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Bengals 101

Posted: 9:15 p.m.

When the Bengals rookies get their tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame next weekend, they'll get Paul Brown on tape and Anthony Munoz on video.

If they miss Munoz, they'll be able to catch his life-sized likeness at "The Bench" exhibit.

But they won't be able to miss Brown. In fact, every NFL rookie is going to hear plenty about the Bengals founder because the breaking of the race barrier is going to be a major theme of the NFL's first attempt to educate the league's newest players on its history with a tour of the Canton, Ohio museum.

"Any time you talk about the history of the NFL, you don't get very far until you bring up the name Paul Brown," says Joe Horrigan, the Hall's vice president of communications. "There are going to be guys like Paul Brown, George Halas and Vince Lombardi who are going to be mentioned in every presentation.

"We've only got about three hours, so we want to focus on the milestone events and the great players so we can show these guys who they can emulate and whose shoulders they stand on."

The program begins Wednesday when the Raiders visit, and the Bengals arrive Saturday with the Bills, Ravens and Patriots.

Horrigan plans to tailor each presentation to each team so the rookies get a sense of their club's history. So Brown, who founded the Cleveland Browns and was elected to the Hall before he began the Bengals in 1967, will also be a big part of the Cleveland presentation.

Munoz, considered the greatest left tackle to ever live while he played with the Bengals from 1980-92, can't make the trip because of a prior commitment.

"I think it's tremendous. The guys need to know the history of the game and who laid the foundation for them," said Munoz, celebrating the 10th anniversary of his Hall election. "They're the guys that have reaped the benefits of what came before."

Munoz has yet to see his likeness, which was unveiled May 9. He did see it in an e-mail but won't see it in person until next month when he attends a Father's Day benefit.

"I can't tell what it looks like. I hope it's the young one with the long hair," joked Munoz, who recently became a grandfather at the tender age of 49.

Munoz may not be there, but the players can press a button and hear the only Hall of Famer who played his entire career in Cincinnati tell them what it meant to him to get the call.

They'll also hear Brown's voice in his own exhibit in the Moments, Memories and Momentos wing surrounded by some of his play sheets, scouting reports and what Horrigan calls his "iconic" hat he wore on the sidelines.

Those were just some of the treasures Bengals president Mike Brown donated to the Hall a few years ago when archivists spent a week at Paul Brown Stadium cataloguing his papers.

A trip to the Hall as part of the rookie's orientation is a byproduct of last year's conversation with the newly-elected Michael Irvin and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

But Goodell showed his commitment to the history of the game a year before that when he traveled to Cincinnati to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's exhibit commemorating the first African-Americans to play in modern pro football.

Paul Brown signed future Hall of Famers Bill Willis and Marion Motley to his first pro team, the 1946 Browns, and they became central figures in Cleveland's domination of the next decade.

"That's going to be a major part off all the presentations," Horrigan said. "I'm going to pass around Bill's first check. It was for $4,000 and a $500 bonus. They should get a kick out of that."

What won't be in the exhibits is Munoz's advice to the rookies that he took from Brown, the general manager that gambled with the third pick in the 1980 draft that Munoz would overcome his knee problems.

"He told us every year at training camp to take each game as a preparation for life after football," Munoz said. "That we have this tremendous opportunity and to take advantage of it and use it for later on. Now 28 years later, that still rings true in my ears."

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