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Bengals Notebook: Breeden Signs Off On Wilson's Longest Yards; Burrow Surgery; Spain Also Lines Up As Mentor

With a 103-yard dash Brandon Wilson erased a 39-year-old record.
With a 103-yard dash Brandon Wilson erased a 39-year-old record.

Louis Breeden, who had the longest play in Bengals history for 39 years, had to laugh Monday when asked what he thought about safety Brandon Wilson's 103-yard kick return that beat him by a yard the day before at Paul Brown Stadium against the Giants.

"Why did you bring it out? Nobody ever brings it out any more. What are you doing running out from back there?" said Breeden with his good-natured laugh.

 Actually, Breeden, at a still-svelte 67, is still a big-time Bengals fan. He's happy to see his record that he set first before he shared it with fellow cornerback Artrell Hawkins and running back Eric Bieniemy go to a guy like Wilson that he loves watching.

"He's fun. It's always exciting when they kick it to him. He can really run," Breeden said. "He's got two, but you wonder how many he'd have if they kicked off from where they used to."

Back on Nov. 8, 1981, Breeden's 102-yard dash out of his own end zone in San Diego put away one of the biggest games in Bengals history. Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts was just a few yards from cutting the score to 24-14 in the last minute of the half when his receiver fell down and Breeden was right where he should be. Suddenly, it was 31-7 and the Bengals finished off a 40-17 victory that made sure they would host and beat Fouts and friends two months later in the AFC title game better known in Bengaldom as "The Freezer Bowl."

Breeden, whose 33 interceptions are second only to Ken Riley in Bengals history, had quite a day. He accounted for three of the Bengals' five turnovers and all were off future Hall-of-Famers. He had two picks off Fouts and recovered wide receiver Charlie Joiner's fumble to set up the Bengals' 7-0 lead.

But he didn't mind giving up the record.

"It seems like they never get a chance to run it back any more. It's almost always a touchback," Breeden said. "I'm happy he got it."

VIRTUAL GAME PLAN: In response to the pandemic, the NFL closed facilities Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday is the players' off day, but it is the coaches' heavy lifting day. It is the day they put together the game plan and for the first time in his career head coach Zac Taylor is doing one from home. He'll do one for the Dolphins over Zoom with his coaches and film on three different screens.

But since the coaching staff has been hit with COVID for the past few weeks, not much is going to be different this Tuesday. The last couple of game plan days have been at Paul Brown Stadium, but the coaches have pretty much stayed in their own offices while they Zoomed the particulars.

That's why what quarterback Brandon Allen is going through right now is one of the craziest and more improbable stories in Bengals history. It's tough on the coaches, but the players?

A guy like defensive tackle Xavier Williams quarantined in the hotel rooms of two different cities before making his Bengals debut last month. Kevin Hogan, just signed to the practice squad to replace Allen, spent Thanksgiving quarantining in a room at Cincinnati's AC hotel on The Banks.

But you can argue Allen has had it tougher than anyone because they pretty much kept him away from everybody since he arrived Aug. 1. Until last week, all his meetings were virtual and the only contact he had with the first-team receivers were careful conversations.

Taylor had his longest in-person conversation with Allen during Sunday's game, but it was over the headset.

"Close contact by league definition is any consecutive five-minute time together," offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said Monday. "Five minutes or more. Any time you had contact that would be, say your (contact) tracer popped up at two minutes or three minutes, then that is part of their contact tracing. They will come talk to you to determine when that conversation happened, where it was.

"A lot of time it's at practice, we all have our masks on anyway. Did you have your mask on? Were you eating? Were you drinking? Was there any extenuating circumstances that would move it from a close contract to a high-risk contact? That's how they determine all those things and part of the contact tracing that goes on."

BURROW SURGERY: Taylor confirmed rookie quarterback Joe Burrow is set for knee surgery this week and media reports have it being performed in Los Angeles by Rams team doctor Neal ElAttrache, the man that rebuilt Tom Brady's knee a dozen years ago and Ben Roethlisberger's throwing elbow last year.

Not to mention doing the Tommy John surgery for Red Sox ace Chris Sale.

Burrow reportedly has a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee and his fellow LSU alum, former Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, says he's in a good place. Whitworth, now with the Rams, is undergoing treatments from ElAttrache for a torn MCL and PCL.

"Doc ElAttrache is a great man. Burrow will be in great hands," Whitworth said. "You feel the passion he has for getting you healthy and keeping you confident in the process."

Bengals left end Sam Hubbard, Burrow's buddy and neighbor, says his outlook is good.

"Joe's hanging in there. He's on his way out to the West Coast to get the surgery and start his path to recovery," Hubbard said Monday. "He's just ready to get this process going and get healthy for next year. He's about as positive and upbeat as you could be with the circumstances and the injury. He's being strong and I'm thinking about him."

PLAYERS COPE, TOO: Usually Monday, the day after a game, finds players regrouping in places like the training room, weight room, whirlpool and sauna, all part of a recovery process that has become as important as training itself.

The Monday meetings are still being done virtually. But players are on their own to recover. Hubbard went to his ice-cold garage where he has a homemade gym and he had to break out a hoodie.

"I feel like Rocky," Hubbard said. "I've done my best to do everything from home. I've got the hot tub here at the house. That's the thing about this year, it's been really hard to find a rhythm, just to get into a routine to be able to perform and it just gets harder and hard each week. You just have to adapt. I have the hot tub here, in the garage a weight room. It's pretty crazy. I know guys are doing what they can at their house."

SPAIN DOES IT ALL: Monday marked a month since veteran offensive lineman Quinton Spain emerged from his six-day quarantine at the AC and played all but the first series at left guard 48 hours after his first Cincy practice. Since then he's been everything they could have wanted. Not only has he started the last three games at three different spots (right tackle, right guard, left guard), but he pulled aside sophomore left guard Michael Jordan after he took his place last week to give him some advice.

"I told him, 'Mike, this is the same situation I was in at Buffalo. It's a test to see how you respond.' I told him to come to work every day, do what you do every day, prepare like you ready to play and it's a test," Spain said Monday. "Don't fold up and pout and be that person who don't care. I told him, 'Keep your head up, stay focused. You're going to get your chance. It's going to come. It's going to come again. Don't worry.'"

Spain also made sure he talked to Jordan after he was involved in the play Burrow hurt his knee.

"I talked to him after the play because I didn't know what happened," Spain said. "I told him 'Just keep your head up, man. It's football. Just keep your head up. Don't drain on that because all it's going to do is mess up your play. You've got to get it off your mind and play the next play. Keep continuing to play football."

If it sounds like Spain comes by mentoring naturally, he does. He remembers breaking into the league with Tennessee undrafted in 2014.

"I sat back and watched the older cats. Like I got close to the older cats because they've been in the league long," Spain said. "They showed me the route to get past things. How it's a business, how everything around, like they watch everything you do. I just looked up to them and I felt like since I've been in the league I'm trying to help the young guys too so they don't make a mistake."

So, Spain has been in the league long enough to not think about his spot for next year. How about even next week?

"I don't know what the situation is going to be so I come to work and like I said, wherever they need me at, I just play it," Spain said. "As long as they don't got me playing center. I'm straight."