Updated: 9:15 p.m.
It was a jittery night Tuesday for three Bengals as they tried in vain much of the night to reach their families on the tsunami-stricken island of American Samoa. Defensive linemen Domata Peko and Jon Fanene, and linebacker Rey Maualuga texted each other with updates deep into the night before getting reassuring news.
Fanene got the worst news. After struggling for 13 hours to reach his parents and four younger brothers and sisters, he finally got through to them at 2:30 a.m. and found out they were OK. But several cousins from his father's side were killed in a tidal wave sparked by the world's biggest earthquake in two years (an 8.0) that killed 22 people on the island.
"It's tough for me, my family, everyone in Samoa," Fanene said. "I was pacing. I was so depressed, so stressed. Just not being able to find out for so long and coming into work, I'm still thinking about it."
Fanene's wife, also from the island, was also trying to get in touch with her family and you can imagine how frantic that household must have been.
"I finally told my wife," Fanene said, "that all we could do was pray and put it in God's hands."
The village where his relatives died is Leone, near Pago Pago, described in news stories as the territorial capital at the apex of a U-shaped harbor that took the brunt of the tsunami. Fanene's family lives about 10 minutes from Peko's family in Nuuuli, located on a peninsular several miles up from Pago. Peko's home in Laulii is more inland on the central north coast.
"Some villages right on Pago Pago got taken out," Peko said. "My parents are scheduled to come Oct. 16, but I told them to buy a ticket now and leave. But the airport is shut down and no one is going anywhere."
Peko admitted he, too, was stressed until he spoke to his parents at night, but he said he was able to get updates via MySpace and Facebook.
"We live close to the harbor, but we're not on the mouth of it," he said. "Thank God."
NEW LANGUAGE: While the rest of the NFL is TO'ed and all aTwitter and complaining about not getting the ball, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco is ho-hum, sounding like Carson Palmer these days.
The Ocho said Wednesday he doubts he'll repeat his '07 feat and leap into the Dawg Pound if he scores in Cleveland on Sunday. In fact, he hasn't even thought of a celebration yet and that is almost unheard of. Usually he'll give a hint, but…
"I'm just focused on winning. I haven't really thought about anything to do," said Ochocinco in another anti-Chad moment. "It's never easy to play anyone in our division regardless of record. Sometimes (against the Browns) it was a shootout. Sometimes we won. Sometimes they won. It's been back and forth."
The closest thing to a boast Wednesday was an indication that the TV show Dancing With The Stars has approached him. But he quickly deferred to head coach Marvin Lewis.
"Only one person can say yay or nay on that: Coach Lewis," The Ocho said. "Something like that could be a distraction to the team even thought it's the offseason. Whatever he says, that's what I'll do. If he says go ahead and do it, it doesn't interfere with the time you being here in the offseason, I'll do it. If he says, no, too much, then I won't."
That makes it sound like he'll be around for the voluntaries for the first time since '07. He's also saying all the right things about the 0-3 Browns that tried to settle their quarterback dilemma Wednesday by going with Derek Anderson.
"By no means are we taking them lightly based off their record. Any team can win any given Sunday," said The Ocho, mouthing the words right out of the Marv Wednesday playbook. "We're treating it like they're undefeated. The mindset here is still hungry. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity of going to Cleveland and try to better our record in the division."
PLAY REY?: Rookie SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga said "Don't count me out of" Sunday's game with the sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee and Lewis certainly didn't. Even though Maualuga didn't practice Wednesday, Lewis indicated he could go.
A guy who has been covering the Browns for a long time, The Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Tony Grossi, thought the Browns should have been serious enough about Maualuga to draft him with the fifth pick and is still surprised they passed on him what amounted to three times in favor of trading down and taking Cal center Alex Mack and Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiske. Mack is starting, but Robiske has been inactive the past two weeks.
"I would think Cleveland would have drafted me before Cincinnati because after the combine I met with their defensive coordinator, linebackers coach, and head coach," Maualuga said. "But it worked out."