Updated: 6:50 p.m.
One topic that won't make the discussion on this Sunday's Football Night in America (7 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) from Paul Brown Stadium is, ho-hum, another NFL game where both teams are coached by African-Americans.
Thankfully when Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin tee it up (8:20 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5), it has become as commonplace as well, the kicking tee, and NBC's own Tony Dungy had everything to do with it.
Dungy, part of the New York City studio crew from 30 Rockefeller Plaza, was the rock of the movement a generation ago as a brilliant young defensive assistant that couldn't be denied. Now after 13 seasons as a head coach with two teams, a Super Bowl trophy, and the third-best winning percentage of all-time of anyone with at least his 139 victories, Dungy has a pretty good view.
The first time Dungy coached at PBS in 2001, his sixth and last season with the Bucs, the only other African-American head coach in the NFL was Herman Edwards in his first season with the Jets. Now there are five and while there could easily be more, the guy with the least experience is Minnesota's Leslie Frazier in his third season on a list headed by Lewis's 10 seasons, the nine of Chicago's Lovie Smith, and the six of Tomlin.
"No, we have no plans to talk about it and I think that shows you how far we've come," Dungy said. "We've come a long way. Believe me I realize how significant it is because I know how long it took to happen. They're both good, veteran coaches that have their teams with a chance to do something at this point in the season."
Lewis said Thursday that he almost ended up joining Dungy's first staff in Tampa Bay when the Buccaneers made Dungy the head coach in 1996. Dungy, a former Steelers player and coach, had Pittsburgh ties with Lewis but as things evolved, Lewis ended up becoming the Ravens defensive coordinator while Monte Kiffin went to work for Dungy.
Lewis, a Pittsburgh-area native out of McDonald, Pa., said Dungy was always generous with his time when it came to watching NFL film and being available to talk the game. Now when Dungy talks Bengals on Sunday night for the nation's biggest prime-time TV audience he sees a team with a shot to win the AFC North if it can tame its many inconsistencies.
"They're right there with everyone else," Dungy said. "The first six weeks the Bengals have been up and down. But I think the division is coming back to them. I think the Steelers are aging on defense and so is Baltimore and they've got a chance to get past them.
"They went over the curve for such a young team last year and now if they get on a hot streak, they can get on a roll. The Steelers are in the same kind of spot, as far as looking for consistency. I blame the practice regimen that comes out of the new CBA on the defensive inconsistencies. As a coach it's hard for me to see how you can develop any kind of consistency with the new rules."
Asked if Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is the real deal, Dungy says he is.
"He's got composure," Dungy said. "It's the same thing I talked about with Peyton Manning. You've got to keep giving a talented quarterback weapons. They don't have a Marshall Faulk or an Edgerrin James, but they have a reliable running back. They've got a great receiver in A.J. Green and if they can develop some consistency with their other weapons, like (tight end Jermaine) Gresham, then they can be a high-powered offense.
"It's the lack of consistency I see on defense. They've got to get those big plays out of their system. They've got a lot of good players on that defense, but the one thing they're missing is that high draft pick that is an impact player. What they're missing is a Troy Polamalu or an Ed Reed, or a J.J. Watt. That high pick that comes in and puts you over the top on defense."
Dungy says there is no shot he'll come back to coach. He wants to see his son finish out his career at Oregon, where Eric Dungy is a sophomore wide receiver.
"Then I'll be 59," Dungy said, "and that's fine with me."
He says he'd like to get to Cincinnati this season to do a piece on Lewis or Dalton, but there's no doubt he'll be in northern Ohio at some point. His .668 regular-season winning percentage trails only George Halas at .682 and Don Shula at .677 for coaches with at least 139 victories, and along with the 2006 Super Bowl title and a legacy that lives into this Sunday night that should provide a one-way ticket to Canton.
COOK PROGRESSING: Center Kyle Cook is eligible to return to practice this week, but he won't less than two months after surgery to repair an injured ankle.
As a member of the injured reserve-recall list, Cook is eligible to play for the first time on Nov. 4 against the Broncos, but he won't do that either. Once he's cleared to practice, the Bengals have three weeks to get him to the active roster and it looks like he's got a ways to go.
But he said Thursday he feels good and is progressing rapidly. Gone is the little scooter that propelled him about Paul Brown Stadium and he's down to one crutch and a walking boot.
"Soon it will be just the boot and then soon after that it will just be a tennis shoe," said Cook, who politely directed questions about a timetable for his return to head coach Marvin Lewis.
He's encouraged that he'll be able to be on the sidelines for Sunday's game (8:20 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) against the Steelers.
ROLL CALL: Third down back Brian Leonard (rib) and wide receiver Armon Binns (ankle) didn't work in Thursday's practice. Binns didn't appear on Wednesday's injury report, but his absence probably gave more snaps to Marvin Jones and Ryan Whalen, receivers that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said may get more snaps Sunday.
Slot receiver Andrew Hawkins (back), defensive tackle Devon Still (shoulder), and right guard Kevin Zeitler (elbow), limited on Wednesday, were all full go Thursday. Gruden said he was looking to simply give Hawkins some rest after he played 51 snaps on offense along with 17 on special teams last Sunday.
For the Steelers on Thursday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a minor tweak of his ankle at the end of practice and left, but it appears to be no big deal. Running backs Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) didn't practice again, but it looks like Mendenhall is close to working Friday and if he can go he'll probably play.
Center Maurkice Pouncey (knee) went limited, which means he'll probably try to play. Linebackers Lawrence Timmons (foot) and Brandon Johnson (hamstring) went full. Johnson comes back to PBS as primarily a special teamer after playing a vital role in nickel and special teams in the four previous seasons and 64 games with 16 starts for the Bengals. Last week against Tennessee he didn't play from scrimmage but took 56 percent of the special teams snaps.
BIG WEEK: Bengals defensive end/SAM backer Dontay Moch had to agree.
"A hell of a week," Moch said Thursday morning, less than four hours after the birth of his first child, daughter Jaylynn.
Mother and baby may be doing better than Dad. After a day and a half of labor, Moch showed up back at work after taking Wednesday off with no sleep in the last 32 hours and took the field on Thursday.
"Running on fumes," Moch said happily.
Jaylynn arrived the same week her dad made his NFL debut in Cleveland. On Sunday, Moch took a handful of third-down snaps at end for his first action since the Bengals took him in the third round in 2011. After Moch had a team-leading 3.5 sacks in the preseason, a career as a pass-rusher that has been hampered by a foot injury, headaches and a league suspension looks like it's about to get started.
"Honestly, it felt good to get the rust off my body and get going," Moch said. "It wasn't the best the way the game ended and I felt like I wasn't a factor or didn't make a difference. But at the same time I think I can make strides to get there."