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Quick Hits: Ted Karras Eyes Next Moves; Ja'Marr, Tee Hook Up Again

Cincinnati Bengals center Ted Karras (64) arrives at the red carpet at the NFL Honors awards show on Thursday, February 8, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Perry Knotts/NFL)
Cincinnati Bengals center Ted Karras (64) arrives at the red carpet at the NFL Honors awards show on Thursday, February 8, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Perry Knotts/NFL)

LAS VEGAS _ Ted Karras had looked so forward to bringing home the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year trophy to the Villagers, those adults with intellectual disabilities he has adopted as his own.

But Karras, the Bengals center and captain, knows it takes a village, too, and dashed off a text Thursday night shortly after Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward won the league's highest prize at NFL Honors.

A fellow man of the trenches, Karras loved the clips of Heyward's late father, running back Craig "Iron Head," Heyward, bowling over helpless defenders in the NFL of the '80s and '90s.

"It was awesome to see Iron Head Heyward highlights tonight. Well deserved and perfect representation of what this award means," Karras said. "To be nominated six times speaks not only to his production and longevity as a player, but to the work that he does in Pittsburgh and beyond. Thrilled for him and his family."

  Karras left the ceremony already thinking about the next project and his partnership with Bengals Ring of Honor quarterback Ken Anderson and his Ken Anderson Alliance as they plan to build the same type of units that are at the Village of Merici in Indianapolis.

"It was never about the award," Karras said. "It's my life's mission to house the intellectually disabled and me and Ken are bringing it to Cincy!!"

JA'MARR, TEE TOGETHER AGAIN: All is right with the world. Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and running mate Tee Higgins toured Radio Row together here at the Super Bowl Thursday, extolling Joe Burrow and chicken wings. They both like the idea of quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher getting promoted to offensive coordinator in place of new Titans head coach Brian Callahan.    

 "He'll do a wonderful job," Higgins said. "There'll be no slack. We'll pick up right where we left off."

Chase: "I think it's a good move. He's somebody who has already been with us. He knows our tendencies. He knows what we like."

They also defended their guy when they were asked about a video that claims Burrow isn't as good as Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen and he's good mainly because he has two great receivers. Chase and Higgins looked at each other. Burrow is the only one left in the AFC who has beaten Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes with a Super Bowl trip on the line.  

"How many playoff wins do we have?" Chase asked. "We got to the Super Bowl. We know how it feels like to be in there."

Higgins: "Joe Burrow would have success whoever he's throwing the ball to. He's one of those quarterbacks nobody can compare to."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Karras is still a popular man in Patriots Nation, where he was drafted and played five seasons, and the New England media made sure it snagged him on Radio Row Thursday.

 The region is in a fever pitch with the Pats now in the post-Bill Belichick era and old Karras teammate Jerod Mayo running the show. A big topic on the Boston talk shows is what kind of offense will they use. Since Karras is now in a system more like the one the Patriots seem to be evolving to, he had a couple of good takes on the differences.

"I think the fluidity of the rules going into a game," Karras said. "I think the Patriots offense was formed over 22 years of rigid rules. Standard operating procedures. That's how we learned it. I got to Cincinnati and it's more of a fluid system where we tailor our protections and schemes, maybe to negate their best players, negate their scheme. We still have the core stuff of what we do. We just have a little bit more malleable adjustments." …

Also a hot topic is the old school-new school debate on how to handle 21st-century players and how Mayo seems to be the anti-Belichick, much like Callahan is seen as the anti-Mike Vrabel in Tennessee..

"That's a little bit overblown in the culture of football. It's still a performance cut-throat business," Karras said. "Maybe Bill was the extreme of that for (24) years, but I think Jerod is such ha great hire because you're not throwing away 20 years of culture. He's been there ten years as an all-time great. You need to modernize a little, but I don't think you can say players aren't tough anymore.

"I think guys are going to respond. They come to Cincy this year. I never count the Pats out." …

The last time the Pats came into Cincy without Belichick as head coach? Thirty years ago when Karras was one and Bill Parcells brought them into Riverfront Stadium for a 31-28 win. Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe survived interceptions by Bengals safeties Darryl Williams and Louis Oliver to throw for 350 yards on what was one of Bengals quarterback David Klingler's best days. He was 21 of 29 for 266 yards and a 123.6 passer rating …