Two years ago, Ken Riley II stood on the Paycor Stadium turf to receive his father into the inaugural Bengals Ring of Honor. On Sunday night, the son brought the family back to accept his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring.
It's been a road of tragedy and triumph since Riley passed suddenly on June 7, 2020, at 72. The triumph that he has finally received that long overdue recognition worthy of the NFL's fifth-leading all-time interceptor with 65 and tragedy that he hasn't been here to seen it.
But his family has. Back on Aug. 5, they watched him inducted into the Hall at the Canton, Ohio ceremonies.
"Icing on the cake," said Riley II as he made his way to the game with his mother, his son, and his two sisters. "It's kind of like closure."
It's fitting that one of Riley's Super Bowl XVI teammates is calling Bengals-Bills for Sunday Night Football. A rookie wide receiver named Cris Collinsworth scored the winning touchdown on a 16-yard pass from Ken Anderson and broke a 21-21 game late in the AFC Divisional win over Buffalo at Riverfront Stadium nearly 42 years ago in a playoff game Riley also had an interception of Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson.
Also here is long-time Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, the Bengals left guard that day.
"It was a beautiful day that day. Something like 50 degrees," Lapham said. "Then the next week was the Freezer Bowl and it was 50 below."
On Friday, Collinsworth, who announced the Hall of Fame Game on Induction Weekend, smiled when asked, since it was November, if he would again tell the great Riley Thanksgiving Turkey story.
"We may have to roll that one out one more time," Collinsworth said.
Bengals tradition has the veterans concocting a scheme that sends the rookies somewhere close to oblivion to pick up what is supposed to be a free turkey. Back in 1981, Riley saw Collinsworth walking to his car on the day the fake coupons were handed out and let him in on the secret, sparing Collinsworth the gag.
"I don't know if there's been a nicer guy," said Collinsworth, who has often recalled how Riley helped him with his route running in that rookie season he became the Bengals' first 1,000-yard receiver.
Ironically, that interception in the 1981 playoffs didn't count among Riley's iconic 65. But the Canton ring does.
"A big game against the Buffalo Bills. A lot of emotions," Riley said. "Looking forward to a great game and hopefully a Bengals win."
CD RETURNS: Bengals all-time rusher Corey Dillon is back where he belongs. In the middle of adoring Bengals fans and that's where he was an hour before the game in the section behind the goalposts overlooking the Ohio River.
As a guest of the Bengals Captain, Dillon, who lives in Malibu, Calif., and planned to watch the game from Section 102, says he's had a memorable weekend back in town.
"It's been good. I've seen a lot of people. It's been good," Dillon said. "I'm all in on being here. I've enjoyed it."
Dillon had a shot to say something quick pregame to Bengals running back Joe Mixon, the man wearing his No. 28.
"I love the guy. He's representing the number well," Dillon said. "I like the way he plays. He's running really hard this year. I like that."
Mixon is 16 carries away from trailing only Dillon on the Bengals' all-time attempts list and three touchdowns from tying him for third place on the all-time rushing touchdown list. Dillon's message to this No. 28 was brief.
"Go get it."
TIGHT WINDOW: All four Bengals tight ends were active Sunday with the practice squad elevation of Tanner Hudson. Drew Sample and Mitchell Wilcox are important special teams contributors and Hudson and starter Irv Smith Jr., are viewed mainly as targets for quarterback Joe Burrow.
SPECIAL TEAMS SHUFFLE: In response to the loss of leading special teams tackler Tycen Anderson to a season-ending ACL tear, the Bengals activated from the practice squad a player familiar with the prime-time buzz.
Wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr., their leading teams tackler the last two seasons (tied with linebacker Markus Bailey last year) played for the first time this season. Linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, who had nine teams tackles last season for third place on the club, returned to the lineup Sunday for the first time since hurting his knee four games ago.
INACTIVES: Rookie cornerback DJ Ivey, who is expected to help at gunner at some point, wasn't active. Neither was backup nose tackle Josh Tupou or backup offensive linemen Trey Hill and D'Ante Smith. With Davis-Gaither up, linebacker Devin Harper was one of the five inactive.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: For this hometown extravaganza, filled with Striping The Jungle, Joe Burrow and Sam Hubbbard were the Bengals game day captains. In his NBC intros, Burrow said he was from Athens High School ....
Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who had dinner Saturday night with ten first responders in Cincinnati, wasn't active. In warmups he went over to Bengals wide receivers and good friends Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins for hugs ...