Two-time Bengals 1,000-yard receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who had his biggest days against Baltimore and his only three postseason receptions as a Raven, returns to Paycor Stadium for the first playoff game between the two franchises Sunday night (8:15-Cincinnati's Channel 5) as Ruler of the Jungle with messages to dole out from the throne.
"I had some people from (Baltimore) texting me, 'Why are you doing this against us?'" Houshmandzadeh said from California this week. ""I just told them, 'We're going to (win). But no hard feelings."
During his eight seasons he became the Bengals' fifth leading receiver of all-time, Houshmandzadeh had his best game against Baltimore (171 yards in 2004) and his fourth best game (147 in 2005), as well as two more 100-yard games with quarterback Carson Palmer before he left Cincinnati after the 2008 season and played the 2010 season in Baltimore.
Along with another First 50 Bengal of all-time, Willie Anderson, Houshmandzadeh played for both Marvin Lewis during his 16-year tenure in Cincinnati and John Harbaugh, now in his 15th season in Baltimore.
"(Steve) Biscotti), the Ravens owner, told me when I came over that they always had trouble controlling me," Houshmandzadeh said. "He treated me well … I liked playing for Harbaugh. Good dude. Good coach. Really communicated well with his players."
Houshmandzadeh is also a big fan of what head coach Zac Taylor is doing for the Bengals. And he can't get enough of his old workout partner in the days leading up to the draft. Houshmandzadeh caught balls from LSU quarterback Joe Burrow to get him ready for the NFL and he also urged the Bengals to draft wide receiver Tee Higgins.
"I've got something I've got to tell him. I want to go to lunch with him," Houshmandzadeh said. "When we were working out, he was quiet. He didn't say much. He was really focused."
This is what he has to say to Burrow:
"You remember when I said this back then," said Houshmandzadeh, an NFL Network analyst and media presence. "I said if Carson couldn't turn it around in Cincinnati, nobody can. Boy, was I ever wrong. He's a top five quarterback for the next ten years. We're going to be in contention for the Super Bowl every year."
Yes, Houshmandzadeh saw that last Sunday's win over the Ravens was chippy. No surprises there for him.
"The Ravens try to intimidate you. Like the Steelers," said Houshmandzadeh, who doesn't think a Burrow team can be intimidated.
"I love what he said the other day. 'The window is open as long as I'm here.' Classic. He give his players chances to make plays on 50-50 balls. He trusts them."
TO THE MAX: Right guard Alex Cappa rolled into Wednesday's practice in a scooter wearing a boot on his foot, which makes it look like Max Scharping is starting at least this game. (Taylor officially ruled him out after practice.) Bengals assistant offensive line coach Derek Frazier was at the 6-6, 325-pound Scharping's pro day at Northern Illinois in 2019 when he was Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack's assistant at the Jets. The Texans took Scharping in the second round that year (the 55th pick, the same one the Bengals took left tackle Andrew Whitworth in 2006) after the Buccaneers took Cappa in the third. After starting 33 games, the Texans released him on this past cutdown day and the Bengals claimed him on waivers.
A product of Green Bay, Wis., Scharping's favorite Packer ("I liked them all") growing up may have ben, naturally, an offensive lineman, tackle Mark Tauscher,, a fellow Wisconsinite.
"He's a big man," Pollack said before Wednesday's practice. "He's a Green Bay guy. Tough. Gritty. Smart. Meat and potatoes. A Midwestern grunt.
"We saw he had a good football IQ and he had good movement skills for an interior player. He kind of fits that mold in the room."
LOU ON LAMAR: Word out of Baltimore is it doesn't look good for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (knee) this week and it looks like backup Tyler Huntley.
"Just prepare for their offense. And then we have things that we've done before when Lamar's playing," Anarumo said Wednesday. "So, we'll have elements that we need to have, but they're both certainly good quarterbacks. Obviously, Lamar is different, and how good he is, but we'll be we'll be ready either way."
For sure tight end Mark Andrews, their best receiver, is playing after he was inactive last Sunday.
"That's what they do. Andrews has always been a big focus for them, and he'll continue to be," Anarumo said. "He's one of the best players in our league. And so, we certainly have to be aware of where he is on every snap."
"He's strong, he can block. They split him out at one (receiver), he's run go balls and run away from corners. He's got the ability to hurt you a number of different ways. That's why he's so productive and such a good player."