Anderson sets Fountain Square Kickoff


Ken Anderson

No one on offense has played more games for the Bengals than the 192 Ken Anderson quarterbacked in the 16 years the game lurched from backyard brawls to aerial circuses across the close-to-the-vest '70s and to the wide-open '80s. But he's getting ready for another opener 40 years after his first one and it looks like he's unleashing another spiral.

Complete with a Ken Anderson autograph that stands for the logo of the "Kickoff 2012" on Fountain Square, he's back in the town and in the game threading his lifelong passion for football and newfound commitment to autistic adults.

Partnering with the Bengals, Impact Autism, Fifth Third and Necco, Anderson officially announced his tailgate party Monday for Sept. 10 and the Bengals opener in Baltimore.

A star-studded list of former Bengals headlined by Anthony Muñoz and Isaac Curtis converges on the square at 4:45 p.m. for a free bash that includes feasts sprawling from Montgomery Inn to UDF and entertainment ranging from mascots, the Reds T-shirt blasters, and the Ben-Gals all while watching the Bengals play the Ravens on the Monday night big screen at 7 p.m.

And if you still don't think Anderson can go long, he says he's hoping it becomes an annual event that welcomes every Bengals season.

"That's the goal; to keep it going," Anderson said last week on a Paul Brown Stadium visit.

Pundit skepticism is one of the many things that Anderson seems to share with Andy Dalton, the current Bengals quarterback. While Anderson's many Pro Football Hall of Fame supporters have shot down the hackneyed dinker-and-dunker image, he weighed in on Dalton's alleged lack of arm strength.

"It's good enough to play in the NFL," said Anderson, who coached quarterbacks in more games in the league than he played. "His arm is plenty good enough."

And as a side note, Anderson adds, "I had the same career yards per attempt as Dan Marino (7.3) and I don't think people see him as a dinker and dunker."

Case closed. Next question.

The event comes a few weeks after the two senior candidates are selected by the Pro Football Hall of Fame's senior committee for February's ballot of finalists for the 2013 induction. How nice would it be if Anderson, the only man to win back-to-back passing titles in two different decades and who retired as the NFL leader in postseason completion percentage, steps into The Square as a Hall of Fame finalist?

As usual, Anderson thanks his supporters but he'd rather think about what's next rather than discuss his Hall chances. And one of those things that is next is Dalton.

After Anderson watched two games last season at PBS, he took away good vibes from the man that shares his No. 14, ice-cool impassivity and humble demeanor.

"My impression of Andy is to quote Paul Brown. The game isn't too big for him," Anderson said. "He looks poised out on the field and he doesn't get rattled. That's a great quality for him to have.

"This will be a big year for him. Last year there was no offseason for him, training camp was rushed for him to go through the whole installation process and the OTAs, and a normal training camp is going to be a real benefit for him."

Anderson, 63, hasn't had a camp since he retired from coaching a few years ago. But one thing that has stayed constant is his relationship with Bengals president Mike Brown.

Whether he's been the club's four-time Pro Bowl quarterback, the Bengals offensive coordinator or the quarterbacks coach for the dreaded Steelers, Anderson has always had an easy and warm enough relationship with Brown to walk into his office and pick up wherever they left off. They did it last week before Anderson spoke to a Fifth Third event at PBS.

"Most of the time we talk about old times and not what's happening now," Anderson said. "We remember a lot of things. I consider Mike a very good friend. We have a very good relationship."

A notorious worker bee in football, Anderson needed something else to consume him and he and wife Kristy have found it with adult autism. They have an autistic nephew navigating life after school and the Andersons are raising funds to bring awareness to the adult phase of the condition.

"The more we've worked with it, it's become even more of a passion," he said. "It's nice now in retirement with more time to get involved in something that's going to make a difference to help the community. There's a lot of satisfaction in that."

He'll have plenty of help from his friends. Anderson says there'll be autograph booths where Bengals alums sign pictures and other items for a donation. Not only does Anderson have commitments from a Hall of Famer in Muñoz and his favorite target in Curtis, he's also heard from guys on his first Bengals team (Bob Johnson and Bob Trumpy) and a guy on his last in Holy Cross High School head coach Bruce Kozerski.

"But he'll be there after practice," said Anderson, who has also snagged Pete Johnson, Ickey Woods, Louis Breeden, Eric Thomas and John Stofa.

"The Reds are playing that night (7:10 p.m. in their own big division game against the Pirates) and we think it's going to be a great crowd with people coming down to their game and people coming right from work."

Kicking off the entertainment are the Naked Karate Girls and restaurants such as LaRosa's Pizza, Gold Star Chili, Keystone Grille, and the Holy Grail are on line. It has all the whiff of a hit.

"We couldn't have done it without the Bengals and Fifth Third," Anderson said. "What I like is the positive attitude toward the Bengals going into this season. With the year they had last year even though they were young and they've got a couple of more first-round draft choices, I think everything is going in a very good direction."

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