Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, conducting the last preseason game of the year Saturday night at Paycor Stadium, offered a salute to the city when he appointed the five Greater Cincinnatians on his roster as game captains.
The game against the Rams means something for all of them but Moeller High School's Sam Hubbard, the left end who is on the sidelines for this one along with his fellow starters and some regulars.
The dean of the Bengals, 14-year punter Kevin Huber of Anderson Township's McNicholas High School, is looking to stave off challenger Drue Chrisman when they rotate punts. Left guard Jackson Carman of Fairfield High School gets the start after missing last week's game with COVID and is trying to overtake fourth-rounder Cordell Volson for the Opening Day start.
Two Colerain High School grads trying to stick, guard Desmond Noel and linebacker Tegray Scales, have been hampered by injury and may not play Saturday. Noel probably would have got the start at right guard if he didn't hurt ankle. So the newest Bengal, Nate Gillam, who arrived from the Steelers eight days ago, gets the nod.
MORE CINCY CONNECTIONS: The Bengals and Rams are two of the most connected teams in the league and not just because Bengals head coach Zac Taylor worked on Rams head coach Sean McVay before they met in the Super Bowl.
Former Bengals and Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth was at Paycor Stadium for the first time since he ended his 11-year Bengals career six years ago and before the game he visited with Bengals president Mike Brown and the rest of the family ownership team in Brown's office.
"Awesome place," texted Whitworth, whose 168 games are the fourth most ever played on the Bengals offensive line. "Lots of great memories."
It didn't feel weird, he said.
Rams linebackers coach Chris Shula, the son of former Bengals head coach Dave Shula, spent the last couple of days in the city where he first fell in love with football and played the college game not so far away. Shula, 34, was almost four when his dad was hired after the 1991 season and was eight when his tenure ended in 1996.
"A lot of great memories," Chris Shula said after making sure he had some chili. "Training camp at Wilmington (College), staying in the dorm, going to practice at Spinney Field. The game days weren't fun at the beginning. You care so much and some kids would say stuff, but it was mostly good memories."
Shula, a teammate of McVay at Miami of Ohio, is going into his sixth year with the Rams and eighth coaching in the league. Ironically he went to work for McVay, the youngest head coach in NFL history at 30 years, 11 months. At 32 years, seven months, Dave Shula was the youngest head man in the merger era. Since then, three have been younger.
"One thing he did say to Sean he kind of regrets," Chris Shula said. "He was a young head coach like Sean and he had some friends he didn't necessarily hire because they were his friends and he didn't want to be the young head coach who hired all his buddies and he kind of wishes he had done some of that."