from his brother Bob. "This should make for an almost seamless transition in a job that is very important to our fans," Brown says. "The Kinder brothers have been involved with this position since they were young boys. They sound a good bit like their father. Our fans may be hard-pressed to notice a difference, and that's the way Tom Sr. would have wanted it to be."

April 26, 2003
Carson Palmer
The Bengals make the No. 1 pick official. But their first pre-draft deal in history has been done for nearly 48 hours after the wife and husband negotiating team of Bengals vice presidents Katie and Troy Blackburn craft a six-year, $40 million package that can max out at $49 million with incentives to secure USC quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer, the strong-armed Heisman Trophy winner, is clearly the best player in the draft and buys into rookie head coach Marvin Lewis’ re-building project. Before the marriage ends seven years later with Palmer’s trade demand, Palmer and Lewis are the faces of the Bengals renaissance with Palmer going to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2005 and 2006 and leading Cincinnati to AFC North titles in 2005 and 2009.

April 25, 1998
Paul Brown Stadium ground breaking event
Bengals execs join with officials from Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati at a ground-breaking ceremony on the site of the new Paul Brown Stadium that is to be ready for the start of the 2000 season. Doug Pelfrey kicked off, Ickey Woods shuffled and about a thousand fans held an improptu pep rally. Bengals president Mike Brown presides over his second such ceremony in welcoming the successor to Riverfront Stadium and kick-starts stunning riverfront development that includes the Reds’ Great American Ball Park and a sprawling space of parks, restaurants, businesses, condos, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
April 24, 2010
Geno Atkins
In the first edition of the three day draft that begins Thursday night, the Bengals wait until the last day on Saturday to select one of their greatest players of all-time with the 120th pick in the fourth round. Georgia defensive tackle Geno Atkins has lasted that long despite a solid college career (11 sacks) and NFL pedigree as the son of 10-year NFL safety Gene Atkins because he’s barely 6-1 at 300 pounds. “A lot of people think I’m undersized and not a prototypical defensive tackle. Coming into the NFL, I think that I have a little chip on my shoulder,” Atkins says in his first news conference as a Bengal. Defensive line coach Jay Hayes is all in: ""He's a little on the shorter side, but that can be an advantage because he's always going to be under people's pads. And then the size and speed ratio of this guy is phenomenal compared to most defensive tackles. For a defensive tackle to run 4.8 at the combine is very unusual. Very unusual for a 298-pound person." Five Pro Bowls later, Atkins’ 52 sacks is fifth on the Bengals’ all-time list.
April 23, 1989
Eric Ball
The Bengals trade out of the first round of the NFL Draft and take home a second-round pick at No. 35, a fourth-round pick at No. 89, and a 10th-round pick at No. 256, and emerge with UCLA running back Eric Ball on their first pick of the day. Ball is best known as one of the first hires they make when they move to Paul Brown Stadium in 2000 and appoint him their director of player development, a key job as local point man for the NFL’s player programs and comforting figure for rookies during the transition from college. Ball, a Rose Bowl MVP, plays running back and fullback and returns kicks during six seasons with Cincinnati while gaining 576 yards and scoring eight touchdowns on 156 carries and adding 22 catches. One of them, a 48-yard wheel route from quarterback Boomer Esiason, snaps a 14-14 game with 6:20 left against Cleveland and gives the Bengals the 1990 AFC Central title at 9-7 in the season finale at Riverfront Stadium.
April 22, 1995
Ki Jana
Against the backdrop of a 3-13 season and a one-month-old stalemate with the city of Cincinnati over the need for a new facility in the NFL’s beckoning Stadium Wars, they produce their boldest Draft Day move ever when president Mike Brown swaps the draft’s fifth and 36th selections to expansion Carolina for the No. 1 pick and chooses Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter. Brown makes the move with Panthers exec Bill Polian two days before and they sit on it until the morning of the draft. Brown doesn’t even tell his wife. The marriage of the consensus best player in the draft with a team that hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher since late in the 1992 season is widely hailed by fans and players alike. But on the third carry of his career in a pre-season game in Detroit, the star-crossed Carter’s season ends when he tears his ACL, just like his 1998 and 1999 seasons end with September injuries. When he’s released before the 2000 season, he has 747 yards and is between Fred Willis and Eric Bieniemy on the club’s all-time rushing list.

April 21, 2001
Chad Johnson
Although he’s two years removed from drafting quarterback Akili Smith at No. 3 and his coaches want nothing to do with Drew Brees at No. 4, Bengals president Mike Brown begins the day musing to the draft room that if he was in the room by himself he’d take the Purdue quarterback that high. They don’t get a Hall-of-Fame quarterback but they emerge with two of the game’s best players over the next decade in the first 36 picks. At No. 4, Missouri right end Justin Smith sets the Bengals rookie sack record on the way to racking up the fourth most sacks in club history before going to five Pro Bowls with the 49ers. With Brown adamant at taking Brees if he’s there at No. 36, the Chargers swipe him at No. 32 and the Bengals take Oregon State wide receiver Chad Johnson, their future six-time Pro Bowler and all-time leading receiver.

April 20, 1996
Willie Anderson
As he crosses an Indianapolis street two months before at the NFL Scouting Combine, Bengals president Mike Brown says his wish in the upcoming draft at No. 10 is Auburn right tackle Willie Anderson. After the Ravens take Hall-of-Fame tackle Jonathan Ogden at No. 4, the Bengals get their own Canton candidate in the massive but velvety athletic Anderson. In 12 seasons with Cincinnati he goes to four straight Pro Bowls and becomes the locker room leader bridging the struggles of the ‘90s with the respectability that comes at the turn of the century. In becoming the franchise’s all-time right tackle, he plays in 181 games (sixth most on the Bengals’ all-time list) while facing nine of the NFL’s 11 current leading all-time sackers and it’s believed he allows only one sack.