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Full circle

1-30-03, 8 a.m.


**It's 19 years and 23 first-round draft picks later, but Ricky Hunley is here. It became official this week when he unpacked the huge photo montage of his family, wife Camille and daughters aged nine and 11. His kids are closer to his age when he was the controversial Bengals No. 1 pick in 1984 than he is now as the new linebackers coach.

Geoff Hobson had a chance to get in the middle as Hunley came full circle in his first week on the job. **


GH:** You've got mini helmets from every place you've played or coached since the Bengals drafted you with the seventh pick in 1984. (Which would be seven helmets, with the Broncos and Raiders as a player, and Southern Cal, Missouri, Florida, and the Redskins as a coach.) You also had a Bengals' helmet even though you never played a snap here.

RH: Why not? They drafted me. **

GH:** The holdout and the trade seem to be forgotten on both sides. What did Mike (Brown) say when he saw you here your first day on the job?

RH: He said, 'Hi Ricky, how you doing?' No big deal. The Good Lord has mapped out a path for everybody and maybe that's the way it was meant to be. What's wrong with going full circle and coming right back to you, having an opportunity to coach the position that you had such passion for? **

GH:** You talk about passion a lot. I think that's how you saw yourself play, isn't it?

RH: If you can get guys to play the way I played in those days, then you don't have one guy who played like you, but five. I loved to play. I loved to practice. Everybody has a different personality. You have to take whatever they do best.

I was just talking to (Bengals middle linebacker) Brian Simmons. I was telling him you probably have to be half crazy to play this game. If you're not having fun with it, get out. **

GH:** You're the only guy on the defense who has actually coached with Marvin in the league when you coached the linebackers in Washington last year. What's he like?

RH: He's going to be a little firm about how they control what they're going to be, about being a good citizen, about being on time, about being a professional. Just because you get a big paycheck doesn't make you a pro. What makes you the best stockbroker, the best doctor, the best judge, it's preparation. It's effort. **

GH:** What was his first staff meeting like?

RH: Just like all the others. Very detailed. Right on the money about things. Believe me, there'll be a lot more in the next few days. Marvin leaves no stone unturned. **

GH:** He sat down some big names in Washington last season.

RH: That's it. It's about the team. No one is bigger than the team. He'll only sit down people who have the ability and they don't get the job done, or if they just don't have the ability. It's about doing the job. **

GH:** What do you like best about working for Marvin Lewis?

RH: You laugh a lot. You work hard and you play hard. **

GH:** What have you seen from your new linebackers on tape?

RH: Just briefly watching, they're good athletes that can run. That's the number one ingredient you have to have in this style of defense. We're going to be pressuring people and blitzing, running down hill and smacking people in the mouth. You've got to be able to run. You're halfway home when you have players that can run.

The one thing you need to get your players to do is stay on their feet. You can't make plays on the ground. They have to stay on their feet. Football is played with the hands, eyes, and your feet. Those things are all coachable. You can coach guys out of some bad habits. If they can't be, you have to find new guys. But there's a good deal to work with here. The people here have done an excellent job of assembling personnel. **

GH:** What kind of scheme is it going to be? Is it going to be more like what you guys did in Washington last year, or what (defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier) did in Philadelphia? Both seemed to be based on pressure.

RH: It will be a combination of both. Knowing Marvin, I think Leslie will have the lead on it. They had a damn good defense. A lot of blitzing. A lot of blitzing. A lot of man to man. What they end up doing specifically, we don't know yet. We did a lot of blitzing last year, too. **

GH:** People you know must wonder why you would come here now.

RH: It's exciting. A lot of people look at this deal as the glass being half empty. My perspective is it's more than half full. There has to be an understanding that to get big rewards on the back end, you have to be willing to put it in on the front end. It's the same thing in life. Everybody together is part of the problem or part of the solution. You get guys to buy into the fact that they are going to be part of the solution on how to get it turned into the right direction, then it's going to be fun for everybody. **

GH:** I would imagine you're pushing the offseason workouts.

RH: Games are won in March and April. Look at the teams that win. They get almost 100 percent participation. You have to pay the price sooner or later. **

GH:** Does it feel funny wearing stuff that says, "Bengals"?

RH: Not at all. They sign the paycheck. It took 20 years to get this stuff. **

GH:** Now for the million dollar question. Is the deal you signed last week bigger or smaller than the deal you turned down in '84?

RH: Smaller **

GH:What about average salary after you take away the bonus?

RH (laughing):** Maybe pretty close.

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