September 11, 2011
CLEVELAND - To this day Andy Dalton likes to offer from time to time a trivia question. “Who threw A.J. Green his first NFL touchdown?” Green and Dalton have become so synonymous with Cincinnati like Procter and Gamble that they rarely pull out “Bruce Gradkowski.” Even though Dalton leaves with an injured wrist at halftime of today’s opener, he becomes just the fifth rookie quarterback since the 1970 merger to win a road opener in his NFL debut when Gradkowski engineers the sixth fourth quarter comeback of his career with two touchdowns in the Bengals’ 27-17 victory over the Browns. The verdict stuns the pundits, some who pick the Bengals go winless in the year after franchise quarterback Carson Palmer has jumped the team demanding a trade and Chad Johnson has been shipped to New England. Head coach Marv Lewis begins what he calls a re-boot when they draft Green with the fourth pick and Dalton with the 35th to lead a team that averages less than four years’ experience. Adding to the Opening Day improbability is first-year NFL offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s efforts to install his scheme doesn’t start until late July because of a lockout.

Gradkowski, who beats the Bengals on the last snap in Tampa Bay in 2006 and again late in the fourth quarter in 2009 in Oakland, chalks up this one for the Bengals when he hits Green on a controversial quick-snap 41-yard bomb with 4:28 left in the game that also marks Green’s first NFL catch for trivia fans. When running back Cedric Benson pops a 39-yard touchdown run with 1:49 left, Dalton has what Palmer needed 16 games to reach with a road division win. Before Dalton hits his wrist on Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor’s helmet, Dalton stakes the Bengals to a 10-0 lead with his first NFL touchdown pass, a two-yarder to tight end Jermaine Gresham on third down. Lewis says Dalton’s X-rays are negative and it’s hoped he can play next Sunday in Denver. He not only passes the medical test, he also appears to pass the football test with a 102.4 passer rating on 10 of 15 passing for 81 yards, one touchdown and no picks. “He was in there competing and then when he wasn’t, he was still in our faces when we came off the field, and that was good to see,” says left tackle Andrew Whitworth, one of the team captains leading the re-boot.

Gruden, calling his first NFL game, sends in the quick snap from the bench. Browns head coach Pat Shurmur later infers that the Bengals substituted and the refs didn’t allow the Browns to also substitute. But this is a day for rookies. Before the Browns realize it, the Bengals are running the play and Green is finally shaking game-long nemesis Joe Haden at cornerback as he waits forever on Gradkowski’s rainbow. “I threw it up there because he was so open,” Gradkowski says. “It was like one of the slowest balls I have ever seen to come down,” Green says. “I was ‘Come on and get down to my hands!’ This was one of the toughest ones because I really had to think about it and it seemed like it was taking forever to get down to my hands. “I was saying, ‘Hurry ball, get down so I can catch this and score.’” The ball is taped and marked in his locker, his only catch of a very big day. “I’d rather have that than a 100-yard day,” Green says.
September 10, 2000
Paul Brown’s first team beat Paul Brown’s second team in the first regular-season game at Cincinnati’s downtown Paul Brown Stadium before 64,006. Brown founded both teams and today is a game between two rebuilding franchises pitting a Bengals team quarterbacked by second-year man Akili Smith throwing to two rookie wide receivers against a second-year expansion team. As if on cue, Cleveland running back Travis Prentice, a product of Brown’s college at Miami of Ohio, scores the first regular-season touchdown in the building late in the first quarter and the Browns never look back in a 24-7 win. Prentice, fittingly a product of Paul Brown’s college at Miami of Ohio, has 46 yards on eight carries and Errict Rhett adds 53 yards on 20 carries as two Browns backs improbably outrush the great Corey Dillon. Dillon, who went off for 192 yards against the Browns back in December’s final game at Riverfront Stadium, finishes with just 41yards on 12 carries. "They outplayed us. They beat us. Give them credit. There's nothing more I can say," Dillon says. "We've got to wash our hands on this."

If a Miami of Ohio product starts the scoring in the PBS inaugural, then shouldn’t a Cincinnati schoolboy finish it off? Norwood’s own Marc Edwards does the honors when the Browns fullback catches a five-yard pass from quarterback Tim Couch with about 11 minutes left in the game. Couch, the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, evens his record at 1-1 against Smith, the third pick in that draft. "I told him he looked good, that he played well," says Smith of his post-game chat with Couch after he throws two interceptions and offers a mere 46 passer rating that Couch more than doubles. Adding salt to the wounds, the Bengals lose their defensive leader for the season when middle linebacker Brian Simmons tears his cartilage on the outside of his right knee late in the third quarter.

Smith's new era doesn’t get much help. One of those starting rookie wide receivers, No. 1 pick Peter Warrick, drops a first-down pass inside the Browns 5 when the score is just 14-7. Then rookie kicker Neil Rackers gets his first NFL field goal attempt blocked on the next play from the Cleveland 42. "It's such a heartbreaking loss. We all put so much into this game," says right tackle Willie Anderson. "The thing that is really disheartening, the thing that's really going to hurt tomorrow, is that we had 30 yards rushing at the half. Our whole thing is running the ball. This woke us up. We needed this loss. We didn't want it, but we needed it. I think we'll build off it." Smith knows Couch stole his opening act. "The only way it could have been worse," says Smith, "is if they shut us out here in my own stadium."
September 9, 1990
In an Opening Day matching two Paul Brown offensive disciples, Sam Wyche’s Bengals spoil new Jets head coach Bruce Coslet’s debut today with a bevy of big defensive plays while scoring the final 15 points of a 25-20 victory. Coslet, Wyche’s top offensive aide for the previous six seasons that include an AFC title, quarterback Boomer Esiason’s NFL MVP, and top five finishes every season in league offense, gets second-guessed the next day by the New York tabloids on the Bengals goal-line stand in the third quarter that yields only a field goal with the headline, “Son of Sam.” It figures it is Pro Bowl safety David Fulcher holding the ball aloft in the Riverfront Stadium end zone saluting the roaring sell-out crowd of 56,467 after stealing the final snap of the day from Jets rookie wide receiver Rob Moore and his 46-inch vertical leap with a jump-ball interception. “I try to tell folks I can play basketball, too,” Fulcher says a few minutes later. “When the ball is up on the backboard I can go up and get the rebound.”

Fulcher also puts the ball in the basket today. The man behind Bengals defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s cutting-edge 3-4 zone blitz, Fulcher is at the point when LeBeau moves out of his base defense and goes with a 4-1 pass rush that keeps Jets quarterback Ken O’Brien from rolling out of the pocket. Not only does Fulcher set up the goal-line stand when he comes from across the field to knock Jets tight end Mark Boyer out-of-bounds at the Bengals 1 after a 17-yard catch, he gets two points when he blitzes O’Brien for a safety with nine minutes left in the game to cut New York’s lead to 20-19. After the goal-line stand the Bengals score every time they get the ball with Esiason hitting running back James Brooks for a three-yard touchdown pass and huge third-down passes to wide receivers Eddie Brown and Tim McGee that set up two Jim Breech field goals in the final four minutes. “I really have high regard for Dick LeBeau now,” says Coslet of his golfing buddy. “He gives you looks you really don’t see. A lot of people malign their defense, but they are a pretty good defense and a real powerful offense.” Asked if he got to shake Coslet’s hand at the end, Wyche says, “Boomer was hugging him and kissing him, so I didn’t mean to break in at that intimate moment.” Coslet, who played through Brown’s fierce rivalry with Chuck Noll’s Steelers in the 1970s, says, “I was going to pull a Chuck Noll and put my hands in my pocket.”

Naturally, there is controversy involving Bengals safety Barney Bussey’s third-down play on the goal line, where he drops Jets rookie tight end Doug Wellsandt for a three-yard loss on a curious tight end reverse. Wellsandt spends all of training camp with the Bengals before he’s dispatched in the last cut six days ago and the Jets claim him. The day after the game Wellsandt denies a Newsday story that says he accidently tips off his former teammates before the game when he tells them to watch out when he’s on the field. Coslet doesn’t believe it, either. After the game all Fulcher says is Wyche had told him to ''look out for something crazy when Wellsandt was in there.” Wyche says he figured Wellsandt only knew a couple of plays and Coslet admits, “Sam had all of the right answers, no question about it. Fulcher was in the right corner of the end zone and we tried to run a reverse to the left.''
September 8, 2013
CHICAGO - Here’s another example of not panicking on Opening Day. The Bengals kick away today’s opener, 24-21, and waste brilliant efforts by wide receiver A.J. Green (162 yards on nine catches) and quarterback Andy Dalton (a 97.2 passer rating) and lose despite heading into the fourth quarter with a 137-yard edge in offense and nearly seven minutes in time of possession. And they get an interception by linebacker Vontaze Burfict that seemingly seals the win with about 13 minutes left. But the Bengals and their defense will rebound in a big way with the AFC North title and the No. 3 ranking in NFL defense at season’s end.

This game is summed up when a personal foul call with 1:06 left prevents the Bengals from getting the ball back and ends the game. Earlier in the final period, with too many men on the field for their defense, the Bengals have to take their last timeout with 8:06 left. But that doesn’t prevent Bears quarterback Jay Cutler scrambling for 18 yards on second-and-20, or running back Matt Forte going wide to convert a fourth-and-one, or wide receiver Brandon Marshall catching a 19-yard touchdown with 7:58 left to put Chicago ahead to stay. A late hit also aids the Bears at the end of the first half and results in Robbie Gould’s 58-yard field goal, the second longest ever against the Bengals and the longest since Steve Cox of Cleveland hit a 60-yarder in 1984. The Bengals give up two touchdown passes after giving up four in the second half of last season. They also give up a 38-yard pass in Chicago's winning touchdown drive. In the final eight games last year the Bengals gave up just two passes longer than 28 yards.

Head coach Marvin Lewis vows to get it fixed and clearly he does. "We had injuries at linebacker. They were confused by different personnels," Lewis says. "That's my fault that those guys had to make those calls." It all overshadows Green-Dalton hooking up on bombs of 42 and 45 yards, not to mention a 34-yard pass interference call on Bears Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman. Green piles up 129 yards in the first half while Dalton has his 14th career 90-plus rating in his 33rd start with 26 of 33 passing for 282 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks. "I feel like we folded a little bit," Burfict says. "They had what, 97 yards at half? I feel like we folded a little bit. All of our leaders have to get in the film room tomorrow and have a chat without the coaches in there. How can we prevent this?" Burfict helps by ending up leading the league in tackles and going to the Pro Bowl
September 7, 2003
In his first game as head coach of the Bengals’ new era, Marvin Lewis surprises his players hours before kickoff with black pants that have tiger stripes running down the sides. But the biggest surprise is they serve as mourning clothes for a 30-10 loss to the Broncos before a surprised crowd at Paul Brown Stadium. Lewis, the 44-year-old architect of the Ravens’ record-setting defense of three years ago, has done such a good job reviving the hopes of the franchise with turn-of-the-century vitality and vision that the crowd and clouds have cooperated with a sun-splashed-post-card-Tall-Ships day on the river greeting the sellout of 63,820. "You're right. The stage was set," says right tackle Willie Anderson. "We blew an opportunity." Four turnovers, one for a touchdown. Four sacks of quarterback Jon Kitna. A fumbled kickoff and Denver’s average possession starting at the Broncos 40-yard line.

"I'm disappointed for our fans," says Lewis, a defensive guru whose debut is ruined on Denver's 184 rushing yards. "I think everyone here was ready to jump on, with both feet. I appreciate their support. They came out and supported us today, and we're not going to disappoint them every Sunday like this. I know they are disappointed, but hang on, we'll be back.” The silver lining is the players rally to their coach, more evidence he has a foundation is in place. "There's still hope and that's coming from Marvin," Kitna says. "He's telling us everything that went wrong is fixable. It's not like you're just outmanned and you don't have the right guys, so there's hope. Guys are very (encouraging) to one another. There are no sides being drawn up already. It's a together team." Lewis prides himself on sticking to his plan no matter the adversity. One of the reasons he admires Colts head coach Tony Dungy is he didn't deviate from his foundation even though he lost his first five games as a head coach. "I'm not carrying Marvin to the hospital on a stretcher right now," says cornerback Artrell Hawkins. "Marvin's been to the Super Bowl. He knows what it takes to win. He's experienced setbacks. He's experience failure. He's not dead to me. It's week one.” Anderson looks into his locker and says, “"It's going to change. It's going to change. People don't believe it, but it's going to change."

How right they all are. The lesson is don’t panic after openers. Lewis won’t win his first one until Week Four, but he’ll take last season’s 2-14 team and in mid-November he’ll have it in first place in its division that late in the season for the first time in 13 years. They’ll finish 8-8 for the league’s biggest turnaround while Kitna goes on to win AFC Comeback Player of the Year and Lewis is runner-up to Bill Belichick for Coach of the Year.
September 6, 1968
SAN DIEGO - Playing the opener of the AFL regular season this Friday night, the expansion Bengals stun a crowd of 33,687 when they score the first time they have the ball on a 72-yard touchdown march engineered by rookie quarterback Dewey Warren. But rookie running back Paul Robinson’s three-yard sweep after rookie wide receiver Warren McVea’s 28-yard reverse is the only touchdown they get as head coach Sid Gillman’s Chargers roll up 554 yards in 29-13 victory. But it was 10-10 late in the second quarter when Chargers wide receiver Gary Garrison bobbles a John Hadl pass at the San Diego 10 and Bengals middle linebacker Sherrill Headrick recovers. But the play is negated by Cincinnati’s offsides penalty and the Bengals never recover. Still, to a man the Chargers praise Bengals founder and head coach Paul Brown’s building project. “They’re going to beat some people,” says Hadl after he singes the Bengals on 20 of 37 passing for 325 yards. After having his best day as a Charger with 140 yards on just 16 carries that include a 48-yard TD bolt, running back Dickie Post says, “ I’d just as soon have a bye,” rather the play the Bengals again.

Gillman, Brown’s Ohio adversary, rival offensive guru, and former Rams head coach, beats Brown for the first time in four tries. “They gave us as much as we could handle and more,” says Gillman, who also says, “There’s no way in the world to stop us from running outside.” Headrick, the former All-Pro from Kansas City and the Bengals senior man at age 31, almost does it single-handedly when he gets involved with 21 tackles. But he has to when the two outside backers go out early with injuries, including veteran Frank Buncom, and they have to call rookies off the bench in Al Beauchamp and Mike Hibler and they had to move Hibler from the middle to outside. “When you lose two outside linebackers, you can’t expect much to go right,” Brown says. “Hadl is the best quarterback in the league at reading defenses,” Headrick says. “You have to move around a lot against him. Maybe I didn’t move around enough. It seemed like they knew every time we were blitzing.”

But the grand old man of the game, who turns 60 tomorrow, is philosophical tonight. “It was a pretty long evening and we had a pretty good fight for our life. I told the guys I thought they did a good job. They fought hard and you can’t ask more than that from any man,” Brown says. “If we lose every game this year and we’re a contender in three years, I’ll be satisfied. The game is fun. .It’s not meant to be (grueling). Nobody is upset.”
September 5, 2007
As the Bengals prepare to open their 40th season by putting their club on display in Monday night’s nationally-televised kickoff at Paul Brown Stadium with division rival Baltimore, Bengals president Mike Brown sits down with today to reflect on the first four decades of the franchise. The AFC North is a topic since the Ravens are, in actuality, Paul Brown’s first team:

Q: Do you look at Baltimore as the Browns? MB: I look at them with confusion. I know one thing. They're a good football team and they have stayed at the level of the old Browns. They haven't stepped backwards. I have a lot of regard for that franchise as a team, and organization. Cleveland has been working to build from scratch. That's a tough thing in this league. I think they're close to turning the corner on it. If they get a couple of things resolved up there, it will happen quickly. Q: Word was that you and PB were furious when they wanted to merge, but keep it the AFL and NFL with no realignment. A: We didn't think we should be in a division with Oakland, San Diego, Denver and Kansas City. None were close to us geographically. We wanted to come back in a division with Cleveland and Pittsburgh in this area. (Cleveland owner) Art Modell had to come along and he made the then-famous statement that for Cleveland to leave for the NFL and go to the AFL would be emasculating. The teams that moved (Browns, Steelers, Colts) were paid $3.5 million and in those days that was a lot of money.

Q: The AFC Central became Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston. The PB-Modell tie is obvious, and the Astrodome was seen as a lucrative new stadium for road teams. Why did Pittsburgh go? MB: I don't think it was the money. I think they felt it was best for the NFL and it had to go forward. Houston came in because Don Klosterman was the general manager and he called the owner up at the time of the realignment and told Bud Adams, "We should go in that division because we can win that division." And of course they didn't for about 20 years. It shows you the best laid plans don't always work out. I have a certain feeling for our division. I really do. It means something to me. Cleveland and Pittsburgh and our relationship with them. And Baltimore, keep, in mind, is just the old Cleveland franchise.
September 4, 2010
After losing Gibril Wilson’s 80 NFL starts to an ACL tear, the Bengals are on the hunt for a veteran safety and get 43 of them back today in a Cutdown Day deal when they acquire former first-round pick Reggie Nelson from Jacksonville for backup cornerback David Jones and a conditional draft pick . It’s a nice fit in a reunion of sorts as Nelson tries to jump-start a pro career that has stalled. The Bengals are prepared to take him with the 18th pick in the 2007 draft if Michigan cornerback Leon Hall isn’t there and now they have five first-rounders in the secondary with Nelson joining Hall, safety Roy Williams, and cornerback Adam Jones and Johnathan Joseph, a junior college teammate of Nelson. “It’s a great move for us,” says head coach Marvin Lewis. “To get a veteran young player. A guy who has started a lot of games in the NFL. A guy we had great feeling for prior to his being drafted by the Jaguars and now we have him here. It kind of hits us in a position where we’ve had some injuries. As we go forward into the season it will be a very good plus for us to get Reggie here.”

Truer words are never spoken. The Jags moved Nelson between corner and safety but the Bengals make him a pure safety and he becomes a starter the next season before going on to play 93 games for them with a knack for the crunch-time play that is a factor in Cincy making the postseason in the five seasons he’s the starter. His 23 interceptions in stripes are the sixth most in franchise history, six of them off Bengals arch-nemesis Ben Roethlisberger with the most famous the mid-field pick in Pittsburgh with 14 seconds left that sets up the winning kick that sends the Bengals to the 2012 playoffs. Trade? 2012 is Jones’ last year in the league after 21 games with the Jags and five in Washington and the conditional pick, a seventh-rounder, ends up playing five NFL games.

“Just live and learn and take it from there,” Nelson says when he got here the day after the trade. “It’s a blessing for me. It’s a second chance of playing this game I love to play. When they said I got traded, I’m still playing football. I’m still doing the same thing I love. I’m coming to a defense that’s been doing very well the past few years. I’m just coming in to learn and help out anyway I can.” It has been a whirlwind 18 hours for Nelson since being told of the trade. He lands in Cincinnati about 8:30 a.m. the next day, dashes to a physical, walks into a news conference, and is escorted to the cafeteria by public relations director Jack Brennan 15 minutes before a team meeting. “I’m starving,” says a grateful Nelson and both he and his new team end up getting their fill.
September 3, 1995
After back-to-back 3-13 seasons, Doug Pelfrey sends Bengaldom bonkers with his fifth field goal of the day, a 47-yarder that opens the season in Indianapolis with an overdue overtime 24-21 victory ending an NFL-record 20 straight losses in September and October. When the Bengals live despite a crushing coaching error on the Colts’ tying drive and draw a 34-yard pass interference penalty in the OT, there’s a sense the breaks are starting to come their way. “It was a real opportunity,” says Pelfrey, who has won the last four Bengals’ victories with a last play field goal. “Are we going to stand up or be the same old Bengals? This is an entirely different team.”

The Bengals defense is having a terrific day, symbolized by middle linebacker Steve Tovar’s 11 tackles with a cast on his broken left hand. They are in the process of holding future Hall-of-Fame running back Marshall Faulk to 49 yards on 19 carries and chasing starting quarterback Craig Erickson to the bench with the help of a third-quarter safety. A team that forces an NFL-low 18 turnovers last year today gets three interceptions, two by strong safety Bracey Walker in his first NFL start. But when veteran backup Jim Harbaugh is staring at what should be the Colts’ last play on fourth-and-19 with 59 seconds left at the Cincinnati 43 and trailing, 21-13, the Bengals commit the unspeakable in one of those Charlie Brown moments. After the Bengals take a timeout, the coaches wave safety Sam Shade off the field not realizing it leaves them with ten men. Injuries to cornerbacks Corey Sawyer and Chris Shelling have stymied their substitution and Harbaugh has no problem finding Faulk down field for a 34-yard completion that sets up eight Indy points with two seconds left. “It was devastating, but we didn’t feel the game was over,” says left end John Copeland, who is immense with one of their three sacks, six tackles, and a tipped pass. “After it happened we weren’t pointing fingers. We lined up for the next play. That’s a whole lot different than last year.”

So is the OT. It is recalled that last year at Riverfront the Bengals scream for pass interference to be called on Colts cornerback Ray Buchanan when they feel he’s mauling wide receiver Darnay Scott in the end zone in the last minute of a 17-13 loss. But now on the third play of overtime with Buchanan pinning wide receiver Carl Pickens’ inside arm on a deep ball down the sideline at the Colts 33, the flag is thrown to set up Pelfrey one last time. “The guy had his hands all over Pick,” says quarterback Jeff Blake after his 249-yard day that includes a three-yard TD to Pickens. “He probably could have caught it and maybe scored if it hadn’t been for the interference.” When Pelfrey’s kick goes through, fourth-year head coach Dave Shula celebrates his fourth road victory by running on to the field and diving into the pile. He emerges with a cut on his face that is believed to have come from coming into contact with Tovar’s cast. “This was huge. Probably one of the biggest wins here in a long time,” says right tackle Joe Walter, one of the few Super Bowl Bengals left. “No one thought we’d do anything.”
September 2, 1984
Former Bengals back-up quarterback Sam Wyche’s first game as Cincinnati’s head coach at Denver’s Mile High Stadium turns out to be a duel between two future brilliant network NFL analysts and is decided by a back-up quarterback when Gary Kubiak comes off the bench in the third quarter to replace the injured John Elway in Denver’s 20-17 victory. Two Ken Anderson TD drives rally the Bengals from a 13-3 half-time deficit to a 17-13 lead early in the fourth quarter when two passes for a total of 39 yards to wide receiver David Verser sets up the go-ahead score. Before the game Wyche has a long talk with Verser and assures the inconsistent former first-round pick that he still considers him a key contributor. But Kubiak steals the storybook when he drives the Broncos 75 yards converting all three third downs and hits wide-open tight end Clarence Kay on the last one from eight yards out for the winning score with about five minutes left in the game. The missed linebacker coverage in the end zone culminates a day of Mile High frustration that also entails Jim Breech’s missed 22-yard field goal, a fumble by running back Charles Alexander after he fumbled just once last season, and four sacks and countless pressures of Anderson by Denver’s confusing, blitzing 3-4 defense. “You’ve got to hand it to Denver,” says right guard Max Montoya. “They had a lot of variations in that 3-4 defense. They took a lot of chances.”

There’s a bit of surrealism added to Wyche’s debut when unsigned Bengals’ first-round pick Rickey Hunley, a linebacker, of all things on this day, surfaces on the Cincinnati sideline before the game chatting with Rick Razzano, the man playing the inside linebacker spot Hunley is supposed to be playing. Hunley also chats with linebackers coach Dick Selcer, but Wyche gives him a terse handshake and even terser, ‘Hello,” and never breaks stride heading to the locker room. Hunley, who’ll be traded to these Broncos in a couple of weeks, also meets with Bengals assistant general manager Mike Brown and says, “He told me right to my face that he wouldn’t budge on his offer, so now I’m convinced it’s over. I feel a lot better. Now I know exactly where I stand.” Brown, who 19 years later OKs Hunley’s hire as Bengals linebackers coach, says, “We feel like it’s been over for some time.”

But it’s not over after halftime as Wyche flashes what will become his signature creativity. He moves around Pro Bowl wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, lining him up twice in the backfield and at least five times tighter than his normal wide split while also lining him up on both sides. “We were trying to hide him,” Wyche says and Collinsworth says, “We were worried they were going to load up on me, so we changed formations.” They look like geniuses when Collinsworth ties the club record with ten catches while gaining 140 yards, but the Broncos defense is also playing chess in the form of Denver Pro Bowl linebacker Tom Jackson. Jackson deflects three Anderson passes, one in each of the last two series that stunts winning drives. One is called the play of the game when Jackson covers a back out of the backfield but realizes Bengals tight end M.L. Harris is uncovered and he races back to the middle of the field, dives, and breaks it up. Wyche is disappointed with the failure down the stretch. “We had a mountain to climb, but for a climber it wasn’t any mountain.” Collinsworth emerges bloodied but unbowed. “If anything I’m more enthusiastic about this team than I was before the game. We showed a lot of courage in a stadium where you just cannot breathe.”
September 1, 2007

In lightning-quick fashion Saturday morning the Bengals call the Rams about 12 hours after backup quarterback Doug Johnson throws two interceptions on Friday's first two drives of the pre-season finale and trade for No. 3 quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for what turns out to be next season’s seventh-round draft pick. That’s what Fitzpatrick was coming out of Harvard in 2005 and ever since then his fellow Ivy League quarterback, Bengals president Mike Brown, Dartmouth’s starter in 1956, has been interested in trading for him. In direct contrast to Johnson, the athletic 6-2, 225-pound Fitzpatrick in his pre-season finale hits the Chiefs for 12 of 18 passes for 110 yards and a passer of rating of 100.5, while scrambling seven times. “He plays with good composure," says Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "We liked him when he came out of college, and the opportunities he's had in his three starts in '05. He's done a nice job of playing composed. He played about three quarters of a game on Thursday night again, so we like what we see, and he fits well into our offense. Enough said."

So now Carson Palmer has his second No. 2 in the two seasons since Jon Kitna departed, but Fitzpatrick and the Bengals end up playing a significant chapter in each other’s lives even though he’s only here two years. When Palmer misses 12 games in 2008, Fitzpatrick leads them to a 4-3-1 finish that sets the table for next season’s come-back AFC North title. By then, Fitzpatrick is gone to Buffalo on the first of his mega deals making him the starter on an improbable tour around the league that is at 116 starts and counting on the 10-year anniversary of the trade that finds him in Tampa as the No. 2.

But when he comes to the Bengals pre The Beard, he has never been the prime backup. "To be able to learn from Carson is going to be a big help and everyone knows how good their offense is. And anytime you get a chance to move up the depth chart, it helps your career,” Fitzpatrick says "I just didn't see anything happening in St. Louis for the next two years … All the rumors on the Internet the last week said I was going to Minnesota and Detroit. There was never anything about Cincinnati. I was surprised, but I'm happy about it." Draft guru Gil Brandt notes the Bengals now have the two smartest players in NFL history going off Fitzpatrick’s 48 out of 50 Wonderlic test, joining punter and tight end Pat McInally. "That's what I thought. I thought Pat McInally played for the Bengals," says Fitzpatrick, who knows because both went to Harvard. Which is OK with the Dartmouth quarterback.
August 31, 1997
After watching Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake translate Cardinals running back Larry Centers’ rare-as-an-eclipse fumble into a 24-21 victory on a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Carl Pickens with 38 seconds left, right tackle Willie Anderson calls it “Bengals magic.” Blake, in his third Opening Day start and the Bengals’ only August opener ever, rallies them from a 24-3 fourth-quarter deficit as the Cinergy Field crowd chants for head coach Bruce Coslet to put in Boomer Esiason in Esiason’s first game as a Bengals backup and nine years after his NFL MVP trophy. Just like in that 1988 opener at Riverfront the defense makes it possible when blitzing backup outside linebacker Gerald Dixon wrenches the ball from Centers sweeping to his right on third-and-10 and end John Copeland recovers at the Bengals 37 with 70 seconds left as the crowd exits with the hosts trailing, 21-16, and no timeouts. “He cut back across the field and had the ball in his left hand,” Dixon says. “I said to myself I’ll try to strip him and I hit his arm and tackled him at the same time.”

“Considering where we were and field position and how many points we were down and how much time was left, that may be the biggest defensive play I’ve ever seen here,” says six-year linebacker Ricardo McDonald. Centers fumbled just once last season on 215 touches and Dixon ends up getting two game balls this day, one for his three special teams tackles and the other for separating Centers from an Opening Day win. And Blake has a ball, taking just 32 seconds to get the score. With the Cards dropping deep in the middle of the field to protect against Blake’s lethal deep ball, they leave the sidelines open and give Blake his only chance to win with no timeouts left. He rifles balls to the sidelines of 16 and 20 yards to wide receiver Darnay Scott and hits Pickens for 14 and seven more before finding Pickens one last time. “Hey, they messed up, not me,” Blake says, and Coslet praises Blake for making the secondary reads when the first options are taken away.

Blake has the last laugh on the boo birds. He engineers two TDs in the final 4:45 on drives he darts 11 of 13 for 137 yards. He meets cynicism with cynicism. “People are funny. They can be your fans but if you’re down they try to knock you back down,” Blake says. “They’re not going to help you get back up. You have to do that yourself.” But the optimism is palatable in Coslet’s first Opening Day as head coach after he leads the Bengals to a 7-2 finish last season in the wake of Dave Shula’s firing. “This team never gives up,” says smiling center Darrick Brilz. “That was pretty much our character last year and it looks like we carried it over. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I can go through many of these.”
August 30, 1968
The New York Jets, who will end this season as the AFL champions and then stunning Cinderella champions of Super Bowl III, begin the year in much less dramatic fashion when the AFL expansion Bengals beat them, 13-9, in the exhibition finale at Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn., before a crowd of about 24,000 as the Bengals’ first two victories come in a five-day span. The game is billed as a showdown between “Broadway Joe,” Namath and Dewey “The Swamp Rat,” Warren. Namath, the Jets prolific passer and pro sports’ first modern celebrity, is known as much for his mink coats and white cleats as he is for his 4,000-yard seasons. Bengals coach Paul Brown pays him the ultimate compliment with, “He’s as accurate as Otto Graham ever was.” Warren, a rookie, is the local favorite who won four games in this stadium while playing at the University of Tennessee. But it is the Bengals defense that steals the show. Jets head coach Weeb Ewbank, Brown’s Miami of Ohio peer, pushes back about how Brown is upset about the veteran expansion draft and says the AFL was better to Miami and Cincinnati than the NFL was to Atlanta. “These are some of the best in the league,’ Ewbank says of the Bengals linebackers. And after allowing two touchdowns in the last four games and none in the last two, the Bengals hold the Jets to 42 yards rushing and three Jim Turner field goals. They also keep Namath away from his signature big ball and he leaves frustrated after three quarters on 12 of 25 passing for just 188 yards.

Namath takes blame for the Jets’ two biggest misfires. The first is a first-quarter interception that bounces high off wide receiver George Sauer’s hands into those of Bengals safety Charlie King. Too high, Namath can be seen telling Sauer on the sidelines. But it is his last throw of the game late in the third that really galls Joe Willie. He has Sauer open by two strides headed toward the corner flag on third down, but he throws it too low and they settle for the field goal that gives the Jets a 9-3 lead. “We had the right safety beaten to death,” Namath says later of Bobby Hunt. Someone is good reading lips in the press box or is good at eavesdropping. Big defensive end Jim Griffin out of Grambling sacks Namath on one play and chases him on the next before he throws low to Sauer for the TD and Namath is quoted as telling a press-box spotter, “That No. 76 Griffin is a freak.”

Brown starts Warren before going to veteran John Stofa and with the offense gummed up the crowd behind the Bengals bench starts chanting “We want Warren,’ at the end of the third quarter. Brown complies and with five minutes left in the game and trailing 9-3, Warren starts the game’s lone TD drive, a 70-yarder ignited by two passes for 32 yards to wide receiver Saint Saffold and finished by the pounding of the Bengals’ third-string backfield of Essex Johnson and Estes Banks. Warren and Johnson, also out of Grambling, are both sixth-round picks and both come through on fourth-and-1 with 1:57 left from the Jets 7. Warren tells Johnson to use his speed on a sweep and they convert. Moments later Johnson slashes in from the 1 behind the block of another rookie, tight end Bob Trumpy.

“What about that, sports fans?” asks a smiling Brown of the writers. “It was a little on the flimsy side, but we made it … For us it was the game. To them, it was just another game. Maybe that’s why we came out ahead.”
August 29, 1970
Isn’t it so fitting? Sam Wyche, the man who two decades later as head coach of the Bengals proclaims to an unruly Bengals’ crowd, “You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati,” quarterbacks a 31-24 victory for Bengals founder and head coach Paul Brown in The Master’s first game against the Cleveland franchise he also founded and coached. This isn’t just another exhibition game. The roars from the Cincinnati sports record crowd of 57,112 can tell you that along with a sign that reads, “The Browns always lose the big ones.” The uniforms tell you something, too. The Bengals are in their white jerseys with dark numerals and orange helmets. Their big brother Browns are in the mirror dressed in Brown’s design of dark jerseys, white numerals, and those orange helmets.

Brown’s barely audible hoarse voice also tells you it’s not just another night on the riverfront as center Bob Johnson gives him the game ball. “Thank you,” is all Brown can say before he finds his composure and words. “This is one I’ll keep. I promise you that. This one we’ll put in our trophy case.” In the week leading up the game, Brown doesn’t say much, if anything, about the 17 years he coaches a Cleveland team named after him to 11 championship games and to a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame before they fire him eight seasons ago. But he says plenty when he doesn’t acknowledge his old assistant and successor Blanton Collier before or after the game, and to the group of Cleveland scribes that visit him before the game in his tiny office just outside the Bengals locker room. “I’ve been gone a long time. Eight years is a long time. When I walked on the field and looked at those suits they looked very familiar to me. I know where they originated and I had my heart there. A couple of the fellows thought they were going to do something for me. I told them to do something for themselves.”

Wyche, the third-year quarterback fighting for his professional life, does exactly that when he livens up the offense for the first time since last year’s AFL Rookie of the Year Greg Cook has been sidelined since training camp began. With Brown desperate for quarterbacks (three days ago he trades for Bears veteran Virgil Carter and he’ll be up next week), Wyche feels the heat and gets no sleep the night before the game, admitting, “It’s not exactly a vote of confidence for me …. I never want to play another one like this. I never experienced pressure like I have this week when they’re bringing in quarterbacks from everywhere. I got to the point where I didn’t have much confidence in myself. Nobody is going to take my job now.” Wyche methodically puts the Browns to sleep completing 12 of 23 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals snap a 17-17 tie for good when linebacker Ken Avery forces Browns quarterback Bill Nelson to throw a short, wobbly ball that defensive end Royce Berry picks off for a 40-yard touchdown return and then Wyche directs an 11-play, 64-yard touchdown drive highlighted by balls to Pro Bowl tight end Bob Trumpy and capped with a third-down touchdown pass from the 6 to wide-open wide receiver Chip Myers that seals it with 13:30 left.

“We’ve always believed in Sam from word one,” Johnson says. “He’s a hell of a guy and a game like this is just what he needed.” Still holding the game ball, Brown believes it’s an even bigger moment for his team. “They might have come of age in that game. They know they can play with anyone now.”
August 28, 2006
It has been nearly nine heart-breaking months since Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer is carted off the Paul Brown Stadium turf on the second play of the Wild Card Game against the Steelers with a badly damaged knee that has much more than a torn ACL. It not only blows up the Bengals’ hopes for victory, it throws their entire future into jeopardy 10 days after Palmer signs the richest deal in NFL history for the next six seasons. But tonight against the Packers in front of the Bengals’ biggest pre-season crowd ever at 65,614, Palmer soothes the fears of Bengaldom the only way he knows how with their highest scoring pre-season game ever. In staking the Bengals to a 34-7 half-time lead with a staggering passer rating of 136.9 by completing nine of 14 passes for three touchdowns, he has revived the franchise and their fans for another play-off run. Moments after a 48-17 win in a very un-pre-season-like atmosphere before a sell-out crowd, head coach Marvin Lewis anoints Palmer the starter for the season opener.

Even Mother Nature seems to realize the enormity of what has happened to the club as a lightning storm rolls through downtown Cincinnati and causes the first weather delay at home in the 39 years of the Bengals. What more could he have done in his first performance on his reconstructed left knee? "Nothing. He was great. It's great for us. It's great for the city," says wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who teams with Palmer to catch five balls for 96 yards and a touchdown in a fast-break first half. "I mean, when he ran on to the field and the way the crowd was cheering. I couldn't hear. They appreciate what he's done."

On Palmer's first extended drive he takes a hit, scrambles, and slides for 11 yards before throwing a six-yard rope to tight end Reggie Kelly for his first touchdown. Then he no huddles the Bengals 90 yards to another score capped with his 33-yard touchdown pass to Houshmandzadeh. When his touch pass down the sideline leads Houshmandzadeh for 28 more yards on his next drive as he’s sprinting from the pocket with two defenders grabbing at his legs while lofting a beauty as Houshmandzadeh beats cornerback Charles Woodson, there’s no doubt he’s back. "He didn't miss a beat; he hasn't lost a thing," says Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson. "He's our leader and he's back. That's got to make any Bengals fan real happy."
August 27, 2014
In a span of 23 days the Bengals’ wife-and-husband negotiating team of executive vice president Katie Blackburn and vice president Troy Blackburn secure the services of the quarterbacks on both sides of the ball for the next four seasons. Two weeks and two days after finalizing a six-year extension for quarterback Andy Dalton, they reach a three-year extension today for Pro Bowler Vontaze Burfict that makes him one of the richest linebackers in the NFL. Burfict, the undrafted free agent out of Arizona State, has now gone full circle. The man who got $1,000 to sign two years ago gets $10 million by next spring. Initial reports from and peg the total deal at $20 million even though he is heading into just his third season and not turning 24 for another month. “It’s unusual to sign a player this early in his career to a contract extension, but Vontaze is a player who merits this,” says Katie Blackburn in a news release. “He has proven to be an exceptional find for us, and we are happy to reward him now for his accomplishments. It’s good for him and good for our team.”

Burfict agrees. “I’m happy to be a Bengal. I always look forward to bigger and better things. Our defense is very talented,’ he says. “My family is excited and happy for everything that’s come along.” So is Bengaldom. After a season he leads the league in tackles, his No. 55 jersey is the biggest seller in the Bengals Pro Shop. Burfict not only leads the NFL in tackles last season, he leads the Bengals in tackles-for-loss with eight and ties for the front-seven lead in passes defensed (10). He returns one of his fumble recoveries for a 13-yard touchdown against Cleveland in a game he has 18 tackles and is AFC Defensive Player of the Week. But the quintessential Burfict performance comes two weeks after Cleveland. After making the trip to San Diego in a boot on a Friday with an injured ankle and virtually being scratched on a Saturday night, he makes 13 tackles on Sunday in keying a victory over the Chargers.
August 26, 1978
The Bengals are rolling at halftime of their pre-season finale tonight against the Packers in Milwaukee and just in the nick of time as they eye their earliest regular-season opener ever in just eight days on Sept. 3 against the Chiefs at Riverfront Stadium, a bow to the first year of the 16-game schedule. Pro Bowl wide receiver Isaac Curtis returns for the first time since Nov. 6 following knee surgery last year and hamstring issues this training camp and buoyed by his favorite target, two-time NFL passing champion Ken Anderson singes the Packers in the first half on 11 of 16 passing for 88 yards and a touchdown as the Bengals build a 17-0 half-time lead. But tragedy strikes in the middle of the third quarter when Anderson injures the index finger on his throwing hand following through on an incompletion. He races to the sidelines to show the immediate swelling and team doctor George Ballou simply says, “Broken.” As it turns out, so is the season despite the brave words of head coach Tiger Johnson. “I don’t intend to go through this week downcast. We’ve won some games with John Reaves,” Johnson says of his back-up quarterback. “The only difference is that they’ve been in the middle of the season. This time he starts from the beginning.”
After starting and stopping the projector over and over, assistant general manager Mike Brown says Anderson doesn’t break it on a helmet, but on a pad or an arm. “We can’t even tell,” Brown says. But they do know they need Anderson as back as soon as possible and Brown explains to Ray Buck of The Cincinnati Enquirer that two lightweight pins that won’t affect the rest of Anderson’s hand are going to be inserted by Dr. Harold Kleinert at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital. In last month’s People Magazine, Kleinert is praised as the world’s finest hand specialist, but his sleight of hand can’t save Tiger Johnson.
When the Bengals lose their first four games, Anderson shows his toughness and tenacity to probably come back a little too early and when they lose his first game back to go 0-5, Johnson is gone and replaced by quarterbacks coach Homer Rice, the first of only three mid-season coaching changes in the first five decades of the franchise. Anderson keeps trying, but the losses pile up and in Buffalo he doesn’t complete any four his passes as Rice goes back to Reaves and the Bengals fall to 0-8. But Anderson is on the next week when he’s back the way he finishes before the break, completing 11 of 16 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown in a 28-13 win over the Oilers at Riverfront. The Bengals finish 4-12 for their most losses since their expansion ancestors in 1968 and Tiger’s musings the day after the injury could have been the epitaph of his Bengals’ coaching career he won 55 percent of his 33 games for the best percentage in club history. “It’s the first time this year we started a game and looked as I thought we should look. Crsip. Fresh,” Johnson says. “Football is a physical game. Injuries are a part of the game. You expect problems. It magnifies itself when you lose your quarterback.”
August 25, 1968
An exhibition game in Morgantown, W. Va., against what will become their most bitter rival this afternoon serves as one of the most emotional days ever for the Bengals. After losses in the first three games of their existence, the AFL’s expansion team stuns the NFL Steelers, 19-3, behind a suffocating defense that allows Pittsburgh just 137 yards and the spectacular passing of rookie quarterback Dewey Warren. It also gives the Bengals their first quarterback controversy. With veteran John Stofa sidelined with a knee injury, head coach Paul Brown hedges on who opposes Joe Willie Namath in the exhibition finale against the Jets. “Any time you hold an NFL team to three points, that’s an accomplishment,” Brown says. “I feel pretty good about it it. Not so much that we won. But we looked good doing it. It’s the best we’ve moved the ball. The defense has played well the last two games.”

Brown emerges from what Jim Schottelkotte of The Cincinnati Enquirer calls “a deliriously happy Cincinnati dressing room,” with eyes glistening from his first win in six years. “That’s right, son. That’s a long time,” Brown tells a young sports writer. They give the Hall-of-Famer with three NFL championships the game ball from an intimate gathering of 11,500 after Warren sets up touchdowns with a 71-yard bomb to rookie tight end Bob Trumpy and a 45-yarder to veteran wide receiver Rod Sherman despite getting drilled in the nose by Pittsburgh’s Lloyd Voss. Warren, nicknamed “The Swamp Rat,” from his days at Tennessee, slithers with 12 of 21 passing for 268 yards, and is being checked for a broken nose in the locker room after the game. “Dewey doesn’t care, Doc,” says rookie center Bob Johnson, Warren’s teammate at Tennessee. “He’s already married. His wife has probably forgotten what he looks like.”

The locker room bubbles with laughter and relief. The defense is telling the writers how before veteran linebacker Sherrill Headrick goes out and has a slew of tackles, he has to leave Brown’s pre-game talk to vomit, a Headrick tradition he brings to Cincinnati. Ernie Wright, the massive offensive tackle from Ohio State and AFL veteran, says, “We’ve come a long way for an expansion team. A long way. I had no idea we’d be playing so well so soon.” Johnson, the team’s first draft pick, is on the training table looking at a sprained ankle and can only marvel, “Boy, this is something, isn’t it? This is great. It’s great to be a part of something like this.” Brown, two weeks away from celebrating his 60th birthday, senses the grand experiment with the kids is working. “We’re doing at least as well as I had hoped. I didn’t think we’d do this well,” he says. There is only one downer. He knows Steelers owner Art Rooney can’t be feeling any good. “The thing I didn’t like had to be Art Rooney,” he says. “He’s my best friend in the league.”
August 24, 2014
The Bengals defense flexes its muscles one last time in a dominant preseason tonight during the regular-season dress rehearsal that fittingly comes in a nationally-televised game they shut down old friend Carson Palmer. The 19-13 victory in Arizona sends another bolt of optimism through a team beginning defense of its AFC North title in Baltimore on Sept. 7 as cornerback Terence Newman picks off Palmer in the middle of the first quarter and takes it 54 yards for a touchdown. When Mike Nugent kicks a 36-yard field goal with three seconds left in the first half for a 13-3 lead, the first-team leaves the field with a 40-9 edge over their opponents in the first three games of the preseason. Last season the Bengals won every game they scored on their six defensive touchdowns and it looks like the first-team defense is headed back that way after allowing just three field goals in three games and tonight limiting Palmer, their former Pro Bowl quarterback, to a 31 passer rating after he comes in sifting people at a 137 clip. He directs two touchdown drives in the previous two games, but he completes just seven of 19 passes for 92 yards against the Bengals.

“They did a good job, too. You have to take your hat off to the Bengals. They did a good job on a couple things,” Palmer says after his first appearance as a Cardinal against his old team. “The pass protection was really good and that’s as good of a pass rush as you’ll see. Geno Atkins, when he’s healthy he’s a Defensive MVP type of guy. I mean, he is that disruptive in the middle. Carlos (Dunlap) is a great rusher; Robert Geathers is a great rusher. It’s a very good front and they also brought a lot of pressures for a third pre-season game. They brought cover zero a handful of times that you don’t typically see.” Palmer says Newman’s TD is the product of a miscommunication. Cornerback Leon Hall passes off Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to Newman in a zone and Palmer thinks Fitzgerald is going to stop. But he keeps going deep and Palmer throws it right to Newman short. “It means something to me, for emotional reasons I guess,” says Hall of playing Palmer. “But really, I’d feel almost the same way regardless that we were playing. This was what they call the dress rehearsal game, where you get to play a lot of snaps, and you want to show up well. I feel like, at least a little bit, this builds some momentum for us for Baltimore.”
August 23, 1993
Jim Breech, the MVP of Super Bowl XXII ¾, the club’s all-time leading scorer, and one of the most popular players in franchise history in and out of the locker room, sees his Bengals career end today when they officially release their cuts. But word breaks last night when Breech informs Jack Brennan of The Cincinnati Enquirer that coaches have called to tell him they’ve opted for University of Kentucky rookie Doug Pelfrey in their kicking competition that also includes the University of Houston’s Roman Anderson. “I’m pretty speechless,” says Pelfrey as the local product from Scott County High School who lives in Edgewood, Ky., digests the news from Brennan. “It’s something I dreamed about but I was never sure the dream would ever come true. Now I have to seize the moment.”

Pelfrey seizes the moment with field goals of 52 and 19 yards, but he probably clinches the job a few nights ago with two kickoffs into the end zone in Detroit. Head coach Dave Shula notes when the Lions returned it 20 or 21 yards, they still weren’t getting it to the 20. The 5-6, 161-pound Breech has been hearing it ever since he came into the league as an eighth-round draft choice of the Lions. At age 36 last season, no one is better from within 40 yards in the league when Breech hits all 15 tries. A generation later no one in NFL history has still hit more than Breech’s nine overtime kicks. His NFL record of scoring in 186 straight games isn’t broken until Denver rookie Jason Elam does it in in the next century. But after the Bengals take Pelfrey in the eighth round back in April, Shula raises the old concerns about Breech’s range.

“This was a hard decision to make because Jim Breech has been such a splendid player for us for many years,” says Bengals president Mike Brown. “This year he’s kicking as well as ever, but we decided on Doug Pelfrey because he has a longer leg. He gives us the advantage of being able to kick field goals more successfully from outside 40 yards.” The Bengals are going oh so young and Pelfrey qualifies. Plus, punter Lee Johnson is having his best preseason in years and the coaches chalk up part of his success to no longer worrying about kicking off, like he has for the last couple of years. The Bengals cut Breech four training camps ago in favor of Jim Gallery, but he was back early in that 1989 season after Gallery started 1-for-6. But special teams coach Marv Braden says not to look for history to repeat itself. “Gallery had been with at least two other teams prior to latching on here and had not made it with the other teams,” Braden says. “Pelfrey is a college proven kicker that’s trying to prove he has that ability in the pro ranks. The negatives don’t follow Pelfrey that followed Gallery.”

Breech agrees and says he believes his Bengals career is over after 13 seasons and 181 games. He knocks down a rumor that old friend Sam Wyche has reached out in Tampa Bay, but also says, “I wouldn’t mind talking to Sam.” Breech comes into training camp looking for one more year but, as expected, he’s classy all the way on the exit. Even though he doesn’t attempt a field goal. “I’ve kicked in a couple of hundred games for this team and I got a good chance all through camp to show them how I was kicking in practice,” Breech says. “I think they knew I was kicking the ball well and if they weren’t comfortable with either of the young guys, they’d have no problem going with me for a year.” Breech, who’ll continue to be high-profile in community work when he retires to Cincinnati and finishes as the No. 5 Bengal in the 50th vote by fans, doesn’t sound surprised. “No, I can't say I really am,” Breech says. “Not when you see where this team is moving with youth.”
August 22, 1993
Willie Anderson
The news comes off the wire on a sleepy summer Sunday from Tampa. Former Bengals great Anthony Munoz retires after trying to revive his career in Tampa Bay with Buccaneers head coach Sam Wyche, his coach in Cincinnati for eight seasons. A shoulder injury originally drives Munoz into retirement after last season, his 13th with the Bengals. But this past spring the persuasive Wyche convinces the greatest left tackle who ever lived to join him with the Bucs facing a holdout from their franchise player free agent, left tackle Paul Gruber.

Munoz offers the young Bucs leadership and experience but it ends almost before it begins. Last night, two days after his 35th birthday, Munoz injures his other shoulder trying to make a tackle following a fumble in Tampa Bay’s 32-12 victory over the Bills. Sunday’s test reveals he has a torn right rotator cuff, officially ending a career that took him to 11 straight Pro Bowls. “We’ve lost a tremendous player,” Wyche says. “His next stop is the Hall of Fame.” Truer words were never spoken. On another August day in five years Munoz is inducted into Canton on his first ballot.
August 21, 1996
With the No. 1 overall pick from last year’s draft already in place in the backfield on the eve of the season in the person of Ki-Jana Carter, the Bengals stun the NFL today when they claim 1,000-yard rusher Garrison Hearst off waivers from salary cap strapped Arizona. No one is more surprised than Hearst. Greeted by reporters at the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, Hearst is the guy asking the questions. “I’m sure Ki-Jana is doing a great job and they’ve got good backups. I’m still trying to figure out why I’m here.” Bengals head coach Dave Shula gives the answer when he twice calls Hearst “an insurance policy.” He denies the Bengals are giving Carter a wake-up call or that they’re unhappy with his preseason after he missed all his rookie year with an ACL tear. Instead, Shula says Carter is the Opening Day starter in St. Louis and is expected to get 20-30 carries a game as the feature back. But since Carter has never played in an NFL game or played an entire pre-season game, Shula says they’ll turn to Hearst if he can’t deliver.

On a one-year, $2.06 million deal for this season, Hearst is an expensive backup and his agent, Pat Dye Jr., lets it be known his client won’t re-negotiate. “He’s a little upset and disappointed,” Dye says. “Although $2 million is lot of money, he’d rather be in a place to start.” But Carter says all the right things. “I don’t blame the Bengals for picking him up,” Carter says. “I heard before the season started we were going to get Herschel Walker. I was like, ‘Cool.’ … I’m going to do the best I can. If that doesn’t satisfy them, I guess I’ll be a backup. I think Garrison is going to help our team a whole bunch.” Offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet wonders what the free safety will do if he flanks wide receivers Carl Pickens and Darnay Scott with Hearst and Carter. Bengals president Mike Brown, who now has the top pick in the 1995 draft and the third pick in the 1993 draft and has every intention of keeping Hearst at $2 million, reminds people that another disappointed running back arrived in a trade 12 years ago before James Brooks became the Bengals’ all-time rusher.

Brown’s gamble pays off when the insurance policy hits the jackpot. Hearst displaces Carter as the bell cow early enough to start 12 games and rushes for the most yards by a Bengal between Harold Green’s Pro Bowl season of 1992 and Corey Dillon’s rookie year of 1997. Hearst’s 847 yards on 225 carries by far leads the team when quarterback Jeff Blake is the rushing runner-up. When Coslet replaces Shula with the Bengals mired at 1-6, Hearst is one of the architects of a 7-2 finish and in the last game of the season rushes for 93 yards as the Bengals beat the Colts to finish a game out of the postseason. Carter manages less than three yards per his 91 carries but scores eight touchdowns while Hearst goes on to sign with the 49ers in the offseason and rips off three straight 1,000 yard seasons. Dillon arrives in Cincinnati that same offseason and becomes the Bengals bell cow with six straight 1,000-yard seasons.
August 20, 2009
You can tell your grandkids about it. Even if it is pre-season in Foxboro. In a game started by Patriots great Tom Brady at quarterback, the Bengals win, 7-6, after Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has to kick the game’s lone extra point when kicker Shayne Graham gets hurt. Graham can’t kick with a tender groin, but it isn’t known until the Bengals decide not to try a 44-yard field goal late in the first quarter.

Ochocinco, the Bengals multimedia magnate, gives them another story. He keeps reminding head coach Marvin Lewis and special teams coach Darrin Simmons that he can kick even though he hasn't kicked a football since October. “Remember when I used to juggle the soccer ball when I warmed up before a game?" The Ocho asks. "Coach Lewis took my ball away. Last year and the year before that. I think he got tired of it."

After backup quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan throws a 24-yard touchdown pass to Chris Henry on fourth-and-17 with 1:56 left in the half, they let him kick off to open the second half. But Lewis won’t let Ochocinco try a chip-shot field goal late in the third quarter and the ball just inside the Pats 6. "Coach Lewis said we were on the (right) hash. It doesn't matter where we're at Coach Lew," says The Ocho, who claims he was his high school's kicker all those years ago. "You have to believe in me." Bengaldom believes after The Ocho gives a 69-yard clinic tonight on catches of 13, 21 and 35 yards. The kicking, of course, is extra. With Graham shelved, Lewis and Simmons discuss using rookie punter Kevin Huber. "Marvin said let's give Chad the shot and I said, 'Go for it,' " Simmons says. "He'd done it before for us and he'd actually done pretty well. He's a soccer player. And he was really into it.”

"All joking aside," says O'Sullivan. "He kicked the ball through the uprights in an NFL preseason game and it won the game. Whatever you say, those things are going to happen in this in this league and it's nice to have that insurance." The Ocho is tweeting all the way. "I'm going back to the negotiating table," he says.
August 19, 2000
Bengals rookie wide receiver Peter Warrick picks his coming out party on the night everybody comes out to party to open Paul Brown Stadium in a pre-season game against the Bears as 56,180 look on. Warrick, the breath-taking-play-making first-round pick from Florida State, scores his first NFL touchdown on a trick play, sets up another touchdown by tricking the Bears, and touches the ball seven times for a first down or touchdown in a 24-20 victory. While smiling all the time. "He's laughing all day, but he gets serious at some point. He and Dugans," says quarterback Akili Smith of Ron Dugans, Warrick's fellow Florida State receiver who also scores his first pro touchdown tonight. After scoring the Bengals' first PBS touchdown with two seconds left in the first quarter on a 14-yard end around to the right coming off Smith's fake handoff up the middle, Warrick scales the end zone wall and gets lifted into the first row by the fans. He calls it, "The Paul Brown Leap." "Did you see it? I told you what I was going to do," says Warrick.

Down 14-0, he makes a hellacious inside cut to score his touchdown on a drive he keeps alive earlier on third-and-two. Smith shovels a pass to him out of the shot-gun formation for a seven-yard gain. It is the Bengals' first first down in a game they had gained all of a dozen yards. "Akili got us all excited," says Warrick, recalling what Smith says in the huddle. " 'We're down by 14, but that doesn't mean nothing.' So everybody moved on from that. Once we got that first first down, the crowd got into it. We need our crowd to back us up, but I know the only way our crowd is going to back us up is if we go out and do what we did tonight."
August 18, 2016
Tyler Boyd
When wide receiver Marvin Jones departs for Detroit in free agency to fill the void left by the retirement of the great Calvin Johnson, the Bengals need a young playmaker to replace Jones’ ability to take the heat off the great A.J. Green. They select Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd in the second round and as fate has it Boyd and Jones meet tonight in the second game of the preseason in Detroit. While Jones has four catches for 65 yards, Boyd adds two for 38 in the Bengals’ 30-14 victory over the Lions. But he has three things Jones doesn’t. A 24-yard punt return, a touchdown on a 12-yard pass from AJ McCarron, and the endorsement of McCarron and Andy Dalton in the emerging Bengals wide receiver rotation that has yet to have injured veteran Brandon LaFell.

“Awesome player, does an awesome job of being in the right place, knowing what to do and how to do it and you can’t say enough good things about ‘T.B,’” McCarron says. “I mean, he’s a workhorse and he listens to everything. If I have anything to say he’s always all ears and doesn’t question it. He’s awesome, can’t say enough good things about him.” Boyd says it’s no accident he’s transitioned so smoothly into the pro game, which in two games now has three plays of at least 20 yards. “I didn’t just bring my skills. I came to work and all I want to do is continue to be consistent,” Boyd says. “In the first pre-season game I made one play. This one I made two plays. The next game I’ll make three or four, just increasing my performance.”

The 12-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left in the first half makes it 20-6 when the rookie again figures out the right place and the right time on the throw from McCarron... Although Boyd isn’t sure what he’s looking at as he lines up on his pre-snap read. But suddenly he is running behind safety Tavon Wilson down the seam. “I think they were in a Cover Three. We had seen that look in practice and we got the same look and we ran the perfect play to beat that defense,” Boyd says. “After (McCarron) said, ‘Hut,’ I saw people shifting into the zone. I knew I had it. It was as naked as it (looked). I feel like anybody on this team from linemen to D-End would have made that play. I saw how open it was.” When LaFell plays he comes so close to matching Jones’ numbers (55 catches, 930 yards, 4 TDs), with 64 catches for 862 and six TDs while Boyd becomes the most prolific rookie wide receiver in Bengals’ history not named Green in 35 years when he finishes with 54 catches for 603 yards and a TD.
August 17, 2009
The night before the surging underdog Bengals beat the 9-0 Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium in head coach Marvin Lewis' first season in that franchise-turning year of 2003; he shows them the clip from the movie “Ali,” that depicts Muhammad Ali’s stunning ultimate underdog seventh round TKO of Sonny Liston in his first title fight. Today the move springs to life when a golf cart carrying Ali rumbles across the Georgetown College football field at the end of the Bengals’ practice. "All right, Champ. Way to go, Champ," says right guard Bobbie Williams as the team finally figures out the most famous person in the world is approaching them. Racked by Parkinson's but determined to get out of the vehicle and have pictures taken with various groups of Bengals, Ali has the help of fullback Jeremi Johnson. Lewis calls up Johnson to aid his fellow Louisville native.

"Where are the cameras?" asks Johnson, making sure the moment is recorded for posterity. "First time I ever met him. This makes my preseason. He is Louisville. You can tell when you cross that bridge. You see it on all the buildings; 3D pictures of him everywhere. Everybody from Louisville and Kentucky can tell you that. He is Louisville." Accompanied by a sister and a son, Ali arrives at Georgetown via some connections with the college and the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville. "Muhammad is a big sports fan. Anybody close by, he wants to see," says Greg Roberts, president and CEO of the Ali Center. "He loves the Bengals. He loves Coach Lewis. He thinks a lot of Coach Lewis. We just came to honor the college and seeing Marvin was here, he wanted to make sure he could talk to Marvin and be a part of this. He loves Marvin as a coach."

It’s hard to impress an NFL team. But Ali is at his float-like-a-butterfly-sting-like-a-bee charismatic best without uttering a word as his eyes flutter with the soul of a champion. "To see a walking legend right in front of your eyes, it's an amazing thing to see," says offensive lineman Scott Kooistra. "There's the wow factor ... we finally saw him and it's the wow factor. ... Everybody went 'Wow.' " Like Ali that night in Miami, Miami native and Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco guarantees a Bengals victory days before they play the Chiefs. Carson Palmer, who hesitates on the periphery of the crowd to get his picture taken until Lewis says, “One more, Champ,” calls it. "I think Chad's probably taken a little of what he's done in the past," Palmer says. "He's a guy that a ton of guys look up to in every sport, at every position. He's the champ."
August 16, 2000
The Paul Brown Stadium gates open for the first time today and Cincinnati police estimate about 130,000 stream through the riverfront super structure during an open house between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. The club is expecting about 25,000 for the entire six hours, but by 6:30 the count is already at 35,000 passing through sampling concessions and seats and touring the player facilities. Two of the most popular figures in Cincinnati history, mayor Charlie Luken and former Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, are among the speakers. But Bengals president Mike Brown knows why the people are here. “They were here to see, not hear,” he says.

And they like what they see as wanders through the crowd. Kerry Doner, from New Lebanon, Ohio and a season-ticket holder for 10 years, shows up in a No. 7 jersey and observes, "It doesn't look like there's a bad seat in the place." Raymond Chapman, a general contractor who lives in Fort Wright, Ky., has a pretty good seat as he rests during his tour in the locker stall of linebacker Adrian Ross. “Every seat looks to be a good seat," Chapman says. "There's nothing on the field you can miss. At the old stadium, sometimes you'd have to hang over a railing to see. I'm impressed by the way it's laid out. I can't get over the fact they got so much done in that amount of time. They talk about problems and all that. I look at it and they've had no problems. None whatsoever."

Even those who come to such edifices for a job are casting admiring glances. Ed Stupak, a retired Channel 9 cameraman living in Groesbeck, brings his seasoned eye to the new yard after following the play for 40 years in places like Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium. “After doing games at Crosley, and then going to Riverfront, you thought that was the greatest. You thought that was as good as it was going to get for the time," Stupak says. "But I see this … If they can continue to build like this; the city is really going to have something. It's not symmetrical. You don't feel like you're boxed in. It's airy. There's an open edge. I go to a lot of Michigan games and it reminds me of some college stadiums. With a lot of the seats on the sidelines, it brings you close to the field."
August 15, 1975
After sparring with reporters about the angst they used to write about the Bengals offense, head coach Paul Brown gives his guys an extra day off before they report back to training camp at Wilmington College following the game in Orchard Park, N.Y., and pronounces, “I guess Anderson isn’t dead yet.” Brown rewards his club for a 38-28 win over the Bills that comes after his team doesn’t score a TD in the first two exhibition games. But tonight, in a battle of the NFL’s passing and rushing champions, quarterback Ken Anderson, without a pair of Pro Bowl targets in wide receiver Isaac Curtis and tight end Bob Trumpy, as well as wide receiver Chip Myers, leads Cincinnati to three TDs in about a quarter and a half on eight of 12 passing for two TDs. Wide receiver Charlie Joiner, who finishes with three catches for 65 yards, scores them both as the Bengals crisply spread out their 442 yards with 224 passing and 218 running while the defense holds Bills running back O.J. Simpson to 18 yards on five carries. Anderson sets up his last score when he’s flushed out of the pocket and whistles a 47-yarder to tight end Bruce Coslet on the dead run as Coslet falls to the ground to make the catch.

“I may have been a little worried, but mostly I’ve been frustrated more than worried,” Anderson says. “I’ve been throwing it real well ever since training camp opened and it was just a matter of when things fell into place.” Brown acknowledges this won’t be the same Buffalo team they’ll play in their first Monday night game at Riverfront on Nov. 17. But after facing their third straight play-off team from last year, he has some fun with the scribes: “You were the only guys who have been worrying about our offense. We’ve been looking at a lot of people and bringing things along just the way we planned.” But Dick Forbes of The Cincinnati Enquirer relates an off-the-record conversation with receivers/quarterbacks coach Bill Walsh from earlier in the week that reveals the tension. “I don’t want to be quoted now, but I guarantee you we’ll put points on the scoreboard. We’ll move the ball and we’ll get the passing game going. Just remember that when the game is over.” Remember that Anderson is on his way to consecutive passing titles, the Bengals are on their way to their best season ever at 11-3, and that Monday night game? Anderson will outduel Simpson, 447 passing yards to 197 rushing yards.
August 14, 2009
After missing 12 games last season with an elbow injury, quarterback Carson Palmer steps on a game field for the first time in 313 days in the pre-season opener in New Orleans. Before he leaves with an ankle sprain that both he and head coach Marvin Lewis say isn’t serious, he completes seven of 11 passes for 133 yards and shows glimpses that the passing game won’t be paralyzed like last year. In fact, it will be good enough, just barely, to win a surprise AFC North title in a year the Bengals aren’t expected to do anything. Even though Palmer won’t play again for a month until they open the regular season. The Bengals lose tonight, 17-7, but Palmer completes two balls longer than 26 yards to a wide receiver after not having one that long in his four appearances last year. He hits wide receiver Chris Henry out of a four-receiver set for a 27-yard gain on third-and-10, and he also s offers a vintage 55-yard hookup to the former Chad Johnson now Ochocinco.

It’s their longest connection since a 70-yarder in the 2007 regular-season finale, but the play that signifies how far Palmer and The Ocho's timing has come back is on a blitz from the Bengals 9 with 3:43 left in a scoreless first quarter after Palmer turns his ankle. On third-and-five, Palmer hangs in there, takes a hit in the end zone, and finds The Ocho coming back for the ball on the other side of the field for an 18-yard play. "They brought more guys than we had blocking," Palmer says. "They got their hands on the safeties and gave me just enough time to get rid of the ball. Chad was at a perfect depth. Perfect timing. When you play like that, it makes my job easier. I knew exactly where he was going to be at."

The other storyline is Henry, the troubled wide receiver putting his career and life back together. He re-signs with the Bengals last year during the season after numerous problems with the law derail him and in his first pre-season game since 2007 he goes back to his hometown with 100 yards on seven catches. One of them is a 14-yard loft job from back-up J.T. O’Sullivan for a touchdown at the end of the first half right in front of a delighted New Orleans youth team that is about to take the field for halftime. Which makes it even harder to realize the next time the Bengals come back to New Orleans, just four brief months away, they bury Henry after he is killed in a car accident.
August 13, 1977
The Bengals bounce back from a ragged effort the week before in the pre-season opener, a 23-20 loss in Green Bay, when Cincinnati’s new-look defense has the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking the same by holding them to 54 yards in a 45-0 pre-season victory at Riverfront Stadium. The Bucs, off a 0-14 expansion season, also have no answer for a Bengals offense that rolls up 458 yards when quarterback Ken Anderson makes his season debut shredding them on 14 of 17 passing for 177 yards and a touchdown before he leaves with eight minutes left in the third quarter.

Anderson wastes no time. On the first drive he strafes them 4-for-4 passing, finding wide receiver Isaac Curtis for 19 and 18 yards and running back Archie Griffin for 15 and 10. Then he just needs four plays to make it 14-0 on a vintage three-yard bowl job by rookie running back Pete Johnson with the big play a 19-yard screen pass to Griffin that is keyed by what is called pulling guard Dave Lapham’s “springing block.” Meanwhile, the Bengals defensive line, led by first-round draft picks Eddie Edwards and Wilson Whitley, don’t allow the Bucs to get a first down in the first half until nearly the two-minute warning on a quarterback scramble. They stuff the ballyhooed USC running back tandem of Anthony Davis (minus-seven yards on four carries) and Ricky Bell (12 yards on four carries) as Tampa Bay coach John McKay observes, “Cincinnati is much better than last year and the reason is their defensive quickness. The two kids they put in there are active.”

As usual, McKay leaves them laughing instead of crying. “It’s like we were on roller skates. I never saw so many people slipping and sliding in my life. All on my team.” It’s his first look at Davis after he played for a year in the WFL and a year in Canada and McKay admits, “Well, every time he got the ball he was tackled. It would be hard to be effective with that kind of blocking. Heck, even Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski couldn’t have been effective.”
August 12, 2009
Tonight’s premiere of the Bengals’ appearance on HBO’s acclaimed NFL training camp series gives a glimpse why this year’s version of Hard Knocks soon gets Emmy recognition and why NFL Films guru Steve Sabol will say later the Bengals provide the best Knocks yet. What better place to watch the debut than in the Georgetown College dorm room of Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, one of the pioneers of sports reality TV? As the cameras capture fullback J.D. Runnels Jr., getting cut, Ochocinco wants his uStream followers to take note. “That’s real life, people. Real life," The Ocho implores into his laptop. "This is a business. You wonder why we fight and fuss."

Tight ends coach Jon Hayes, whose stewardship of rookie Chase Coffman ranges wildly from poignant to hilarious in between him making Coffman doing pushups in the meeting room after watching his mistakes on film, becomes a star. “Do you have any moves?" Hayes asks him. When Coffman tentatively says, "Yes," Hayes says, "I'd wish you'd start incorporating some of them." The players seem to like it, too. "The whole thing with Chase was pretty good," says linebacker Brandon Johnson. "I thought the whole thing was good. It's pretty real. It shows the game pretty well. The good and the bad."

As The Ocho tweets and streams in his room while watching, Antonio Chatman gives Anthony Collins a haircut as Laveranues Coles, Chris Henry and Antwan Odom watch in the next room. "I like it any time the Bengals are on TV," Collins says. "It showed us working and grinding and that we want to win.” The Ocho gets a lot of laughs, of course. Everybody gets good treatment and he’s no different as the film quickly shows brief clips of him working out during the summer boxing and sprinting on the beach. He gives an explanation of his new saying, "Child, please," in answer to somebody disrespecting him. He says it is basically a nice way tell somebody something you can't say in the morning and the afternoon on HBO.

But the episode’s most compelling moment is the saddest as it conveys the brutality and passion of the sport all in one starkly brilliant scene. It comes when Bengals trainer Paul Sparling quietly tells tight end Reggie Kelly his 11th NFL season is done with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Kelly's effort to fight back tears as he tugs to his pads off is filmmaking at its best. It looks like The Ocho has to fight back some of his own tears as he watches himself comfort Kelly on the screen. “That’s sad," he says. "It doesn't hit you at first until it settles after practice and you begin to think about it. Then you see it on TV just now and it hits home even more."
August 11, 2014
Just when it seems like the Bengals passing game is getting ready to take the next step after last season’s No. 8 finish in the NFL for the AFC North champs, they reveal they have been dealt their biggest injury of what had been a docile training camp. Wide receiver Marvin Jones, whose 10 TD catches last season make him and perennial Pro Bowler A.J. Green the first double-digit receiver scoring tandem in team history, is indefinitely sidelined. The twist turns out to foreshadow a tough stretch of injuries that defines the next three seasons. Head coach Marvin Lewis breaks the news answering a question about his team’s health while addressing the West Carrollton High School football team before the Bengals take their field for an evening practice. How Jones fractures his fifth metatarsal and now has a pin in his foot is just as mystifying. It’s unclear how or when Jones suffers the injury during a practice two days ago.

After practicing during the spring and attending quarterback Andy Dalton’s passing camp last month, Jones arrives at training camp with what he says is a nagging ankle problem that just needs rest. He practices for the first time last week and does team drills for the first time two days ago. No one really knows when Jones can return. Maybe the Oct. 5 game in New England? But what first-year offensive coordinator Hue Jackson does know is that backup slot wide receiver Andrew Hawkins is in Cleveland, tight end Tyler Eifert is playing through a separated shoulder, and slot receiver Mohamed Sanu is now his No. 2 wide receiver. “I’m not losing any sleep about it. I’d love to have him back. We’ve got to keep moving,” Jackson says after today’s practice. “Sanu’s been (No.) two. I know everyone says Marvin is two, but I can’t say that because he hasn’t been out there. Sanu is two, so we’ll find out who the third is. We’ll do whatever it takes to keep our passing game going.” The almost brazen optimism is pure Jacksonian and it provides a glimpse into one of the Bengals’ gutsiest post-season runs ever.

Jackson uses the confidence to help the offense persevere in a season that would break most teams. Jones ends up never taking a snap, Eifert is lost for the season on his ninth snap of the opener, and Green gets nicked enough to miss three games and not have a catch in two more. Yet the Bengals win ten games as rookie Jeremy Hill rushes for 1,000 yards. When Jones and Eifert return next season, the Bengals win 10 of their first 12 before Dalton goes down for the year.
August 10, 1970
AFL passing champion Greg Cook, the Joe Namath of the Midwest, tries to throw a couple of passes today at Monday’s practice and is so frustrated at the pain in his golden shoulder he walks out of the Bengals’ training camp at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio. Namath is not in the Jets camp for personal reasons and Joe Kapp is holding out in Minnesota over his contract, but even before Cook returns in time for Wednesday’s work the sense is he has left because he’s unhappy the way he’s responded to treatment. It becomes clear that the shoulder injury Cook suffers in the third game of his rookie year last season is now threatening this season and career. Cook skips tonight’s meal and meetings and won’t show for tomorrow morning’s appointment with team physician George Ballou in Cincinnati. Bengals head coach Paul Brown doesn’t know where he is and says he’s “very disappointed. I don’t know if he’s retired or what.”

Despite the early injury, Cook, a popular local product from Chillicothe, Ohio who becomes a top five draft pick at the University of Cincinnati, finishes the season strong enough to be AFL Rookie of the Year and has immediately made the Bengals a contender in just their third year of existence in the first season of the new AFC Central. He reports to camp to start the season and after a few practices he reports soreness in the muscles behind his shoulder. Brown holds him out of Saturday night’s exhibition opener against Washington, but the pain persists and when he returns to camp Cook reveals what’s on his mind. “I just felt I had to see my personal physician and get another opinion about my shoulder. He told me about the same thing as everyone else except that it should have been operated on over the winter.”

Cook’s anguish upon his return is heartbreaking. “I can’t help what anybody says. All I know is my arm hurts. People keep telling me to throw but how the hell am I supposed to throw when I can’t even lift my arm?” Brown fines Cook and say he’s conveyed Cook’s apology to the team. “As far as I’m concerned things will go back to the way they were before.” It never will. Cook won’t throw another pass in a game until 1973, when he throws the final three balls of a career that Bengals wide receivers coach Bill Walsh will one day say should have ended in the Hall of Fame.
August 9, 1980
Forrest Gregg
Forrest Gregg, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for Vince Lombardi, is hired by another legend in Paul Brown to toughen up and discipline a lackluster team that has lost 25 of the last 33 games. When the first series unfolds tonight in Gregg’s debut at Denver in the exhibition opener, a 17-6 loss, Gregg is said to be furious when quarterback Ken Anderson’s first two passes don’t even get into the air because of the Broncos’ pressure. The press box copy machine is broken and the Bengals fly home with no stats, but Gregg knows it is his line that needs to be fixed after allowing eight sacks. “That first series of plays probably disappointed me more than anything,” Gregg says. “We’ve got to find out if these guys can pass block. There’s nothing wrong with this team’s running game, but we have to find people who’ll protect the passer.”

They know No. 1 pick Anthony Munoz can at left tackle. While veterans Vernon Holland and Mike Wilson struggle in a rotation on the right side, Munoz uses the first half of his debut to show at times why he’ll be the greatest left tackle who ever lives and a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. The 6-6, 286-pound Munoz dominates on one play so much that it is almost comical when he virtually flings 6-4, 250-pound end Brison Manor into the sidelines. “It was a pitch play to the weak side. My job is to hook him and drive him back. That’s what I tried to do,” Munoz says. “The problem is, no one else is doing it and it’s open season on the quarterbacks when Munoz goes to the bench.

Gregg is generally satisfied with the debut of the 3-4 defense, unveiled for the first time by a Bengals team and new defensive coordinator Hank Bullough says there’s nothing he saw that can’t be fixed. But after they get their only points on field goals of 29 and 41 yards by lefty Sandro Vitiello, a 10th-round pick out of Massachusetts, Gregg is going to show the offense he’s not fooling around. When they get back to Cincinnati from Denver he’ll promote second-year player Max Montoya to right guard and while he’ll replace Dave Lapham, the versatile Lapham may get a shot at right tackle. He’s going nowhere.

“This is no reflection on Lapham,” Gregg says the week after tonight’s game. “We just liked to get him some snaps at the tackle position and that’s not to say he couldn’t move over at the other guard.” That’s what happens the next season when they put Lapham at left guard and Montoya at right guard. Montoya is on his way to three Pro Bowls during 11 seasons in Cincy and next year the Bengals go to their first Super Bowl with Lapham and Munoz on the left side and Montoya and Wilson on the right side.
August 8, 1970
Lemar Parrish
Even though ailing Washington head coach Vince Lombardi isn’t on the sidelines tonight, not many expect the third-year Bengals to do much in their first game ever against an NFL team. But in the first football game at their sparkling new Riverfront Stadium, the Bengals defense delivers a shocker when rookie defensive backs Lemar Parrish and Sandy Durko each score touchdowns in the second half and Washington running back Larry Brown’s fumble sets up the first Riverfront touchdown as the giddy Bengals celebrate a 27-12 victory in the exhibition opener. Not only that, they do it with just four and a half days of practice because of a players’ strike. “That defense was something else. If they give us 21 points a game, we’ll be beating teams 70-7,” says Pro Bowl tight end Bob Trumpy in what can only be described as a jubilant locker room.

Head coach Paul Brown, sipping a can of soda, says they didn’t have much to use, just eight runs and 10 passes, yet he’s beaming about a defense that finished in the bottom third of the AFL the last two years and holds down Washington’s future Hall-of-Fame passing combination of quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and wide receiver Charley Taylor. Especially Parrish, a seventh-round pick out of Lincoln who scored 15 touchdowns as a senior running back but is already getting the bulk of cornerback snaps opposite veteran Ken Riley. In the third quarter he scoops up a fumble and goes 55 yards for the score and jump-starts a career that puts him in the Pro Bowl six times as a Bengal. ““After I saw the sidelines I figured I wasn’t going to get caught from behind,” says Parrish, whose gold tooth symbolizes an exciting new game in town long before The Ocho arrives.

“Parrish looked like he was shot out of a gun,” Brown says. “Parrish is the only other guy outside of Warren McVea I’ve ever had run a 4.4 40.” Standing in what Barry Cobb of The Post and Times-Star calls “their spacious, carpeted dressing room underneath the concrete palace,” Brown also says, “For four days of work I’m satisfied. We were aggressive and quick. We had a lot of errors, but we had the spirit of the occasion. It was gratifying and the kids got a big kick out of it that the defense did it.” Brown holds out AFL Rookie of the Year Greg Cook because of a sore shoulder, but Sam Wyche comes off the bench to complete 11 of 18 passes for 82 yards and pretty much holds Washington to a stalemate with Jurgensen completing 11 of 17 passes for 114 yards. Jurgensen has a TD and Wyche has an interception, but the Bengals have the defense and it stakes them to a 7-0 lead with 1:15 left in the first quarter on Riverfront’s first TD, running back Jess Phillips’ one-yard buck set up by a signature sweep from running back Paul Robinson for 15 yards. “Those three-a-day practices paid off,” says Trumpy, referring to Brown’s sked. “The master knows best. And for two rookies to score touchdowns in their first game is unheard of.” These Bengals end up being heard as the franchise’s first post-season team.
August 7, 2010
With the Bengals preparing to play the Cowboys in tomorrow night’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, the Bengals tour the museum today and Bengals president Mike Brown offers some of them a glimpse of how the color line is broken in the pro game. It comes after wide receiver Chad Ochocinco snaps a Twitter shot of the $4,000 contracts that Brown’s father reaches with running back Marion Motley and nose tackle Bill Willis before the 1946 season in Cleveland. The signature of Paul Brown, who founded and coached both the Browns and the Bengals, is at the bottom of the documents and ushers in two of the game’s first African-American players. With Robert Geathers, Quan Cosby, and Adam Jones watching, Mike Brown recalls as an 11-year-old how he would sneak up to the training camp dorm rooms of Willis, Motley and punter Horace Gillom. Those guys were my great heroes,” Brown says. “Marion was a great back and Bill could play today. He was so fast. I remember a game we had to win against New York and a running back broke out in the open and Bill, a defensive lineman, ran him down. We held, kicked a field goal, and won.”

Cosby has no idea. “To know that you’re connected to something like that in some way, it’s really something,” he says. “Something I didn’t know, but I’ve seen a lot of things in here that I didn’t know about.” Brown also grabs left tackle Andrew Whitworth and takes him over to the offensive line videos and punches up Bengals Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Muñoz. “Mike and I both said they need better video of him,” says Whitworth with a laugh. “They’ve got a Hall of Fame lineman and all the shots are of the quarterback and the running back. But I guess that’s the way it goes for offensive linemen.” As the Bengals leave the Hall to board the bus to eat dinner on the way to their Cleveland hotel, their former head coach, Dick LeBeau, is poised to be inducted with the class of 2010.

LeBeau, the defensive coordinator of the Steelers, is the head man of the Bengals for three of his 18 seasons with the club before Marvin Lewis arrives in 2003. Since the Steelers have been sprung from training camp to attend the ceremony, LeBeau’s speech is Steeler-centric. But he salutes the Bengals at a few junctures. “The owners I've worked for, played for, read like the Hall of Fame,” he says. “Right now with the Rooney family. They have two in the Hall of Fame. I spent about 20 years with the Brown family in Cincinnati. If ever the word 'legendary' ever applied, I think the great Paul Brown certainly has that coming to his name. He operated within a 20 mile radius of where we're standing for a long time." And he invokes the name of his great Pro Bowl nose tackle in Cincinnati. He calls the Steelers’ Casey Hampton his ideal nose tackle but with a qualifier. “I told Casey, ‘You’re a great player, but I had a nose tackle that actually led our team when I was in Cincinnati,’ ” LeBeau says. “Tim Krumrie led our team several times in tackles. Casey looked at me, you can't get anything over on him. ‘You said your nose tackle led your team in defensive stops?’ “I said, ‘More than once.’ He said, ‘Coach, there's no way you're running the same system that you're running with me.’ He might be right.”
August 6, 1994
Leave it to Sam. In what is believed to be the first use of the NFL’s two-point conversion approved by owners back in March that include Bengals president Mike Brown, the Buccaneers use it in the final two minutes to win the pre-season opener over the Bengals, 17-16. In his first game against his old team, former Bengals head coach Sam Wyche shows the offensive innovation that marked his eight always-interesting years in Cincinnati. Trailing 16-15 in Tampa, Wyche relents to the crowd of 34,106 and goes for it. He splits out quarterback Casey Weldon as a wide receiver and lines up running back Vince Workman as a single back and Workman converts the direct snap running up the middle for the winning points with 1:58 left in the game. After one assistant counsels Wyche to kick the PAT, Wyche, always the crowd-pleaser, opts to go for it all: “I thought we would win (in overtime). Part of the reason was it was a pre-season game and the result doesn’t count in the standings. In the regular season I would have had to decide if they were the team that was worn down or we were.”

Even though it doesn’t count, the win has to be sweet for Wyche. Even though he and Brown settle their dispute before it reaches the commissioner’s office over whether he was fired or resigned on Christmas Eve, 1991. Bucs safety Barney Bussey, who joins Wyche in Tampa last year after seven seasons, knows. “Deep down there’s a little more emphasis from us because he coached there,” says Bussey before the game. “For me and Sam it’s a big game. We want to put on a good showing.”

Bygones are bygones. “Sam is imaginative, creative, and a good guy,” Brown says. “He has principles. He stood by them. Sometimes we felt he took it beyond but I’m sure he didn’t agree with us all the time, either.” Bengals nose tackle Tim Krumrie, who along with offensive linemen Joe Walter and Bruce Kozerski are the only ones left from Wyche’s 1988 AFC champs, recalls why it was nice playing for him despite what seems a perpetual swirl of controversy. “You guys were always talking to Sam,” Krumrie says of the media. “The story wasn’t in our locker room. It was talking to Sam. As long as he could do that, he kept everyone loose and kept the pressure off of us.”
August 5, 1991
Per Paul Brown’s request, upon his death it is to be business as usual. Which means football as usual. Which means his team is not to be disturbed during its training camp at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio. Sam Wyche, his head coach and old backup quarterback from his Baby Bengals of 1968, complies this morning in the first hours after Brown dies of complications of pneumonia at age 82. In the dorm room that Brown had when the founder of the franchise coached the Bengals from 19687-75, Wyche informs tackle Eric Crigler he’s been released and readies for a 9:30 a.m. staff meeting. The club won’t go to Massillon, Ohio for the visitation or the funeral, and Wyche goes to the night visitation only when he flies in a private plane and Bengals president Mike Brown gives him permission.

The news isn’t a total shock. There have been signs. Brown doesn’t attend the Bengals annual training camp media luncheon a few weeks ago. Early in camp a glum Wyche talks to the writers about a recent visit to Brown and asks, ‘Y’all got your stories written?” His son and successor, Mike Brown, misses his first Bengals game ever this past Friday night in Detroit, where quarterback Boomer Esiason scrawls “P,” and “B,” on the back of his helmet. Not a shock but the loss of the man who invented playbooks and the face mask, formed the first full-time coaching staff, helped bust the color line, and founded two franchises, is a huge blow to the game he innovated.

The Jets, coached by former Brown player Bruce Coslet, remember him by dipping their flag at half-mast. In Miami, coached by another former Brown player who is the dean of NFL head coaches, the Dolphins’ Don Shula, remembers him as a “master innovator.” At Wilmington they remember him with a few words huddled together between a 9-on-7 drill and installing “Grace 28,” for Saturday’s game against the Eagles. Wyche says Brown is the guy that professionalized coaching and the sport. “It was a part-time business before he came along.” Bengals defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, a future Bengals head coach cut by Brown in his first NFL training camp in Cleveland, recalls how Brown wouldn’t hand out plays. He’d draw them on the board and then make players draw them in their playbooks. “The way he was then is the way he was now.” Before this morning ‘s practice Esiason says he’ll keep P.B. on his helmet for the rest of the season. “I always do that if they can’t be in my huddle,” says Esiason, who has honored players such as Joe Walter, Anthony Munoz, and Ickey Woods in the same way. “The last couple of years the new generation dealt more with Mike than Paul,” says wide receiver Tim McGee. “But you knew he was there. He was what the team stood for. He was the cat with the stripes.”
August 4, 2014
The Bengals don’t want an out and quarterback Andy Dalton isn’t looking for one as the sides commit to each other for the rest of the decade before the Bengals hit the field today in training camp. Reports surface before the Bengals head out to practice that Dalton’s six-year extension is worth $96 million and if he hits all his individual and team milestones scheduled in the contract he’ll make $115 million. At $16 million per year in the base, Dalton signs a straight-forward, no-gimmick, no escape-valve, pure football deal that doesn’t provide the team any loopholes if he doesn’t live up to the numbers and is designed to give the Bengals room under the salary cap to extend Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict in a few weeks and running mate A. J. Green before next season. “You don’t sign a guy to a long-term deal thinking about getting out of it,’ says Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn. “You’re thinking about the long-interest of the team. It has to be something you feel good about for the team and the player and I think we finally did reach that.”

The Bengals expect Dalton to only get better and lead them to a Super Bowe title. Since assuming the mantle as franchise quarterback immediately when he came out of the second round from Texas Christian in 2011, Dalton has joined Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as the only players to throw at least 80 touchdowns in their first three seasons. Last year while setting the club record with 33 touchdown passes, Dalton becomes the first Bengals quarterback to win 30 games (30-18) in three seasons. And he’s on his way to join Baltimore’s Joe Flacco as the only quarterback in the 40 plus years of the post-merger to make the postseason in his first five seasons. They give Dalton more money quicker ($25 million in the first two years) than the 49ers gave Colin Kaepernick with accelerators, rather than Kaepernick’s de-accelerators (he gets a $1.5 million increase in base salary if the Bengals reach the Super Bowl) in exchange for a workable average salary of $16 million, ranked 11th in the league among quarterbacks, according to For a guy that finishes third in touchdowns, 12th in average gain and 15th in passer rating last year, that looks like a fair slot. "Obviously Andy and Kaepernick were very close in the draft. They’ve both done very well. But in fairness we’d pretty much started down a certain path by that time," says Blackburn of QBs that were drafted 35-36 in the 2011 second round. "In all honestly, while we discussed it, we had started down a path at that time and we pretty much stayed on the path we had started down. It had some similarities, coincidentally, to what you saw in the Kaepernick deal. Just in little ways. Of course you can say that about all the deals." At the end of today’s practice in the team huddle, head coach Marvin Lewis announces the extension and gets a round of applause. “The biggest thing is what he said before that,” Dalton says, taking a break in the cool of a training camp late afternoon after enjoying a 30-minute post-practice respite with month-old Noah, his wife and the baby’s grandmothers. “I did get here with the help of everybody and that’s so true,’ Dalton says. “I’ve had a lot of great people help me get here. That’s the biggest thing is that everybody is a part of it and it’s not about just myself.”
August 3, 1968
Paul Brown’s expansion Bengals get no break when they play their first game in history tonight before 21,682 curious onlookers at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. Hank Stram’s Kansas City Chiefs, one year removed from playing in the first Super Bowl and one year away from winning it, are a formidable crew coached and quarterbacked by future Hall-of-Famers. The Chiefs ease to a 38-14 exhibition victory after holding the Bengals to no offensive plays in the first quarter and no first downs in the first half. The Bengals get their first standing ovation on their first first down in the third quarter. “You can’t expect a great deal out of a team that has been assembled for three weeks,” says Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson after handing it off to Mike Garrett 11 times for 78 yards and Curtis McClinton nine times for 64 more before calling it an early evening. Nearly 50 years later rookie center Bob Johnson recalls the optimism expressed by the man he still calls “Coach Brown.” Instead of delivering an old-school dressing down, Brown tells his players it wasn’t too bad at all and he handles the media the same way. “I have no complaints,” Brown says. “We went into this thing outmanned and it wasn’t a whole lot from what I expected. We found a couple of guys we wanted.”

Brown points to guys like rookie tight end Bob Trumpy, who grabs two catches for 24 yards before leaving with a recurring foot injury, and rookie running back Paul Robinson, who skates for 51 yards on 12 carries. “(Robinson) has some feeling for what he was doing. He did some good things,” Brown says. Starting quarterback John Stofa struggles while rookie quarterback Dewey Warren gets the Bengals’ only offensive score of the night on a five-yard TD pass to rookie wide receiver Warren McVea. The papers note that the veteran Stofa doesn’t move the club while calling his own plays and Warren has more success with Brown calling the majority of the plays. But Brown pays homage to the Chiefs’ monstrous defensive line, instead. “It wasn’t the play calling,” Brown says. “It was (Ernie) Ladd and (Buck) Buchanan on the sidelines.”

“The Bengals did a lot of things that were very good considering this is their first game and the overabundance of players they’ve had in camp,” Stram says. But whatever happens, Brown is sticking with the kids. He has the last word 48 hours later. Defensive back Solomon Brannan, a three-year vet with the Jets, scores the first touchdown in Bengals history on a 75-yard fumble return in the second quarter and is rewarded with a pink slip.
August 2, 1975
To open what turns out to be his eighth and last season as Bengals head coach, Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Paul Brown takes his team to Canton, Ohio for the NFL’s annual opening game of the exhibition season. Brown is opposed by a future Hall-of-Famer George Allen, the Washington head coach who has re-invented the franchise with a crafty blend of veterans that are in the last days of the legendary Over-the-Hill Gang. The Bengals play like hell in what is believed to be their hottest game in history with on-field temperatures of 105 degrees before a crowd of 19,000-plus survivors. The Gang wheezes to a 17-9 victory fueled by a bevy of Bengals mistakes that includes Brig Owens' fumble return for a TD as the former University of Cincinnati DB, a young thing of 32, gets one of the few scores of the day.

One of the Bengals rookies is on the field for a costly too many men penalty. First-year kicker Dave Green misses a 29-yard field goal in the third quarter that would have put the Bengals up, 12-10. And when Green is caught by surprise attempting another field goal that is changed to a quick kick he uncorks a nine-yarder and reveals after the game he had never practiced it. “Not too many bright spots. A lot of error,” Brown says. “If you hit yourself in the head, they’ll let you do it and we did.” Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson, the defending NFL passing champion, steps up to take blame. He hits just nine of 23 passes, throws two picks, and misses wide-open running back Lenvil Elliott in the end zone. “There’s no reason. I just played badly. There’s no excuse. When I was in there I had good protection. Our offensive line was strong. It was just me … I missed a 30-yarder to (tight end) Bob Trumpy. I blew a couple on the sidelines. It just wasn’t my day.” Brown says, “The heat was stifling, but it was just as tough on Washington. Old hands don’t make many errors. It’s the same team we beat in Washington last year. We just didn’t execute.” Call it a 105-degree mirage. The Bengals end up having their best record ever at 11-3 and Anderson wins another passing title. Washington misses the playoffs at 8-6.
August 1, 1998
Anthony Munoz
Before a baking summer crowd in Canton, Ohio, dotted with posters and flags and other trappings of Bengaldom, the great Anthony Munoz becomes the first Bengal inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with his unique brand of faith, family, and humility. Munoz, about to turn 40 in a few weeks, is regarded as the greatest left tackle who ever lived and during his 13 seasons in Cincinnati he becomes not only a giant on the field, where he went to 11 straight Pro Bowls, but off the field, where he was named the NFL’s 1991 NFL Man of the Year. His teen-aged son Michael starts the festivities when he presents his father to the Hall with a deeply moving speech that captures him better than any pass rusher ever did. “You have shown me strength and the control and how to be tough while still being tender. You are a real man.”

In typical Munozian fashion, Anthony Munoz studies tapes of last year’s induction speeches and vows to be brief and he comes through with a speech much like his efficient, effortless play. “When we strive to reach the pinnacle of our profession, it’s like a triangle,” Munoz tells the crowd. “You have a broad base of people just like each and every one of you that makes that possible. I had those people. Lots of people and it started as a kid.” From the late Paul Brown, who scouts him and is already here in the halls of the Hall, to his high school baseball coach in Ontario, Calif., Jim Semon, he points them out. He asks his teammates in the trenches to stand and the old offensive linemen like Max Montoya, Joe Walter, Bruce Reimers, and Bruce Kozerski rise in the sun. So does Dave Lapham, the man that played next to him in the Freezer Bowl on a sub-zero day that began with the offensive line cutting off its sleeves and ended in the Bengals’ first Super Bowl. “That’s Anthony,” says Reimers, who drove 14 hours from Iowa yesterday. “He was always looking to recognize somebody else.”

Munoz also thanks the fans and, of course, they sum it up best. Fans like Jim Bruning, 49, of Mason, Ohio. He arrives at 7 a.m. to get a front-row seat and he’s easy to spot wearing an autographed No. 78 Munoz jersey and game day black and orange painted on his face as if these are the seats he’s had in a Riverfront Stadium end zone for the last 20 years. “This day means a lot to me,” Bruning says. “We finally have our first guy in the Hall and he’s a model. He never did anything wrong on or off the field.”
July 31, 2010
Off an AFC North title, a wildly successful appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” and a quick strike signing of the NFL’s most talked about player in Terrell Owens 48 hours ago, the Bengals are big. So big that today they host the biggest non-scrimmage crowd in the 14 seasons of training camp at Georgetown College when 10,000 fans come through the gates to watch two practices. With starting cornerbacks Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph resting minor injuries, the crowd of 6,500 is treated to the emergence of veteran cornerback Adam Jones. Jones, a top ten pick from 2005 looking to rehab his career after missing two of the last three seasons with off-field problems, is all over the field. Jones races down the sideline to knock a bomb away from Owens and on another play he is draped all over Owens but the 6-3, 225-pounder leaps up and rips the ball away from the 5-10, 188-pound Jones. Then Jones forces a low throw to Chad Ochocinco on a comeback route to end one team session and then Joseph, Hall and the other DBs surround him with congratulations.

It is the second record crowd of the day because 3,500 are here in the morning for the biggest morning crowd in history. School officials Stacey Varney and Eric Ward not only chalk it up to the T.O factor, but also to lower gas prices, the Bengals AFC North title, and personalities like head coach Marvin Lewis and Ochocinco. Plus, this is the Bengals’ only weekend at camp since they travel next Saturday to play in Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game. The biggest crowds have always been the Intrasquad scrimmage and Mock Game, both scratched because of the trip to Canton. “I think the people who came tonight,” Ward says, “were the same people that would have come to the scrimmage. This was their scrimmage.”

Bengals business manager Bill Connelly, who has been working with the Bengals since the late ‘70s, says he’s never seen anything like it around a training camp. “It’s the popularity of the league and the popularity of the player,” Connelly says. “It exceeds anything we’ve ever seen before.”
July 30, 2007
When Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh dies of leukemia today, Bengals training camp headquarters at Georgetown College pauses to pay homage. As Bengals founder Paul Brown’s top offensive lieutenant, Walsh perfects the West Coast offense to produce great Pro Bowl players in the 1970s like quarterback Ken Anderson, wide receiver Isaac Curtis, and tight end Bob Trumpy while Cincinnati becomes pro sports’ most successful expansion team with three play-off berths in its first eight years. In Shakespearean fashion, Walsh moves on to the 49ers when Brown chooses Tiger Johnson to succeed him and it is Walsh’s 49ers that deny Brown’s Bengals in both Cincinnati Super Bowls.

Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham calls it the “ultimate revenge,” during tonight’s Bengals practice, but there are only warm, sad feelings as Walsh’s powerful influence is felt. Anderson, the Bengals all-time quarterback, checks in from Latrobe, Pa., as the Steelers new quarterbacks coach and says, “"Bill Walsh took a small college quarterback and turned him into an NFL quarterback. They talk about the West Coast offense and one of the things is that it stood the test of time. From the time we were running it in the early '70s right up through the '90s and teams use parts of it today. He molded me and he became a great friend, a guy I always turned to for advice whether I was coaching or playing.” After the Bengals’ practice, head coach Marvin Lewis, who serves an internship under Walsh with the 49ers in the late '80s, says, “I took from it the organization, the exactness of the detail of everything. His coaching tree is plentiful. A strong, strong, huge influence on a lot of coaches."

"Paul Brown was a legend in the league," says Bruce Coslet from retirement in Florida. "Bill always said about 'The West Coast Offense' that it was really the 'North Bank of the Ohio River Offense.' It evolved." Coslet, a tight end for Brown and Walsh, then an assistant briefly for Walsh in San Francisco, and then a Bengals offensive coordinator before becoming the head coach of two NFL teams, is the prime example of the reach of the coaching tree. "He taught us how to beat bump-and-run with timing and footwork," Coslet says "He was always preaching to throw that ball one yard in front of the receivers' numbers so that he wouldn't have to stop, and he could catch it in stride and get more yards after catch." Before Coslet plans to lift a glass of wine tonight to Walsh because “Bill enjoyed having a glass,” Bengals president Mike Brown puts his thoughts on paper in a news release that serves as a toast for Walsh’s deep connection to the Bengals: "Bill's record speaks for itself. He was the top coach in the NFL during his time in San Francisco. During his eight years on our coaching staff (1968-75), he brought imagination and ideas to the game. He was a tremendous part of our staff, and we were lucky to have him. He set a mark on the game that is admired by everyone, and he will be greatly missed."
July 29, 2010
Terrell Owens
Less than 48 hours before the Bengals strike a one-year deal with Hall-of-Famer to be Terrell Owens with the hope he puts a struggling offense that won the AFC North last season over the top. The Bengals have already dipped into free agency for help this season at wide receiver, but Antonio Bryant is a limping question mark. Owens, 36, has almost as many controversies as yards (second only to Jerry Rice) and training camp at Georgetown College braces for his arrival for tonight’s practice, and pairing with the NFL’s second most controversial wide receiver in Chad Ochocinco. Owens already has his first touch of controversy when his news conference is delayed nearly 12 hours because he isn’t on his originally scheduled flight. He flies cross-country, takes a physical, rides the hour from Cincinnati, gets his egg whites at his favorite stop, The Waffle House, signs his contract, checks out his room, walks to the locker room, and comes out half-an-hour later for practice, and then conducts a 16-minute post-practice news conference.

“It’s a circus,” quarterback Carson Palmer says with a smile after throwing to Owens for the first time in tonight’s practice. “Just him and Chad. Them being them. It was funny. I was laughing (when they came out) … It definitely is a circus. Training camp is boring and slow and hot and then you get a little bit of action. Get a little bit of fun in the circus atmosphere, it makes it fun, it kind of breaks up the monotony of it. Hopefully, there’s some more fun things to happen to make training camp not so boring." Owens makes sure of that in his news conference. Addressing a regular-season crush of media in horn-rimmed glasses and a straw fedora, he cuts a far different figure than The Diva while calling the Bengals a “special” team. “I’m here to win a championship,” Owens says. “I watched the playoff game against the Jets at my daughter’s birthday and they were missing a piece. ... If I can be that piece, it would be great.”

While Bryant never plays, Owens ends up leading the team with 72 catches for 983 yards and nine TDs and plays hurt with a broken hand before his season ends with two games left with a torn meniscus in his knee. He finishes just 17 yards from becoming the third player to have 1,000 yards in 10 seasons, but there are too many little dramas in a 4-12 season and it ends up being the last season in Cincinnati for Owens, The Ocho and Palmer. It also turns out to be Owens’ last NFL season.
July 28, 2011
In the first hours the NFL Lockout is lifted and they are allowed to deal, the Bengals make no bones about it. With Carson Palmer demanding a trade and Chad Ochocinco fresh off riding a bull, they turn over the franchise today to rookies A.J. Green and Andy Dalton when they trade The Ocho to New England for a fifth-rounder next year and a sixth-rounder in 2013 after he agrees to a three-year deal with the Pats. It’s the second time in seven years Bengals president Mike Brown has done a deal with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and sent him one of their all-time leaders. Then it was all-time leading rusher Corey Dillon for a second-rounder. Now it is Ocho, the only receiver in Bengals history with more than 10,000 yards, countless touchdown celebrations, one name change, and a reality TV show. Leave it to Brown to sum it up best in his unvarnished way when he’s asked a few months ago if The Ocho can still play at 33 with three straight declining seasons amid a celebrity’s life.

“If he chose to be, there's no question. The issue is does he at this stage of his life have that focus,” Brown says. “He has a genius for bringing notice to himself and I don't say that in a disparaging way. It's unique. I've never known any football player that can bring the spotlight on to himself seemingly all year round. Now is that a good thing or a bad thing? And that gets to be a debate." It’s a debate that The Ocho ends up losing to head coach Marvin Lewis, who just gets sick of all the antics.

But his former mates rally to say goodbye. "He probably went to the best place he can go for a wide receiver," says safety Chris Crocker. "You've got Tom (Brady) and those tight ends. He's not going to have to be the main guy. Tom Brady spreads the wealth. Chad has been known to do his antics, but inside those four walls he was just one of the guys, a laid-back guy that lined up every day. Those types of things didn't bother us. It wasn't a distraction. I don't know if it bothered the guys upstairs." It does. Especially after The Ocho tries to engineer a deal before the 2008 season with a spring holdout that ends with the mandatory minicamp and Brown’s refusal. The famously no-nonsense Belichick is waiting and everyone wonders if the NFL’s version of “The Odd Couple,” can work. The week the Bengals open the season in New England last year, Belichick plays soothsayer. "I like Chad. I like him as a player. I like him as a person. I like his enthusiasm and the fun he has with football,” Belichick says in his Foxboro news conference. “And I like how he competes on the football field. I have a lot of respect for that. (We’re) an odd couple, but in the end I think we have a lot of things in common.”

The Ocho ends the day and 11 Bengals seasons with the tweet "Good night and may God bless you all," but unlike Dillon he doesn’t get the Hollywood ending when the Patriots are shocked in the next Super Bowl’s last minutes by the Giants. He catches just 15 balls all year and is gone the next, when he signs with the hometown Dolphins in a run that ends in training camp. Naturally, the two picks the Bengals get turn into wide receivers. The fifth-rounder, speedy Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones, pans out with 10 TDs in 2013 and more than 800 yards in 2015 before moving on in free agency. Sixth-rounder Cobi Hamilton doesn’t catch a ball for the Bengals but he’ll eventually resurface in the AFC North with the Steelers. Yet The Ocho’s impact on the franchise is indelible and six years after he leaves is reflected in a fan and media vote celebrating the top 50 players. He finishes fourth behind the trinity of Anthony Munoz, Ken Anderson, and Tim Krumrie as the only 21st century player to finish in the top ten.
July 27, 1986
Pat McInally, who once broke up the great, fierce stone face of head coach Forrest Gregg by showing up for a meeting wearing only sneakers, a belt, and a baseball hat, is fully clothed today before this afternoon’s practice at Wilmington College when he tells his teammates he’s retiring after 10 seasons. The NFL’s Renaissance Man, already the author of a syndicated column (“Pat Answers for Kids”) that reaches more than 90 newspapers as well as a songwriter who has written sports columns and worked at a Cincinnati television station, has plenty waiting for him in retirement. But McInally, 33, the Harvard grad who is the only Bengals punter to go to a Pro Bowl in 1981 until Kevin Huber more than 30 years later, has to come to training camp for three days to figure it out for good.

“Competitively at camp I was performing very well. That didn’t influence me at all on whether this was right for me,” says McInally, who led the NFL in average in 1976 and 1978 while also being an effective tight end in those younger days. “I was curious to see how other people punted and whether my off-season work prepared me. It had. I went back to see if I had any lingering doubts. After three days I was ready to do something else.” Quarterback Ken Anderson, now that McInally is gone the only man left who played for head coach Paul Brown, tells the Forrest Gregg story and recounts how McInally kept them loose famously with one-liners and “training camp antics.” “Pat made this decision on his own. No one has pushed him out the door,” says Brown, still the general manager. Even to the end assistant general manager Mike Brown thought McInally was executing a gag during this morning’s practice. “He came over to me and said, ‘Do you have a moment?’ I thought he was going to tell me a joke. He said, ‘I think it’s time to move on.’ I looked at him as if he was kidding.’”
July 26, 1998
Brian Simmons
Just like they arrive on Draft Day within four picks of each other in the first round, linebackers Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons go in the fold together yesterday when they each sign their five-year deals. But only Spikes gets to Kentucky in time to practice at Georgetown College, making today the first day they’ll work together and give Bengaldom a glimpse of its defense for the next five years. Spikes is second on the depth chart behind Jerry Olsavsky at right inside linebacker and Simmons is running third at left inside backer behind Tom Tumulty and Steve Tovar in the Bengals 3-4. But that’s just book-keeping. Everyone knows they’re here to start and they’ll do it well enough to be voted among the Bengals’ First 50 players nearly 20 years after that first practice. And they’re versatile enough that coordinator Dick LeBeau will be able to switch to a 4-3 in the middle of the next season.

“They’re hitters. They’re fast. They’ll help our team speed. You can’t teach that,” says head coach Bruce Coslet. Simmons, who’ll end up playing every spot in that 4-3 during his nine seasons in Cincinnati, shows up in time to tell the media he’s anxious to show his strength after spending the spring bulking up from 234 pounds to 243. But it’s Spikes that makes the first play and it comes on his first snap of 11-on-11 when he calls the signals before picking off quarterback Erik Kresser. “What more can a rookie ask for?” Spikes asks after yesterday’s practice he pockets a $6.3 million deal. “You just smile when you sign the papers. When you walk out of the building its time to put on the cleats, shoulder pads, and helmets and get to work.”
July 25, 2012
Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer hints at yesterday’s training camp media luncheon he has signed an extension and today the Bengals confirm it and why not? Zimmer is gunning for a third top 10 finish in the NFL rankings in his fifth Bengals season. The only comparable run is when the Bengals did it four out of the five years from 1972-76 under Chuck Weber and Howard Brinker. Zimmer watches two head-coaching opportunities slip past him in February when he interviews with Miami and Tampa Bay, but with most of his players back from the league’s No. 7 unit he’s upbeat and ready again.

"This group defensively has great character. We've got good athletes. Good competitors. They want to win," Zimmer says at the luncheon. "They want to do things right. They want to please not only me, but the fans. They want to please everybody. They want to meet and accept the challenge. I feel real good about the nucleus of all these guys. We've got smart guys, we've got leaders. Are we the most talented in the league? No, but we have a lot of intangibles I really like." Zimmer, 56, heading into his 19th season as an NFL coach, is philosophical about the misses. "I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and I’ve seen a lot of really good coaches get jobs and a lot of really good coaches not get jobs," Zimmer says. "Quite honestly, I’ve seen some not so good coaches get jobs. I don’t know where I’m at in that bunch, but I’m somewhere. I know I haven’t got the job yet … If it happens, great. And if it doesn’t, I have a lot of unfinished business here. I feel good about the situation we have, the players. My No. 1 main focus is to get these guys to play great out there on Sundays.”

In the upcoming season the defense takes care of business, unfinished and otherwise, by rising a notch higher to No. 6 in the final rankings and supplying the 13-10 masterpiece in Pittsburgh that wraps up their second straight play-off berth. When Zimmer leaves after the 2013 season with a No. 3 ranking and an AFC North title to become the head coach of the Vikings, he takes the mantle of the most productive Bengals defensive coordinator ever with him.
July 24, 2011
With word today, Sunday, that the lockout that has submerged the NFL in its most surreal offseason ever is expected to end in the next 48 hours, the Bengals are about to embark on their biggest season of change since Marvin Lewis arrived as head coach eight years ago. Unable to negotiate with free agents or draft picks and prohibited from working with players since March until a collective bargaining agreement is reached, the Bengals prepare today to move operations to Georgetown, Ky., for what is expected to be their last training camp at Georgetown College and their most chaotic week in history per

“If Paul Brown Stadium opens Wednesday, that fits into the Bengals' schedule of physicals on Wednesday and Thursday and a report time of Thursday afternoon at Georgetown. But the concern is, who exactly is going to be on the field if the schedule holds and head coach Marvin Lewis holds his first practice Friday? Like all teams, the Bengals not only have a bevy of their own veteran free agents to sign, but also eight rookie draft picks. Plus, they must pursue their wish list of undrafted college players as well as the veteran free agents that would replace the players they could possibly lose or fit into holes. Complicating matters is that the Bengals have a new offensive playbook that has not been taught to the players and two of offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's probable starters are first-round pick A.J. Green, wide receiver from Georgia, and second-round pick Andy Dalton, quarterback from TCU.”

Somehow it will all come off as Green and Dalton lead the Bengals to five straight postseasons to start their careers.
July 23, 1976
Ask and Sherman White receives. White, the Bengals’ disgruntled former No. 1 pick and starting right end, shows up two days late for training camp, reiterates his desire to be traded, and today the Bengals promptly grant his request by sending him to Buffalo for the Bills’ first-round pick next year. That gives the Bengals three first-rounders in 1977, they’re own, Buffalo’s and the Eagles’ from the 1974 Bill Bergey trade that keeps on giving. White has been grousing about being treated unfairly by the club and the April deal for Coy Bacon probably doesn’t help. In one of his first moves since stepping down as head coach, general manager Paul Brown swings a trade for one of the NFL’s most feared pass rushers in Bacon when he sends wide receiver Charlie Joiner to San Diego.

“We were planning to play Coy Bacon at right end anyway,” Brown says after the White trade and assistant general manager Mike Brown says, “He wanted to go and it’s the best thing for him. We think we’ve got good people at defensive end.” New head coach Tiger Johnson also indicates that last year’s third-round pick that missed his entire rookie year with an injury, Pittsburgh defensive end Gary Burley, is being moved back to end from guard. The rest, as they say, is history. Bacon will rule 1976 with an unofficial Bengals’ record of 22 sacks and Burley gets 10 sacks on the other side. And that White draft pick? It turns out to be the third pick in the draft. The Bengals use it on a future sack master in left end Eddie Edwards. By the time Edwards leaves 12 seasons later he’ll be the club’s all-time sack leader with 83.5.
July 22, 1987
Bengals training camp is set to being with the holdouts of perennial Pro Bowler Anthony Munoz and first-rounder Jason Buck dwarfing the news, along with the storm clouds of an impending strike. So today’s signing of eighth-round pick Solomon Wilcots, a Colorado cornerback, gets buried in the next day’s Cincinnati Enquirer. The paper even puts the news inside a bigger story extolling the chances of sixth-round pick Sonny Gordon, a local Ohio State safety out of Middletown, making the team as the Bengals look to replace veteran free safety Robert Jackson. But in the coming weeks Wilcots shows why Bengals defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will one day call him one of the smartest players he ever coached and how he’ll became one of the NFL’s best game and studio analysts three decades after signing that first pro contract.

After Gordon starts the pre-season opener against Tampa Bay and third-rounder Leonard Bell, a free safety out of Indiana, starts the second one in Detroit, Wilcots, a college cornerback, gets the call in the third game in Green Bay. Showing his grasp of the game at an early age, Wilcots tells the writers the run-heavy Big Eight Conference prevented scouts from seeing his ability to cover. “Solomon is an aggressive, tough player,” says head coach Sam Wyche. “He played some free safety against Detroit and played well. Now I’ve got to find out if he can be a mistake-free player down after down.” When Wilcots is just one of five draft picks (out of 14) to survive final cuts while beating out the higher-rated Bell and Gordon, Wyche delivers his answer. Jackson also makes it back in the starting lineup, but Wilcots wins the job the next season and teams with Pro Bowl strong safety David Fulcher and cornerbacks Eric Thomas and Lewis Billups to form the cult favorite “S.W.A.T. Team,” that helps fuel the 1988 AFC title run.
July 21, 2003
The Marvin Lewis Era is set to begin July 27 with the opening of training camp at Georgetown College, capping a whirlwind offseason that sees the Bengals rookie head coach re-build the football program from the ground up, right down to the wording on the T-Shirts. Lewis takes a deep breath today for a Q-and-A with, where the detail guy keeps the big picture in mind. He knows the Bengals hire him, in large part, because of his success coaching against the Bengals for the Steelers and Ravens in the NFL’s 21st century version of the Black-and-Blue division known as the AFC North. That hits home when asked what he wants to create at Georgetown from July 27-Aug. 21.

“An attitude,” Lewis says. “When it comes to pushing and shoving, we're going to be pushing and shoving. We're going to be a team that physically knocks the hell out of the other team each and every day we can. We don't have to do that every day to each other in training camp. But there are times we have to. We have to establish the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football and once we've got it, never give it away.” Even though Lewis has been the centerpiece of this re-building job, he realizes the dawning of camp puts it in the hands of his players and coaches. “The torch is going to get passed, but I'm willing to shoulder this because if we don't win, it is my fault,” Lewis says. “But when we win, it's because of the players and the rest of these coaches. And I understand that. That's the way it should be.”
July 20, 2000
Darnay Scott, a long-ball artist who snares bombs for Jeff Blake’s first career touchdown pass and Boomer Esiason’s last, becomes the club’s No. 1 wide receiver today when the club officially releases Carl Pickens with training camp set to open. The move has been bubbling since December, when the famously caustic Pickens basically convenes a locker room news conference to lambast the Bengals’ decision to bring back head coach Bruce Coslet for this season even though Coslet lobbied for the Bengals to end Pickens’ holdout last year with a five-year, $23 million deal. The Bengals sent that message in this last draft when they pick Florida State teammates Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans in the first and third rounds, respectively, to revamp the wide receiver spot.

Pickens, a second-round pick in 1992, leaves as the Bengals’ all-time leading receiver with 530 catches and a franchise-record 93 straight games with at least one catch. The 6-2, 205-pounder turned the jump ball into an art with 29 touchdowns in 1995-96 during a career Pickens rang up last-minute touchdown catches with four different quarterbacks that either won games or forced overtime, ranging from Boomer Esiason (against Chicago in 1992), Blake (against Jacksonville in 1995 and Arizona in 1997), Neil O'Donnell (against Pittsburgh in 1998), and Akili Smith (against Cleveland in 1999). "He's the one who wanted to move on and I think the way things have happened, that's best for everyone,” says Bengals president Mike Brown. “But it will take away nothing from what he did as a Bengal. He set records, was an outstanding player and great competitor while on the field. I think he has a lot of time left wherever he goes. I think he'll play effectively and we wish him well." Brown puts Pickens, "in the first class of receivers we've had there. With Isaac Curtis, Cris Collinsworth, Chip Myers, Eddie Brown. That group."

The 6-1, 204-pound Scott, a second-round pick in 1994, comes into his seventh season with 25 catches of least 40 yards. Even though Pickens plays all 16 games last year, Scott has more TDs (7-6) and is the club’s leading receiver in his first 1,000-yard season with 1,022 on a career-high 68 catches.
July 19, 1995
Ki-Jana CarterBengals president Mike Brown, who signs off on the deal late last night in his Wilmington College dorm room, greets first-round draft pick Ki-Jana Carter with a smile and new contract today at a hastily arranged lunch hour news conference on the second day of Bengals training camp. Brown, who trades up to get the Penn State running back with the first pick overall, muses that back in the ‘60s the franchise cost about $7.2 million and now he is handing Carter a rookie record $7.1 million signing bonus as part of a seven-year, $19.2 million deal. For the second straight year the Bengals avoid a holdout at the top of the draft despite the supersonic escalation of salaries in the second year of unrestricted free agency by relenting to the pricey trends of voidable years and heavy incentives because “I wanted to get the deal done,” Brown says.

It is a heady time for everyone. Kathy Carter, the tough single mom from just outside Columbus, Ohio, who raises the best running back in the nation, takes the day off from her hair salon to watch the culmination of a lifetime of blood, sweat, and tears. Against the backdrop of his bid to get a new stadium for the Bengals in their efforts to keep pace with the modern pay scale, Brown hears praise. “Mike’s the man,” says Dan Wilkinson, last year’s first pick who has just had his record broken by Carter “He knows it’s time to win. He wants to go to the big house. There’s a commitment here. I think Mike is showing people that he doesn’t want to move. He wants to turn it around in Cincinnati.”

But nearly a month to the day the script takes a horrendous turn. On the third carry of his career in his first pre-season game, Carter leaves Detroit with a torn ACL that is the first of three injuries that end his season before October during a star-crossed Bengals career that never gets to the new stadium. The Bengals end up using Carter’s unearned incentives from that rookie season to reach an extension with quarterback Jeff Blake that October that result in another hastily arranged news conference.
July 18, 1978
Bengals founder Paul Brown has always preached to his players that football is not their life’s work and today with training camp starting this week the creed hits home when strong safety Tommy Casanova informs the club he’ll retire to continue pursuit of his medical degree at the University of Cincinnati. It’s been an open secret since the end of last season, when Casanova mulls retirement even though he’s just 27 and is coming off his third Pro Bowl in his sixth NFL season. When he doesn’t show for the spring camps in May, the Bengals make their plans and move Marvin Cobb from free safety to strong. “This is an important time in Tom’s studies in medical school and he wishes to devote himself totally to it,” Brown says. “He has been a credit to us and professional football in every respect. We are proud of him and happy to have had a part in producing a doctor.” In what is now his professional opinion, Casanova admits the next day that his troublesome left knee that limited him to 11 games last season is also a factor: “The knee finally ruled it out. It was an inconvenience to play football while I was in medical school, but I just would have graduated six months later. But with the knee I just wouldn’t have been able to hold up a whole season.”

Casanova, a second-round pick in 1972 out of his native Louisiana at LSU, calls it over after just 71 games. But with his aggressive, alert play as a safety and returner and his drop-dead-Broadway-Joe good looks to go with the name to match, he’ll go down as one of the most popular Bengals ever. Even 40 years after his last snap Casanova is one of their consensus all-time safeties opposite David Fulcher. The day after he lets the Bengals know he’s not coming back, Casanova tells the newspapers the game still holds him. “It’s been on my mind for a long time. I’m glad the decision is over because it was a hard one to make,” Casanova says. “The team treated me well the whole time. Paul Brown encouraged my medical studies the whole way … If I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t do it any differently. They have been the happiest years of my life. I’m very definitely going to miss it. There are 43 players, 10 coaches, and a lot of front office people that were friends of mine and I won’t be seeing them much anymore. When you play hurt together and things like that, you learn to respect each other it’s a great game.”

Casanova goes on to graduate from UC’s College of Medicine but the road has just begun. After a three-year ophthalmology residency he completes his studies in oculoplastic surgery and returns to Crowley, La., as an eye surgeon. He becomes one of the quintessential Paul Brown guys in the Isaac Curtis mold as a success on and off the field. In his one brief fling with politics in the mid-1990s, the always popular Casanova, a Republican, springs a 58-42 upset in a historically Democratic district but decides not to run again and is replaced by a Democrat.
July 17, 1997
When a person dressed up as a slice of pizza welcomes wide receiver James Hundon to the Bengals’ new training camp today at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., it’s another sign the club has upgraded its menu in the fast-changing world of the NFL. After spending all 29 training camps at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio, the Bengals now call Georgetown’s $15 million, 52-acre complex home for the next month at a camp that is sponsored, among others, by Papa John’s. Veteran right tackle Joe Walter, used to sharing a room with no air conditioning during the NFL dog days, reflects the stunned appreciation of his teammates as they take in the quads equipped with private rooms, central air, and phone and cable hookups. “Everybody kept saying it’s nice, but I didn’t expect it to be this nice,” Walter says. “This is absolutely unbelievable. It’s Taj Mahalish out here.”

Even as The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Chris Haft observes electricians, dump trucks, and landscapers deployed for the finishing touches, quarterback Boomer Esiason, now Jeff Blake’s backup, approves in his first day back as a Bengal in four years. “This is pro ball,” Esiason says. “This is the way it should be.” Bruce Coslet, starting his first full season as head coach after leading the Bengals to a 7-2 finish last year, gives it a thumbs-up as prepares to open practice tomorrow: “Obviously everything isn’t done yet, but I’m completely satisfied with this place. My big concern two weeks ago was the fields and they look to be fine.”
July 16, 2009
Kevin Huber Rookie punter Kevin Huber, who grows up 15 miles from the riverfront in Anderson Township, stays home this morning for a gift on his 24th birthday when he signs a four-year contract. Back in April in the NFL Draft’s fifth round, Huber becomes just the second player the Bengals have ever drafted and the first since Woodward High School’s Clem Turner in 1969 to play both high school and college ball in Cincinnati. Both go to the University of Cincinnati, where McNicholas High School’s Huber leads the nation in net punting average as a junior and senior. Even before Huber signs, Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons professes his confidence in him when the club makes Huber the first kicking specialist taken in the draft and then releases five-year incumbent punter Kyle Larson.

"One good thing is that Coach Simmons can spend a lot of time with me giving individual attention," Huber says. "But it is kind of nice to have somebody there with you every day reminding you how important it is to stay on top of your game if you want to stay in the league. I'm going to have to do that by myself and constantly remind myself." Huber, an avid golfer, gets word he is drafted while on the 17th tee at California Golf Course, a wedge from his neighborhood. It just so happens he’s headed back to California today to keep the birthday celebration going. "There is a lot of the same rhythm to a golf swing and kicking," Huber says. "A lot of it is the same concepts. An example is if you come inside out with your swing or leg, you're going to go across your body. You don't want to do that doing either of them." The Bengals end up putting it in the fairway with Huber. In 2014 he becomes the second Bengals punter and the first since Pat McInally in 1981 to make the Pro Bowl and heads into the 2017 season as the franchise leader with a gross average of 45 yards, net of 39.8, and the best ratio for inside-the-20-to-touchbacks.
July 15, 2013
Carlos Dunlap The last day to sign right end Michael Johnson in 2013 for the long term turned out to be the first day of left end Carlos Dunlap's long haul with the club when word breaks late this afternoon Dunlap and the Bengals have reached a $40 million extension keeping him in Cincinnati through 2018. Even though the Bengals don’t sign Johnson to a long-term deal, they are showing their faith in the young core of what many believe to be the NFL's best defensive line. With Johnson scheduled to make $11.1 million this season as the franchise player and Dunlap reportedly set to secure $18.7 million over the next year, according to reports, the Bengals are paying their young ends nearly $30 million for this season. After re-upping veteran ends Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry to three-year deals back in March, the Bengals are pumping money into a repeat of last season’s 51-sack effort that fueled the NFL’s sixth-ranked defense and a Wild Card berth.

“One of our key offseason goals was to continue signing and extending our key players, and the signing of Carlos is another positive step,” says head coach Marvin Lewis in a news release. “Over his three seasons with us, Carlos has continued to progress and develop. He has demonstrated the ability to be productive as a three-down player, and we are glad to have him committed to be a part of our future.” The 6-6, 280-pound Dunlap, a second-round pick in 2010, has made a career of athletically spectacular and game-breaking plays that conjure up a tight end or an NBA power forward. He has touchdowns on a 35-yard fumble recovery and a 14-yard interception return and is named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week last year with two sacks and strips of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to force field goals in a seven-point victory. The deal also figures to add to his snaps. In two career starts Dunlap has 20 career sacks in 38 games after coming up with six last season.
July 14, 2002
Rookie left tackle Levi Jones, the man the Bengals are banking on ending their decade-long struggle at replacing Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz, spends today finally at rest. The end of this week marks the end of the pre-training camp work Jones and offensive line coach Paul Alexander have planned. "He needs to get out of here for a while now," Alexander says. "He's already shown me more work ethic and maturity level than you could ask for." Initially the Bengals are criticized for taking Jones with the tenth pick based on projections they might have traded down to get him, but that has faded in light of reports that Jones might indeed have been plucked by a team picking shortly after the Bengals were on the board. "It's amazing," Alexander says of his experience with Jones the past few months. "He works out and studies on his own six hours or more a day. He has a rare intrinsic motivation. I have not seen a ceiling. I have not seen a plateau. Everything he's absorbed, he's been able to apply. At some point there's got to be at least a temporary plateau, but right now we're pushing the envelope to see just how much he can assimilate … He's well ahead of any rookie I've ever had at this early point."

Jones turns into everything the Bengals hope he’ll be despite a bevy of knee injuries that limit his career to seven seasons. He never gets to a Pro Bowl, but he becomes one of the NFL’s best and has the high regard of his coaches and teammates as the Bengals become contenders under head coach Marvin Lewis. Exhibit A comes Dec. 8, 2003, the day after Jones injures his knee in Baltimore during a mad dash for the AFC North title. He has about 40 percent of his cartilage removed and still starts the next week. Jones not only plays for the 30th straight game and starts his 26th straight game, he holds San Francisco's top pass rusher Andre Carter to a harmless sack in a win that keeps the Bengals in the race. "I don't think there was any doubting in Marvin's head or the coaches' head. He was going to play," says right tackle Willie Anderson after the win. "I told him that he should get the game ball. I told him, 'You caused us a lot less stress today by your presence.' If he didn't play, our whole game plan would have been changed up, to kind of help who was ever going be over there. He's playing on one leg, and he's up against one of the top guys in the league, and you didn't hear the guy's named called but once."
July 13, 2010
George Steinbrenner A long time ago Bengals president Mike Brown actually had George Steinbrenner for a boss, so when news breaks this morning that the 80-year-old Yankees owner dies in a Tampa, Fla., hospital, Brown reflects on that summer more than 50 years ago. Home from Dartmouth College and looking for a job, Brown remembers how Steinbrenner, running his family’s freighter company, hires Brown to be a deck hand on one of the ships. “I’ve got a fondness for George. He was a very generous guy. Very good to the people that worked for him,” Brown recalls. “I saw him do countless things for people that needed it. That’s the guy that I remember … I saw him that summer when we were in port and he came out to the ship to talk to the crew about unionization. He pulled me aside after the talk and he basically told me, ‘Well, I laid it out for them,’ but I’m not sure he convinced them. I know this: I’ve always been grateful that he gave me a job and I really enjoyed that summer.”

The irony, of course, is ringing. Both become team owners and can there be two different owners in professional sports? The low-profile, button-down Brown holds forth in a small market in a league ruled by salary cap with legendary loyalty to employees. The controversial Steinbrenner, with a personality the size of the New York tabloids and a bank account to match, dominates the Wild, Wild West of baseball in free agency without a salary cap and wins back-to-back world titles in the late 1970s while turning over employees like a Times Square bakery. Yet the two have a good relationship the few times they come across each other. In the ‘80s, Steinbrenner writes Brown asking him to put the Bengals at his Tampa hotel and they stay at the Radisson Bay Harbor for several trips in the regular season and preseason, the last in 1995. Steinbrenner also gets in touch when he’s looking for tickets to one of the Tampa Super Bowls and Brown offers his help.

“He came to New York just at the right time. Just as cable television was coming on and he was able to harness all that income,” Brown says. “You have to admire what he did, although I don’t agree with it. The Yankees have half a track head start. He was in baseball and I’m in football, so it’s a different kettle of fish … I think there’s an imbalance there. It created some issues for all of us, but I don’t think George created those issues. I’m sure the people in New York don’t mind at all. They won a lot of championships with George.”
July 12, 1983
This morning’s news jolts the Bengals less than a week before training camp opens. Offensive coordinator Lindy Infante, who has led the Bengals to back-to-back No. 2 NFL rankings during the last two seasons Cincy has racked up a .760 winning percentage, announces he has accepted the head coaching job for the USFL’s Jacksonville Bulls beginning in 1984. Players like wide receivers Isaac Curtis and Cris Collinsworth express shock at the timing, but they’ve also always known Infante is good enough to be a head coach and that he’d be leaving at some point. Infante wants to fulfill his contract and coach the Bengals this season, but this afternoon a displeased general manager Paul Brown indicates he won’t let him. Brown calls a morning meeting tomorrow with assistant general manager Mike Brown and head coach Forrest Gregg to discuss the next move, but already there are signs he’ll dismiss Infante and turn to one of his newest coaches and former players to take over the bulk of the responsibilities in 37-year-old Bruce Coslet. Although Pro Bowl players such as Collinsworth and tight end Dan Ross are still around after signing future USFL deals, Paul Brown suggests he wants nothing to do with a coach that does it.

“The difference is that coaches would have access to the inner parts of what we do,” Brown says. “The inner workings, the things that come down with the league. Anything we discuss can be valuable to someone in the other league. Football players aren’t involved in this area.” Coslet plays eight seasons himself for the Bengals as an undrafted everyman tight end and even though he’s been on staff for just two years overseeing tight ends and special teams there’s no denying his enormous intelligence and bright future. Over the next 24 hours there is some concern he’s so young that there are still a dozen players left from when he played and that such offensive stars as quarterback Ken Anderson, wide receiver Isaac Curtis, running back Archie Griffin, and guard Dave Lapham shared a huddle with him. “They are my friends and they remain my friends,” Coslet says. “In fact, I’m counting on those guys to help me all they can. Ken Anderson knows more about the quarterback position than I’ll ever know.”

As the day unfolds into night and the next day, Gregg indicates he has enough confidence in the young buck that he’ll put Coslet in the press box calling plays and admits a different playcaller can give the offense “a different flavor.” Coslet says he hopes the fans won’t recognize a difference and points to the last two seasons when every coach is on a headset and contributes to Infante during games. While Infante sits out the season, the Bengals finish 14th in offense in a 6-10 season, but they’ve found a new offensive mind. Coslet becomes new head coach Sam Wyche’s top aide the next season and in the next six years with those two calling the shots the Bengals never finish lower than fifth in offense while leading the league twice. Infante becomes an NFL head coach later in the decade and for six seasons with the Packers and Colts goes 36-60.
July 11, 1996
Bruce Coslet
If Norman Julius Esiason is the just the right cerebral quarterback for Bengals head coach Sam Wyche’s Super Bowl no huddle offense, then a bright engineering student from Holy Cross named Bruce Kozerski turns out to be the perfect center. Kozerski borrows a line from Wyche while announcing his retirement at today’s annual training camp luncheon at the Queen City Club after a dozen seasons of the good, bad, and ugly he fired up the Riverfront Stadium crowd with a fierce towel wave. “There’s tennis to be served and golf to be played,” Kozerski says. “I’ve bled enough for a lot of people … As we sit and talk my body is saying thank you.” Kozerski, a ninth-round pick, plays more games on the Bengals offensive line (172) than anybody else but his running mate from the rollicking late’ 80s, Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz. They are part of coach Jim McNally’s offensive line that is regarded as one of the NFL’s greatest ever in staking the Bengals to back-to-back rushing titles during five straight seasons in the top five. Kozerski, who plays every spot on the line, takes time to thank Wyche and McNally, now the line coach in Carolina. “He taught me the game from the ground up,” says the 287-pound Kozerski, who admits he felt “anorexic,” a few months back at minicamp when he meets 300-pound-plus rookie guards Ken Blackman and Rod Jones.

But McNally knows back in 1984 that brains are never out in a game where size is always evolving. While he scouts Kozerski in college, he knows he’s going across town to get his engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. McNally often calls Kozerski “a genius,’ and says he could spit out calculus if he had to over the ball. The observation comes full circle 16 years later at another Bengals training camp luncheon, where Kozerski receives the 2012 Paul Brown Coaching Excellence Award in the wake of leading Holy Cross High School of Covington to the Kentucky Class 2A championship. At this Holy Cross, Kozerski’s teaching load not only includes pre-calculus and honors calculus, but also algebra, honors geometry, and physics. He also spearheads social service activities, including taking 40 students on an 18-hour bus trip to New Orleans to assist with clean-up after Hurricane Katrina. When Bengals president Mike Brown presents the award to him, he could have said what he says at the lunch Kozerski retires: “A solid customer. Whatever we needed, whatever we asked he stepped forward and did it.”
July 10, 1974
Putting together this blockbuster is like trying to piece together the unfolding Watergate puzzle. And like the Washington D.C. caper it culminates in this blazing summer when the Bengals dispatch middle linebacker Bill Bergey to the Eagles for a King’s ransom. Or at least a president’s. In order to claim the man still believed to be the Bengals’ greatest middle backer ever four decades later, the Eagles not only send Cincinnati their first-round pick in 1977 but a first-round draft choice and a second-round draft choice in 1978. The Bengals not only have to deal with the Eagles, but also an old franchise in a new league, a new franchise in a new league, as well as the new league, known as the World Football League. Not to mention a U.S. District Court Judge. Bergey, a Pro Bowler the minute he arrived as a second-rounder out of Arkansas State in 1969 (he played in the AFL’s last all-star game), starts the dizzying chain of events three months ago when he signs a reported three-year, $525,000 contract with something called the Washington Ambassadors that kicks in for the WFL’s 1976 season.

Bengals head coach and general manager Paul Brown promptly goes to court to invalidate the contract and prevent the WFL from raiding his roster in the first lawsuit in the evolving war. He loses and files an appeal after he tells the judge he has no idea what he’ll do with Bergey in the remaining two years. But Pro Bowl tight end Bob Trumpy knows. “There’s no question about it in my mind,” Trumpy says. “Bill Bergey will never play another down for us.” Bergey admits to Dick Forbes of The Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s apprehensive about meeting with Brown: “I want him to know that for my part I bear no ill will. I will play as hard as I possibly can but I want to know what his plans are for me.” That’s pretty clear when wire reports surface that Bergey has been banned from the Bengals’ practice site. Brown believes the contract harms his team’s morale and tells Bergey enough that a source says he and his wife have had their bags packed for weeks expecting a trade to Philadelphia or New Orleans. Bergey’s lawyer will say later that the deal comes off once his client returns $40,000 of his $150,000 bonus to the now Florida Blazers after the team moves from Washington.

Bergey is at today’s new conference in Philadelphia announcing the deal and says he took a pay cut. “I heard Curt Gowdy talk about how Philadelphia used to be a city of losers but things are certainly changing now. The hockey team is the world champion, the baseball and basketball teams were real contenders and last year the Eagles came on strong at the end of last season and will be a team to watch,” Bergey says. “There’s no doubt about it, I’ll certainly miss Cincinnati.” It is the classic good deal for both sides. “I regret the situation leading up to the Bergey deal but since it did happen I think Bill came out very well,” says Bengals assistant general manager Mike Brown. Indeed, Bergey plays seven more seasons and makes four Pro Bowls before the Super Bowl after the 1980 season is his last game. The Bengals don’t find a Bergey at the top of the 1977 and 1978 drafts, but defensive tackle Wilson Whitley (1977) and defensive end Ross Browner (1978), the first-round picks obtained in the deal, are starters for the Bengals when they make the Super Bowl the next year. Cornerback Ray Griffin, the second-round pick in ’78, is a regular for seven seasons and also plays in that loss to the 49ers.
July 9, 2015
As Bengals president Mike Brown reflects today on the death of John Sawyer at age 90, there can be no better epitaph for one of the franchise’s biggest figures. “I think it’s fair to say it probably wouldn’t have come off,” Brown says of Sawyer’s role in the founding of the Bengals. “John was a pioneer with the Bengals … The team wouldn’t have come into existence were it not for his efforts. He was our original president and our primary owner for many years.” When the Bengals are formed in 1967, Sawyer is president and principal owner, Paul Brown is head coach and general manager, and Mike Brown is assistant general manager and team counsel.

The gravitas of Sawyer, a highly-respected businessman, World War II pilot and son of a former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, meshes perfectly in Cincinnati’s drive to secure a franchise with founder Paul Brown’s Hall-of-Fame pedigree, the spadework in NFL and community circles by Mike Brown, and the contacts and energy of Bill Hackett. With Sawyer as the down-to-earth, behind-the-scenes principal owner, Paul and Mike Brown have the power to run football operations and it results in the earliest play-off appearance ever by an expansion team in any sport when the 1970 Bengals make it in the club’s third season. Sawyer sells primary ownership to the Brown family and steps down as president in 1993, yet he stays a zealous fan. Unassuming and approachable, Sawyer is a staple of the Bengals traveling party up until 2011 with his ever-present binoculars and has probably seen more Bengals games than anyone but Mike Brown. “We’ve not only lost a business partner,” Mike Brown says. “We’ve lost a very dear friend.”
July 8, 2014
Bob Trumpy
The NFL calls four-time Bengals Pro Bowl tight end Bob Trumpy to the Pro Football Hall of Fame today after his four decades in the broadcasting booth blaze a trail for Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati kids alike and tracks his rise. Trumpy, 69, who converts a decade as the NFL’s first modern tight end, a rich, smoky voice, and crystal clear opinions into a juggernaut of an announcing career, is named this year’s recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award. Next month he’ll be recognized along with this year’s class during the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio. Dave Lapham, a former Trumpy teammate and the Bengals’ long-time radio analyst, says the appointment is overdue after hearing of the Hall’s news release this morning: “A real pro. He always did his homework. Never took any shortcuts. He was a great guy to learn from … He taught me never to say no. Whatever they want you to do, do it.”

Trumpy’s career spans not only four Super Bowls, four Pro Bowls, and six Hall-of-Fame Games before he retires in 2007, but he also works three Ryder Cups and three Olympiads. He’s also the first in a line of former Bengals that make it big in the booth. He literally launches the careers of Lapham and Emmy-award winning Cris Collinsworth to begin a parade of network blazers that includes Boomer Esiason, Solomon Wilcots, and Sam Wyche. Not to mention a kid out in Anderson Township who religiously listens to Sports Talk. Lance McAlister, current host of the WLW sports talk show that Trumpy made, remembers when he’s 15 and stuns his parents during a vacation on Cape Cod by picking up the phone and jawing with Trumpy about the Reds. “If it wasn’t for guys like Trump or Marty Brennaman, I wouldn’t be here today,’ McAlister says. “Listening to a guy like that (inspired) me.” “I’m proud to put that on my resume if I helped them in anyway,” Trumpy’s unmistakable baritone barks today. As for the call to Canton he says, “Never crossed my mind … Never expected it.”
July 7, 1998
Bengals president Mike Brown loves quarterbacks and for the first time in the free-agency era he goes out and gets a starter when the club signs former Steeler and Jet Neil O’Donnell to a four-year, $17 million deal even though training camp is just two weeks away. The move shows how close Brown thinks the Bengals are after Boomer Esiason wakes up the echoes at the end of last season when he leads the Bengals to a 4-1 finish after the benching of Jeff Blake. But when the 35-year-old Esiason opts for the prestige of the ABC Monday Night Football broadcast booth days after throwing his last touchdown on his last pass, the Bengals spend the offseason mulling the job until they jump on the 32-year-old O’Donnell less than two weeks after the Jets cut him two years into a five-year, $25 million deal.

It’s a bold move designed to conquer the AFC Central, where the year before the late Boomer infusion pulled the Bengals within a game of the 8-8 Oilers and three of the champion Steelers and Wild Card Jaguars. O’Donnell, Esiason’s friend who succeeded him at the University of Maryland, looks to be the obligatory “last piece,” as a cautious nine-year veteran who led the Steelers to four straight play-off berths that included a Super Bowl run three years ago while becoming the all-time leader in interception percentage. Bengals head coach Bruce Coslet is calling it a competition and Blake, who threw 52 TD passes in 1995 and 1996 before last year’s struggles, says he welcomes the derby even though he’s looking to revive his career at age 27. “If Blake plays like he did last year, Neil would beat him out,” Coslet says. “If Blake plays like he did two years ago, he probably wouldn’t. I told that to Neil and Jeff. I would not bring Neil in as a starter or a backup. I would bring him in to compete.” But everyone knows the score. O’Donnell’s $3.8 million bonus on top of a $1.5 million salary tells you he’s starting. “I’m excited to be here. I really am,” O’Donnell says. “I think this team has a lot of talent. I’ve been playing long enough. I know this division and I’m here to win some football games.”

O’Donnell does get the nod for the opener, but that is the last time what is on paper transpires to the field. He gets the Bengals to 2-3 when his TD pass to wide receiver Carl Pickens with 25 seconds left beats the Steelers after what looks to be a fake spike. But while O’Donnell has a passer rating of 90 and fires 15 TDs to just four interceptions, his season is summed up late in the year when his one-yard completion to tight end Tony McGee is greeted with gales of laughter in the press box. After O’Donnell loses his last six starts, Blake takes over for the last month of the season but it doesn’t sway the 3-13 Bengals from taking Oregon quarterback Akili Smith with the third pick in the next draft.
July 6, 2001
Corey Dillon
Pro Football Weekly’s Joel Buchsbaum is one of the more authoritative personnel figures in the NFL as an enormously respected figure throughout the league’s front offices. And while his exclusion of Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson in the top 50 players is a mystery, he does rate the Bengals’ Corey Dillon as the NFL’s 29th best player as well as the fifth best running back in the magazine’s season preview and reaches out to get Dillon’s reaction for today’s story. "Don't tell me. Let me guess. Edgerrin. Eddie. Marshall. And probably Fred," Dillon says of the running back rankings. Dillon nails it, although Buchsbaum's order ahead of Dillon is the Rams' Marshall Faulk, the Colts' Edgerrin James, the Titans' Eddie George, and the Jaguars' Fred Taylor. And in the top ten list of backs Dillon ranks ahead of two future Hall-of-Famers in Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis.

"It doesn't matter where they put you on a list like that," Dillon says. "Just to be mentioned with those guys is an honor. That's all I've ever really wanted. To be put in the same class. I mean, it's so hard to say. If Fred stays healthy, he may have us all beat. And Eddie is like my clone now, I guess. I've looked up to him and admired him because I think we've got similar styles." Dillon, heading into the first season of a franchise-record five-year, $26.1 million deal, is the highest-rated Cincinnati player at his position with a grade of 4.0 that denotes "blue chip; Pro Bowl player playing at a Pro Bowl level." He's slotted behind Tennessee cornerback Samari Rolle and ahead of Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister. "When you think of all the great players in this league and they've got you that high, it's all a bit humbling," Dillon says.
July 5, 1968
Get a good look at the first 50 Bengals rookies and free agents that report today to open training camp at picturesque Wilmington College in the Ohio city of the same name, the bustling county seat of Clinton County about 50 miles north of Cincinnati. With 30 more rookies arriving tomorrow, Saturday, for physicals Bengals founder and head coach Paul Brown says he’ll cut 25 rookies before Wednesday, when the veterans are scheduled to report to the NFL’s newest team. Hopefully they’ll be around long enough to see the huge “Hello,” sign with the glowering Bengals caricature unfurled at the county courthouse in the heart of downtown. They can’t miss that every other car seemingly has an orange and black bumper sticker that shouts, “Welcome Bengals Wilmington, Ohio.” The excitement is palatable. The club has already sold 18,000 season tickets for the biggest advance sale for any sport in Cincinnati history and is the biggest for one of the league’s expansion teams. Even Brown, the no-nonsense coaching legend, allows, “This is an adventure for me.”

His largest player today is Alabama A&M defensive tackle Bill Kindricks at 6-3 ½, 280 pounds and the smallest is 5-6, 156-pound Arkansas AM&N wide receiver Charles “Monk,” Williams. But there’s no question that Brown casts the longest shadow as the national wires note that today he officially returns to the field for the first time after his Hall of Fame career in Cleveland ended five years ago. The Associated Press observes he looks tan and trim while wearing a black baseball cap with the orange letters “CB.” “We’ve got one goal in mind and that is to be an AFL contender,” says the 58-year-old Brown. “We’re going to rely on the rookies. We’re going to go with the kids. We think we can build and progress with them but I won’t predict how long it will take.” The Cincinnati Enquirer reports when Brown wanders on the field to watch his four quarterbacks (John Stofa, Dewey Warren, Sam Wyche, Gary Davis) take snaps from No. 1 pick Bob Johnson to throw to the rookies, dozens of other players emerge as if to make sure they’re there just because Brown is. The writers report Brown is beaming as he walks off the field saying, “It really doesn’t feel like I’ve been away.”
July 4, 1985
Isaac Curtis, the man Kenny Anderson will one day call “Jerry Rice before Jerry Rice,” finds his name on the waiver wire today. But it’s a mere formality as the Bengals and Curtis come to a mutual parting of the ways after his dozen years with the team as the prototypical 21st century wide receiver. Tall (6-1), fast (Olympic caliber speed), and dangerous (17.1 yards per catch), guys like that just don’t exist before Curtis arrives here in the first round in 1973. None of the 27 other teams claim Curtis after he’s put on waivers and the Bengals are upset that another team has leaked the wire. When Curtis, who turns 35 in a few months, informs the club a few days later that he’s retiring they decide to give him a half-time ceremony at the Sept. 22 game against the Chargers. He joins Bob Johnson and Ken Riley as the only Bengals so honored and Michael Graham of The Cincinnati Post tracks him down on his Anderson Township porch.

“Curtis grappled with the idea of leaving football almost right up to the minute he walked into the Bengals offices … and made it official. The Bengals had recognized his uncertainty and worked with him to make things clearer. They sent out feelers seeking teams that might be interested trading for him. When nobody bit, they put his name on the waiver wire.” Curtis is more than ready for the moment since he’s already a success off the field. He’s the national sales manager/athletics for the Cincinnati-based Winegardner & Hammons Inc., that operates 30 Holiday Inns across the country and he’s a partner with Anderson in a local beer distributorship. “Let’s face it. It’s tough to trade someone like me,” Curtis says. “Do you take the young player and bring him along? A guy that could be with you for the next five or six seasons? Or do you take Isaac Curtis, who is a better player but at the end of his career? … I’m not upset about any of it. I never had any problems here. No regrets. I always got along with Paul and Mike Brown. I am fortunate that I’ve been able to stay and play with one team for 12 years. That’s unusual.” So is Curtis and Mike Brown, the club’s assistant general manager, knows it. “When he was at his peak here,” Brown says, “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better one.”
July 3, 1975
Two weeks ago, Bengals starting right tackle Stan Walters got married. Tonight, he gets traded. And he’s not happy. “An hour ago, I couldn’t have talked to you,” says Walters after just finding out he and backup quarterback Wayne Clark have been traded for another backup quarterback, the Eagles’ John Reaves. Bengals coach and general manager Paul Brown is talking and he says of Reaves, the one-time, all-time NCAA passing leader, “He has the potential to be an excellent quarterback. He is big and has a strong arm. He should provide us with excellent backup support for our regular quarterback.” The Bengals regular quarterback, of course, is reigning NFL passing champion Ken Anderson. But when Anderson gets hurt before the regular-season finale in Pittsburgh last season, Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Tom Callahan observes that a team needs two good quarterbacks, the Bengals only have one, and they discover this “under embarrassing circumstances … The week (of practice) before the last game of the season revealed this.”

So does the game, in which the Steelers win, 27-3, in Pittsburgh, and Brown gets roundly criticized for Clark throwing just eight passes. Since three are complete and one is intercepted, Brown may argue eight is too many. Instead, he trades Clark and a starter for a 1972 first-round draft pick to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Walters, a ninth-round pick in that same draft out of Syracuse, starts eight games as a rookie at left tackle and 12 games last season at right tackle. Callahan says the Eagles want Rufus Mayes or Vernon Holland, the Bengals’ starting tackle tandem for the next four years. They settle on Walters. Reaves, demoted from No. 1 in Philly to No. 3 behind Roman Gabriel and former fourth-round Bengals draft pick Mike Boryla, pinch-hits for Anderson in six starts during the next four seasons. Reaves wins a start each during 1975 and 1977, but leads the Bengals to an 0-4 start in 1978 when Anderson gets hurt in the pre-season finale and is gone the next year. Callahan is right. The price for a backup quarterback is not insignificant. Walters goes on to get married to the Eagles as their starting left tackle for the next nine seasons.
July 2, 2009 correspondent Michael Johnson, a third-rounder out of Georgia Tech, is on the ground at the NFL rookies symposium in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and today he delivers the final installment of his week-long diary. Training camp starts in four weeks and former NFL wide receiver Cris Carter sends the rookies off with a message a little bit different than the others. While many panelists talk about representing the NFL shield, Johnson says Carter emphasizes, "In the end, the bottom line is you're representing yourself and that you've got a responsibility to you and your family." Johnson has understood that for a long time and the symposium is a good place to get it reinforced. And all subjects are broached. From sexually transmitted diseases ("The pictures were pretty graphic") to the death of Sean Taylor, the NFL safety killed in his home by an intruder a few years ago.

Johnson says he has no problem with Carter upbraiding a rookie for falling asleep during his talk. "Absolutely not," Johnson says. "The guy is taking his time to come in and talk to us and a guy falls asleep? We're there to learn from the guy. We (his teammates) were watching out for each other. We were making sure that wouldn't happen to one of us." He admits there is so much on the plate during the week that some of the speakers blur together in his recall. But they give him a clear message. “There shouldn't be any excuses for messing up," Johnson says. “They kept repeating, 'Choices, decisions, consequences.' There wasn't so much that there was a lot of stuff covered. But there was a lot of repetition and there's nothing wrong with that."
July 1, 2010
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, whose father served in the army, has long been an admirer and benefactor of the military, from jumping out of airplanes to leading Pentagon tours. But today he’s on an NFL-USO tour taking him where he’s never been before. A war zone. Along with Eagles head coach Andy Reid, Panthers head coach John Fox, and Vikings head coach Brad Childress, he’s passing through Germany’s Ramstein Air Base on the way to Bagram Airbase, about 30 miles north of Kabul in Afghanistan, and later he’ll talk in awe about the intensity surrounding a battleground. “The planes don’t come in the same way twice,” Lewis says. “And then as we’re driving from the airport, you pass a huge minefield. Nervous doesn’t help you. You just know it’s the real deal.”

Also very real is when Childress and his Marine son are re-united on the trip. Also very real is the C130 hangar in Germany and the maintenance crew that works on the cargo planes. The Contingency Response Group (CRG) motto is, “Light, Lean, Lethal,” and it will catch Lewis’ fancy. The group’s motto matches Lewis’ idea of what makes a football team good: flexibility. And, to be cool enough and smart enough to literally adjust under fire. The tour’s goal is to simply shake as many hands and talk to as many faces as possible. As always, BengalsNation is there. “They ask about Ocho (Chad Johnson), (Jordan) Shipley, Ced (Benson) and Carson (Palmer),” Lewis says later in the week. “You’re just always amazed at how they tell you how much they look forward to Sundays over here. Of course, for them it’s in the middle of the night, but they’re up and at it Monday morning back at work. They can’t wait.”
June 30, 1970
“Not a traffic jam in sight,” crows the headline in the next day’s Cincinnati Post Times-Star as the Reds warm up new Riverfront Stadium for the Bengals in the first ever event in the multi-purpose saucer structure on the Ohio River. Another headline says, “New draft lottery July 9 No. 1 birthday,” a somber reminder at the height of the Vietnam War that 19-year olds born on July 9, 1951 are No. 1 for induction next year in the national draft lottery. The world is spinning fast, but the Bengals and the NFL have to wait nearly three months to step on the mod plastic grass known as Astroturf in their opener against the Raiders. Atlanta’s Hank Aaron wastes no time delivering the park’s first big hit with a homer as well as two doubles in the Braves’ 8-2 victory. The Post’s joy, which comes a day after a 1A headline of “White Elephant?” mirrors positive public reaction. “I saw it when it was just a mud hole and I must say this is magnificent,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn tells Bill Ford of The Cincinnati Enquirer.

A few days before Riverfront opens, a quartet of Bengals backs in their street clothes take their first steps in the stadium for the benefit of the news cameras. They capture running backs Paul Robinson, Jess Phillips, and Ron Lamb, and cornerback Charlie King on the turf that will cause one of the few early complaints when the field temperature breaks triple digits. Aaron, who comes to Cincy in a slump, shows the stadium is a greenhouse for big hitters in two sports. “The ball carries as well here as in other parks,” Aaron says. “At least it looks like I found a park I can hit in.” He still is hitting here in the 1974 season opener at Riverfront when he ties Babe Ruth on the all-time homer list with No. 714. By then, the Bengals have hammered their way to two AFC Central titles in their new home.
June 29, 1983
Blair Bush, the Bengals starting center, says he could see the trade coming since the draft. Five years after they took him in the first round, the Bengals use another first-round pick on a center, this time on one of the most celebrated college lineman in history in Nebraska’s Dave Rimington. “It just didn’t make any sense to keep both of us,” Bush says. “Both of us are pure centers. You couldn’t just move one of us to another position.” So they move Bush, quite conveniently, to his hometown when Seattle offers its first-round pick in 1985, answering the question just how important are centers in the hey-day of the run game. It helps that Seahawks president and general manager Mike McCormack initiates the deal. As offensive line coach of the Bengals in 1978, McCormack is quite influential in drafting Bush out of the University of Washington with the 16th pick. “It was a real nice trade,” Bush says. “At this point in my career it’s nice to be back home.”

Bush stays for six years on a very good Seahawks team the Bengals beat in the 1988 AFC playoffs in Bush’s last season with Seattle. He’s a starter for one more year, in Green Bay, but doesn’t retire until after the 1994 season to finish a 17-year career he starts 161 of 246 games. Rimington can never reach his college acclaim and spends just five years in Cincinnati and two in Philly before calling it a career. But his collegiate legacy still stands with the best center in college football annually receiving. the Rimington Trophy. His pro career turns out to be longer than the one of Alabama linebacker Emanuel King, taken with the 25th pick in the 1985 draft the Bengals got from Seattle.
June 28, 2012 attends the NFL rookies symposium in the Pro Football Hall of Fame to discover that the crash course reveals the league is six degrees of Bengals founder Paul Brown. By the time Hall researcher Jon Kendle gathers his group of NFC rookies at the exhibit honoring the breakthrough of the color line that Brown helped engineer with his first Cleveland Browns team in 1946, they have already passed his championship game balls, as well as his legendary porkpie hat and game plans that redrew the Xs and Os. "Paul Brown was very instrumental in the mindset that it didn't matter what race, creed, and color you were, he wanted the best athletes," Kendle is telling his group. "He wanted the best football players on the field playing for him. Those Cleveland Browns teams were something special in those days." In the display next to Brown's rookie contracts for Bill Willis and Marion Motley, Kendle turns to a photo of another former Brown.

A good 16 years after Willis and Motley, Brown pulled off another color-blind deal when he dealt running back Bobby Mitchell for Syracuse running back Ernie Davis, the man Washington took No. 1 overall in the 1962 draft. "I don't know if any of you guys from (Washington) have had any interaction with Bobby Mitchell yet," Kendle says. “(Washington was) the last team to (integrate) when they signed Bobby Mitchell." That gets raised eyebrows from Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, the thoughtful Heisman Trophy winner unaware until now how the first African-Americans reintegrated a game that had been white since 1933. "It took a lot of time. I wasn't aware how that process came about. Very surprised (about some things). (Washington) being the last team to integrate. It was a tough time back then. None of us had life experiences like that."

Kendle's colleague and fellow Hall researcher Saleem Choudhry really gets into the six degrees of Paul Brown when the AFC rooks arrive this weekend. He'll be the tour guide for both the Bengals and Browns, the teams Brown founded 31 years apart and still play twice a year in the AFC North despite strikes, lockouts, free agency, new stadiums, and franchise movements. "His name is going to come up quite a bit," Choudhry says. "We'll be talking about his artifacts in the Moments, Memories and Mementos Gallery. Plus, we talk about the history of each team and that's going to be pretty easy to do with both teams right there. We talk about rivalries and things like that and it will fit right in." The players will get to see The Hat with the description, "On game days Paul Brown in his signature hat looked more like the Cleveland Browns business manager than the team's head coach. In reality he was one of the game's most innovative coaches, as evidenced by in-depth scouting reports and game preparation sheets."
June 27, 1983
Chris Collinsworth
Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, the franchise’s first 1,000-yard receiver who has made the Pro Bowl in all three of his NFL seasons, confirms to ABC’s Howard Cosell tonight what has been percolating for the last month. He has signed a five-year deal with the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits that kicks in after two more seasons with the Bengals. Collinsworth tells Cosell the love of his home state is a driving force in the decision. “I want to live out my life in Florida.” It’s a stunning announcement, which comes before the Bandits game with the Denver Gold and ignites a news conference the next day at the Cincinnati restaurant The Precinct. Appearing with a white “The Precinct,” ball cap and a black Bengals shirt, the wildly popular Collinsworth apologizes to the fans and says, “I hope the fans don’t throw bottles when I come on the field this season,” and vows he thinks he can have his two best years.

Collinsworth says he spoke with the Bengals and “They said they couldn’t match some of the things they’re offering and they said I hope I have a good two years here and help win a world championship.” Word is his salary is tripled and that Bandits owner John Bassett has provided incentives for Collinsworth in his two remaining years with the Bengals. But Collinsworth nixes the notion he does it for money. With an eye toward law school, Collinsworth says it’s easier to get a degree from the University of Florida playing the March-June USFL schedule. “I want that law degree. I might go into politics someday. The more education the better chance you have to show you’re more than just a jock.” The Cincy media plays up Bassett’s movie company and that Collinsworth may get into pictures. “There is a chance of some of that happening. I’m 24 years old. There are lots of things if I put my mind to it. I could be a world shaker.” Bengals fans always knew the bright, personable, and charismatic Collinsworth has a huge future and it looks like the future is now.

But if the future is not now, it has been foreshadowed. An ankle injury during the 1984 season terminates the Bandits deal and Collinsworth finishes his career in Cincinnati as the club’s all-time leading receiver when he retires after the 1988 AFC title. He won’t go into pictures but over the next three decades his image becomes one of the most familiar in America as a multiple Emmy award-winning NFL analyst and a worthy heir to Cosell. He meets wife Holly while attending law school at the University of Kentucky and raises his family in Cincinnati. He does indeed shake the world. But he stays in Cincy to do it. And he doesn’t go into politics. Long after the USFL dies in 1985, one of the league’s architects, Donald Trump, does.
June 26, 1978
Everyone knows the Bengals have a pair of disgruntled stars who want out in six-time Pro Bowl cornerback Lemar Parrish and defensive end Coy Bacon, a year removed from a 22-sack season. But no one expects the club to be able to deal with them so quickly and economically until new Washington head coach Jack Pardee gives director of player personnel Bob Beathard approval to send the Bengals a first-round pick in return that turns out to be the 12th pick. That should tell you how long ago it is, before sacks are an official stat and Beathard becomes the familiar guru known as “Bobby.” And chronicling the trade for The Cincinnati Enquirer is the trail-blazing African-American sports journalist Terence Moore, a Miami University business major fresh from the class of 1978 who serves as sports editor for the nation’s oldest college newspaper as a senior. “I’m not talking about a bad figure like $150,000 or $200, 000,” Parrish tells Moore when the deal goes down after he has been threatening to play out his option. “Shoot, I’m happy about it. If they didn’t think I was worth the money I was asking for I told them I’d rather leave.” Parrish, a spectacular punt returner as well as what some believe 40 years later is the Bengals best cornerback ever and a worthy Hall-of-Famer, says he wants to be the highest paid player on the team behind only quarterback Ken Anderson and wide receiver Isaac Curtis. Instead he heads to Washington when Pardee finds out he has lost 17-year veteran corner Pat Fisher for the year. The well-traveled Bacon, who follows up his monster year with 5.5 sacks, is used to getting into controversy with his words despite his rep as the NFL’s best pass rusher. He rips the Bengals after the season for switching to a 3-4 defense. That follows criticizing defensive line coach Chuck Studley. The day after the trade estimable Enquirer sports columnist Tom Callahan recalls last year that while accepting the Bengals’ MVP award Bacon said that since he was labelled a troublemaker in San Diego he stayed under the radar during his 22-sack season in ’76 in Cincy and that he would have more of a voice in ’77. The result, Callahan writes, is that Bacon “debated with his teammates before the game, the coaches at halftime, and the writers afterward.”

The plan is to replace Bacon with Ross Browner, the first-round pick from Notre Dame. “Ain’t no way Ross Browner can step right in. He’ll make some good plays. He’s young,” says Bacon, who’ll turn 36 in training camp. Since sacks don’t become a stat until 1982, it’s hard to calculate what Bacon does in his 51 games and four seasons in Washington before he retires. According to Bengals records Browner gets one more sack than Bacon did in ’77 with 6.5 in ’78, his first season as a starter on his way to 59 in his nine-year career in Cincy.

The Bengals plan to replace Parrish with two other youngsters in Ray Griffin and Melvin Morgan. But it ends up being the seventh-round pick from last season that never played in Louis Breeden and he kick-starts his way to a 10-year career that includes 33 interceptions, second only to Ken Riley in club annals. Parrish goes to two more Pro Bowls and racks up 21 picks in four seasons with Washington before retiring after a seven-game stint in Buffalo in 1982. While Parrish and Bacon never make it to the postseason, Browner, Breeden, and running back Charles Alexander, that 12th pick in the 1979 draft, become regulars for the Bengals’ 1981 AFC champs.
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.