2-4-04, 4 p.m. **
The first installment of right tackle Willie Anderson's Pro Bowl post card. Anderson, an eight-year veteran making his first Pro Bowl appearance, is the first Cincinnati lineman on either side of the ball to make the all-star game since Anthony Munoz 12 years ago. With Kansas City tackle Willie Roaf out of the lineup, Anderson makes the start at right tackle. Joining him in the starting lineup is Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson.
His first hours on the Big Island include a major-league tab and a long conversation with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning that gets him thinking about his days with Boomer Esiason. And, yes, they do want to win because the winners get a check more than double the losers.**
I flew into Hawaii from Houston Monday night. I didn't go to the Super Bowl, but I was there for some of the events and I ended up going out on the same flight with Jamal Lewis, and Don Shula was sitting in the seat in front of me.
Crazy, right? I told him, "Dave (Shula) recruited and drafted me," and when we landed, he came back to talk to me. He said Dave is really doing well with (Don Shula's Steakhouse) and that one of his sons is being recruited by Miami of Florida..
The one thing I always heard about the Pro Bowl was the chance players had to get to know other players from the around the league. It really is true and it may be the nicest thing about the week.
When we landed and were sitting on the bus waiting for some other guys, I was talking to Jamal and found out he lives almost right around the corner from me in Atlanta.
I wouldn't exactly call it hazing, but, yeah, I guess you could say there's a caste system here in a fun way. At the Ihilani Hotel on the water, the rookies' rooms don't have a view of anything. When I went down to the bar area after I checked in, guys were having some food and some drinks and I found out about a tradition that Derrick Thomas started.
When I got there, Donovan McNabb introduced me. Something like, "Willie Anderson, out of Auburn, from the Cincinnati Bengals, he should have been here two or three years ago." That was the cue for me to buy the next round because the first-year guys have to pick it up. He got all the rookies. He got Clinton Portis when I was there. The bill came to $254, so there were some guys already there. It's not an every night thing, but I think during the week it's expected the rookies pick up a few things.
And we've got something like 20 first-time players, so there is some new blood here that ought to make it interesting.
I got into a long conversation with Peyton Manning. Before we played them in the preseason, I was telling somebody, "The guy probably doesn't even know who I am." But he came up and said, "Hi, Willie," and I found out this week that he follows everybody in the SEC.
I told him it looked like he was in another zone during the playoffs. He was unbelievable. He knew all about me and the Bengals. It was like sitting talking to Boomer. He said it sounded like my situation was like the one with their left tackle, Tarik Glenn. Peyton and (wide receiver) Marvin Harrison have these great years, and the guy protecting him doesn't go to the Pro Bowl. He was saying it's crazy, and you've got a guy like Corey who has had a lot of great years in Cincinnati and nobody from the offensive line goes.
I told him I hope he gets a chance to talk to Carson (Palmer), and he said he already has and he's told him to only worry about what's going on out on the field and to try and control only what you can control.
You can see how guys like Peyton and Donovan McNabb get guys to follow them. Great personalities. Both of them are down-to-earth guys, guys who are fun to be around and no hint of being prima donnas. They'll tell you about yourself, what they know about you. You can see how they get guys to play for them.
It's like when we had our first meeting Monday night. The AFC and NFC met together and a league official came in to explain the rules, and Peyton raised his hand to ask what the money was this year.
The guy said, "$37,000 for the winners, $17,000 for the losers." Peyton kind of smirked, and everyone knew he was insinuating, "Hey, let's win the damn game."
Guys want to do well. The Colts are coaching us, so our offensive line coach, Howard Mudd, was telling us that we wouldn't want the guy we're playing against to drive off with the MVP Award. It's a Cadillac truck.
At that night meeting, the coaches introduced themselves and handed out the playbook, so it's Peyton's plays. But they're pretty simple, and they must have changed the names. They went over the rotation schedule, and guys basically rotate in themselves.
I really knew where I was Tuesday morning when we had our first practice. Tony Gonzalez was to my right at tight end, Will Shields was to my left at guard. Across from me was Ray Lewis and Takeo (Spikes) calling out signals. The whole time, Takeo was over there making faces at me in the huddle. The tempo wasn't very quick.
The speed was probably less than a minicamp practice. We went for about 90 minutes and they'll probably cut it back later in the week. It was funny seeing stars playing special teams. Chad is on second-team kick return.
You can tell Chad is watching every move Marvin Harrison makes. Chad is Chad. He's running around talking to everybody, but you can see him watching, too. And he's catching everything.
There is another tradition. Trading helmets. Guys put them in their trophy cases, or give them to charity auctions, or something like that. Each team sends down a couple of extra helmets and you can trade.
(Dolphins linebacker) Zach Thomas is a great guy. He already keeps asking me to make sure I trade with him. (Jets center) Kevin Mawae was telling me the only ones he pretty much didn't have were the Bengals and Browns. We haven't had a lot of guys here lately, and Corey probably traded with the skill guys.
I'll probably trade with those guys. Of course, Takeo. And I'd like to get Peyton's, too.