CLEVELAND - Mike Nugent got back to his locker after his three field goals helped navigate the Bengals to a 30-0 victory over the Browns and he knew what the text from his dad probably would have said.
"Those two 44s you hit were great, but you could have hit that 53 in warmups a little better," said Nugent with a wistful smile. "It was always really fun to hear his side of warmups…He was my best critic in a good way…
"He always knew the right thing to say. He was a little more blunt about it because I wouldn't be where I am without him being blunt."
Like after the miss that gave the Bengals a 37-37 tie against Carolina back in October that would have won it at the OT buzzer from 36 yards. He had just said the right thing in typical curt fashion.
"After a day like that, he made it short and sweet. 'You've been down before. It's the next kick that matters.'" Nugent recalled.
How eerie that the kid from the place named Centerville, Ohio would be saddled with the biggest burden anyone can bear in the "Battle of Ohio?" Dan Nugent died suddenly at age 66 Monday night and by the time Wednesday rolled around Nugent realized he had been in the same clothes and when he went back to Cincinnati, he realized he was 10 minutes from Paul Brown Stadium.
"At the end of the day the kicker is the closer and we need to get points if we don't get in the end zone," Nugent said. "I didn't want to kick on Sunday against Pittsburgh and then not again until this Sunday. But I also wanted my coaches to know I'm still playing and that everything is going to be fine."
He ran late and called equipment managers Jeff Brickner and Adam Knollman, asking them to leave some footballs at his locker and they had to go to a higher calling to get the lights turned on because everybody was long gone.
It was an odd, but therapeutic way to get ready for an NFL game. While his brother shagged about his 20 or 30 so kicks, their wives watched. It was the only work he got in a week that suddenly included a visitation and a funeral.
"Mr. Brown turned the lights on for me,' said Nugent of the Bengals owner with a smile. "I feel blessed to be able to shut things out. Usually you try to keep the negative things out and what I'm trying to do is to see this as a huge positive to celebrate his life instead of the other way around. It was on my mind, but the guys in here, I feel I've been here for 20 seasons."
Nugent joined the club on Saturday night here at their downtown hotel and the family workout was good enough to hit all three field-goal tries, the first one a big 44-yarder that made it 10-0. The third one, a 34-yarder with 2:35 left in the third quarter was huge, too, because the 23-0 lead meant Cleveland had to score three touchdowns and three two-pointers to win. He has yet to miss since the miss against Carolina. Eleven in a row.
"My snapper and holder make it easy for me," said Nugent, always pointing out Clark Harris and Kevin Huber, respectively. "I thought it would be tough to see everybody you see every day, but everybody has been awesome. The coaches have been fantastic. I couldn't ask for anything more,' Nugent said.
Dan Nugent didn't make it to the last couple of games on the road, but he was looking forward to Sunday's game. Here's a guy who was a Bengals season-ticket holder back in the day, long enough ago that when they were expecting Mike, wife Carolyn, seven months pregnant, and Dan went to the Freezer Bowl in January of 1982.
His son is glad running back Rex Burkhead scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds left.
"He would have been real excited about all the hits," Nugent said of his dad. "He wouldn't have liked the last kickoff. I was glad to see Rex get one because I was able kick the extra point."