BY GEOFF HOBSON
Cris Collinsworth has caught another pass for the Bengals. This one came off a stop-and-go route through the double coverage of politics and business. But he ended up in the end zone again this morning when the Hamilton County commissioners allowed his company to build the first non-mobile magnetic resonance imaging machine (MRI) in a sports stadium.
No tax dollars will build the open MRI machine, which is to be used by the public. The Bengals are to pick up 20 percent of the tab, with the rest by Collinsworth's company of Pro Scan Imaging. The Bengals have contributed several hundred thousand dollars and will pay Pro Scan's rent to Hamilton County.
After getting the commissioners' approval, Collinsworth, who retired as the Bengals all-time receiver, showed up at Spinney Field today fresh from his 15 minutes in the political forum.
"I kept thinking about what Paul Brown used to tell us," he said of the man who drafted him in the second round in 1981. "He'd say, "Men, think a little management sometimes.' "
Collinsworth thought enough management to put the stadium bearing Brown's name on the cutting edge. Dr. Stephen J. Pomeranz, Collinsworth's partner, describes the machine as one of the first ten open field, super conductive MRI machines in the world.
"For me personally, it's a chance to push the envelope for the NFL," said Collinsworth, who has pushed more envelopes than UPS as the brash talkmaster for Fox and HBO. "I really believe these sort of safeguards should be available at the stadium in this very violent game that we play and I'm happy to be able to contribute to that end."
The Bengals think the MRI machine is one of the projects that gets to the heart of the stadium deal. Despite some recent rancor, they feel the club and county share a common vision of revamping the riverfront to benefit the community beyond 10 games a year.
Collinsworth can see the big picture in the MRI. But he can also see the second quarter of a future game at Paul Brown.
"Say Akili Smith sprains his knee," Collinsworth said. "He's your franchise quarterback. You don't want him to go back in there not knowing if he's got a tear. But you wheel him to the MRI room and you find out there's nothing there and Akili says he can suck it up and play in the second half. That can't happen now. The MRI is now the diagnostic choice, but teams couldn't afford to put a state-of-the-art machine into a stadium. Now we found a way to (team) with the Bengals."
Collinsworth thinks the Bengals can brandish the machine in free agency because, "they can sell the fact, "we've got the only one in the league and we care about your health.' In the next three, four years, this is going to be the thing to do."
Collinsworth knows he's raised a few eyebrows now that he's forged a business relationship with Bengals President Mike Brown. They've had a few battles down through the years. Hello USFL and WLW.
"I've done it before," said Collinsworth of doing business with the Bengals. "I've had a very unique relationship with Mike. But I think we've got a good one. ... I applaud them for what they're doing. Look at the (bigger) airplanes, the facilities, the spending of money on free agents. I think everyone is hoping it's a new era for Bengals football."