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Quick Hits: FitzMagic On How Ted Karras Saved Mike Gesicki's Life And How Joe Burrow Will Use His New Target; Money Mac Proposes New Kickoff Rule; Darrin Simmons' Fingerprints On New Rule

ORLANDO, Fla. _ Ryan Fitzpatrick, who counts new Bengals tight end Mike Gesicki as one of his top ten teammates of all time, saw Ted Karras (who has to be in his top five) save his life with a move right out of Cincinnati in Miami.

Now he thinks the 6-6 Gesicki is legging it to Cincinnati to help revive the Bengals' explosive segment of their offense as one of quarterback Joe Burrow's favorite targets.

"Love it. Really good fit in the offense," says Fitzpatrick, the former NFL quarterback who ushered in two eras of championship Bengals football, as he surfaced here this week at the NFL annual meeting in his role as a Prime Video Thursday night analyst.

"Mike is a guy that has to get going. He's got those long strides, vertical routes, the seam routes, the sail routes, the routes on the outside. The over routes are what he does best. Great catching radius and he can get vertical down the field. I think it's going to be a really nice match with Zac (Taylor) and Joe."

It will be recalled during Fitzpatrick's 17 seasons, one of them came in Cincinnati in 2008 and set the table for the Bengals' 2009 AFC North sweep. Another came in 2019 in Miami with Gesicki as his go-to-tight end. They teamed for the Dolphins' 38-35 overtime win over the Bengals that gave Cincinnati the right to draft Burrow No. 1.

Fitzpatrick's 13-yard touchdown pass to Gesicki gave Miami a 28-6 lead with 8:24 left in the third quarter. But they needed his 14-yard pass to Gesicki to help set up the winning field goal.

"I loved throwing to him," said Fitzpatrick, who gave Gesicki a career-high 12 targets that day for six catches, two touchdowns, and 82 yards. "It's a good matchup because Joe is so accurate with his ball placement. He's going to be able to throw Mike open in a lot of cases.

"Mike's so versatile, they can line him up in a different couple of spots."

Gesicki just happened to be in the right spot the next season, when he, Karras, and Fitzpatrick were Dolphins teammates and Karras was hosting one of his "Green Light" Thursday night dinners where they had dinner and watched Thursday Night Football.

"Mike was eating a steak and what you'll learn about Mike Gesicki is he has trouble cutting up his food and swallowing it. Mike's not usually quiet," Fitzpatrick says. "Teddy looks over and Mike is choking on his steak and he has this look of panic in his eyes. He can't breathe. We don't know how long he's been like that. Probably five, ten seconds."

Fitzpatrick says Karras pulled out the life-saving move invented by the Cincinnati doctor Henry Heimlich.

"Teddy Karras springs into action. You know Ted, of course. He's all about that action. Ted performs the Heimlich on Mike Gesicki and the steak spits out of his throat. He saved his life that night and now they're teammates."

MONEY MAC AND CHANGE: After talking with Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons on Tuesday, long-range bomber Evan “Money Mac,” McPherson says he has mixed emotions about the NFL's new kickoff rule that is expected to increase returns by 50% and all but eliminate touchbacks.

McPherson, who led the NFL in 50-yard field goal attempts last season, loves touchbacks. Why not? He loves to bomb. Last year more than 75% of his kickoffs were touchbacks.

"I might have to make more tackles. I've got to get in the tackling line now," McPherson said. "It takes away from the skills us kickers have. Now you kind of don't have to have too strong of a leg to be in the NFL."

Since kickers can't cross the 50 until the ball is caught or downed, Simmons doesn't see kickers as cover guys, a rule meant to discourage teams from using cover players such as linebackers as kickers since all they have to do is get it past the receiving team's 20-yard-line.

"I think some teams will still try to do that," McPherson said.

It doesn't sound like the Bengals will be one of them.

"That's great if you have someone who can do that, but how many guys are out there that play a position and can do that?" Simmons asked. "And do it with the same precision of a guy who has been trained to kick the ball with accuracy and all of a sudden you put it in the hands of someone else?"

With the ball coming out to the 30 instead of the 25 after the ball shoots in or out of the end zone in the air, McPherson can't see Simmons letting him do that.

"You know with Darrin it's all about field position, we're going to try and pin them inside the 25," McPherson said. "Personally, I loved kicking it in the end zone.

"But I've got an idea for a fun rule. If you kick it through the uprights, make that four points and if you miss, they get it at the 30. When Darrin would say we needed a touchback, I'd try and rip it through the uprights."

But, seriously, McPherson doesn't see much of a problem adapting.

"It's about placement now, right?" McPherson said. "I'm just going to take field-goal steps and do more placement in corners and stuff. We'll have to work on it a little bit, but I don't think it's going to be a tough transition. Hang time doesn't matter. Go to the corners. Some teams might try to get it inside the 20 as fast as they can. I don't know. A lot of things are going to change."

But not Money Mac from 50.

"It will be fine," he said.

SIMMONS STYLE: Simmons, the longest-tenured kicking game coach in the NFL, has his fingerprints all over the new rule. At Tuesday's news conference here announcing it, special teams coordinators Darren Rizzi of Miami and John Fassel of Dallas were on hand, but both acknowledged the pivotal role played by Simmons in the small working committee.

"He's a huge voice on anything on special teams," Fassel said. "There were times he'd say, 'Hold on, let's not get too far away from a real play.' Just a veteran guy. Great sound mind. His voice carries a lot of weight."

One of his players also played a key role. Bengals safety Michael Thomas, a member of the NFL Players Association executive committee and special teams stalwart of the last decade, had also been working with the group. Thomas, a critic of last year's fair catch now outlawed, was delighted when word came down.

"I got a text from him almost right away," said Rizzi, who also coached Thomas in Miami.

Simmons went upstairs at Paycor Stadium last week to brief ownership, taking with him a few clips of XFL kickoffs. Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn was part of the NFL competition committee that voted 8-0 to approve it and then the Bengals voted for it Tuesday.

"I think our ownership is traditionalist and I think that's a good thing. So am I," Simmons said. "The less change is better, but how do we get this play back in the game and impact the game? It's a big change. Is it too big of a change? They bear the weight of that. How is this going to affect our league in the future? It's a very difficult call.

"I'm for it, but there's a lot of unknown. We'll find out."

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