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Moment of silence for Jovante

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 15, 2010 – 8:56 am

The Bengals plan to honor the memory of Jovante Woods on Sunday night at Paul Brown Stadium before the 7 p.m. preseason game against Denver with a moment of silence.

In a statement Bengals president Mike Brown called the 16-year-old son of former running back Ickey Woods “a gifted athlete and a fine student.”

“His loss is a tragedy that saddens all of us associated with the Bengals. We extend our deepest condolences to Ickey and his family,” the statement said.

Jovante died Saturday night at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, three days after collapsing earlier in the week from an asthma attack. He had a 3.8 GPA heading into his junior year at Princeton High School in suburban Cincinnati and was scheduled to start at cornerback for the Vikings.

The game is live on NFL Network and it is tape delayed on Cincinnati’s Channel 12 at 11:30 p.m.


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Welcoming Hoard

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 14, 2010 – 11:26 am

Dan Hoard makes his debut as the Bengals preseason play-by-play TV man Sunday when Channel 12 in Cincinnati tape delays the Bengals-Broncos for an 11:30 p.m. run.

But Hoard’s voice is as familiar as a favorite uncle around these parts as the current radio voice of University of Cincinnati football and basketball.

Funny. Quick. Reliable. Can do anything.  Change your oil, paint your house, cook a burger. Hoard can call a Big East semifinal, the nightcap of Triple A baseball game, and wrap up a teeming day in sports jammed into a three-minute window like he used to do as the anchor for Cincinnati’s Fox 19.

I go back a little longer with Hoard. Like back to the creation. You can go back and read about it, but that’s back when newspaper clippings hung around long enough to yellow.

It was 1987 (with apologies to Kid Rock my hair was always short) and we were both grinding to get ahead in the business. As always, Hoard was a step ahead of me as the radio voice of the Triple A Syracuse Chiefs and I was covering Syracuse University football for the Syracuse Herald-Journal.

Yeah, long time ago. Back when it was a two-paper town and a good one.

How long ago? Back when you didn’t have to blog, tweet, stream, video, sing, dance, tell jokes 24 and 7 on one beat 365 days a year. So we did a little bit of everything and for a few weeks that spring I was also doing the TV/Radio column for the H-J.

Thinking I was brilliant, I decided to write a Hoard profile by letting him grant my biggest wish in sports: Broadcast three innings of radio play-by-play. God love him, he did. Of course, how he didn’t get fired and I didn’t get institutionalized is a fair question.

You know Hoard. He’s out of that Syracuse assembly line of smooth in the tradition of Bob Costas and Mike Tirico. These guys don’t announce. They purr. No hesitation. Unflinching recall. They were talking laptops before Apple was in Steve Wozniak’s eye.

I, on the other hand, was a scribe with a stutter like Rondo before he went down the lane against Kobe and an accent like sandpaper.

My Red Sox radio role models were Ken Coleman and Ned Martin. Easy. Folksy.

 “Spilled foul.”

 “Rocking chair inning.”

 “Up into the darkness of the net.”

 “Towhead Jerry Adair.”

 “Schaefer is the one beer to have when you’re having more than one.”

While other kids were memorizing the top 40 or love poems, I was spitting back home run calls: “If you just turned on your radio, it’s happened again. Yaz has hit a three-run homer and it’s now 6-2 Red Sox.”

So this is what Hoard gets. And it’s not going too badly until Billy Bean comes to the plate. Or Billy Beane. I can’t remember. The problem is, I couldn’t then, either.

This is when Billy Bean and Billy Beane both populated the minors, naturally. So I launch into everything I know about the Billy Bean(e) I think he is. Has to be a two-minute soliloquy. Very incisive if I do say so myself. Hoard, with Vegas timing, can’t resist.

“That’s great, Geoff, but that’s not the same Billy Bean(e),” he says, calmly waiting for the third out before both of us erupt. He in laughter, me in angst.

The rest of the stint is a blur. Except they must have broken a record for most foul balls in a minor-league game for three innings, and each one I gamely greeted with “Spilled foul.”

When Hoard got the Bengals job a few months ago and we reminisced about that night, he offered, “All I know is there was a lot of spillage.”

And he was on the phone Friday again because that’s what he always does: His homework. Why he should think I could help him after that night is a wonder, but I gave him a few thoughts as he ran down the roster to help his prep. Of course, he couldn’t resist. Noting my Michael Johnson story, he innocently asked, “That’s not the guy who was the fastest man in the world, is it?”

Funny man.

Enjoy Hoard on Sunday and the rest of the preseason. You’ll have a good show.

And it’s not as easy as it sounds.


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Five takes

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 13, 2010 – 3:59 pm

Five observations:

1. BRADY BUNCH:  It would be nice if at some point Sunday night against the Broncos the Bengals’ first offense could do what the Saints and Patriots did in their opener Thursday night.

In his second series, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led a 14-play, 93-yard TD drive that featured three throws of at least 20 yards. In his third series, quarterback Drew Brees took New Orleans 86 yards in 20 plays for a TD.   
 
With Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, and…well, that’s fairly comparable firepower, isn’t it? But note that the Saints had two three-and-outs before Brees had his scoring drive. And in his first drive Brady couldn’t convert a red-zone turnover into a touchdown and New England had to settle for a field goal.

It makes you start to think, “Why can’t they do that that?” but if you take another look it took each club about six or so snaps to get warmed up and that’s about all the Bengals had Sunday night in Canton.  So don’t hang them just yet, give them some rope. If they get close to a quarter and can’t score, then maybe you can start with the why-can’t-they-do-thats.

One interesting note about Brady’s 17 snaps as reported by The Boston Globe’s Albert Breer. All but three had Brady under center, including a third-and-14 play-action pass that resulted in a 16-yarder to Brandon Tate, a second-year receiver taken in the third round. Used to be you always knew where two things were located in New England. Brady would be in the shotgun and Paul Revere’s statue would be in the North End.  

But the Pats are changing gears, like the Bengals did last year. As Breer notes, they won’t ditch the spread, but they did come out in that first red-zone series with one back, one receiver and three tight ends (two of them prized rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski) in an effort to become more balanced.

Yet you don’t hear anybody complaining that they’re taking the ball out of Brady’s hands. That’s what three Super Bowls get you. Bob Bratkowski, like offensive coordinators everywhere, gets continually ripped. But his ability to execute Marvin Lewis’ vision won them the division last year.
 
2. T.O. CAN STILL RUN: Maybe I’m nuts, but Terrell Owens looks closer to a No. 1 draft pick than a 36-year-old receiver at the end. I’m just basing that off what he’s done against cornerback Leon Hall in practice. Remember last year? Nobody ran past Hall last season with any consistency. He and cornerback Johnathan Joseph just don’t give up long balls.

Brandon Marshall’s longest catch against them was nine yards. Santonio Holmes’ longest catch against them in two games was 21 yards. The longest catch by a Ravens wide receiver in two games was 23 and they had none of 20 in one game. No Vikings wide receiver had a catch of 20 and neither did any Jets receivers in the last two games. The one
game Hall did get nicked was in San Diego on Vincent Jackson’s 34-yard touchdown catch.

So you’d have to say these two guys can play. If not at a Pro Bowl level then pretty close, and Owens, working on Hall’s side a lot of the time, has managed to get by a few times.

Virtually no one did that last year.

3. NO PANIC ON GEATHERS: The Bengals are trying to figure out what’s wrong with the foot of left end Robert Geathers and have put it in a boot. Word is the worst-case scenario is he might not be able to play until the regular season.

Perfect. The guy got worn down last season, barely ever coming off the field after an offseason he had microfracture knee surgery, and if he can get some time to chill now it probably would be the best thing that ever happened to him and second-round pick Carlos Dunlap.  Dunlap needs snaps. Drink plenty of fluids, kid.

4. FAVORITE ROOKIE: Got to like Vincent Rey, the rookie free agent linebacker out of Duke. He’ll hit you and ask questions later and apparently his comedy standup was the hit of the rookie show. He’s Queens all the way. Grew up in Far Rockaway. Went to Bayside High School. Likes the Mets instead of the Yankees, so you could like him based on that alone. Dad drives a subway train underneath Manhattan.
 
Of course it’s a longshot, but maybe the practice squad calls. Yet he doesn’t look out of place. He’s far from intimidated. It doesn’t look, as they like to say, that it’s too big for him.
 
5. TWO-WAY GO: Some of the reactions of moving linebacker Dan Skuta to fullback were interesting.

They didn’t just wake up after Sunday’s game and say, “All those who played fullback or tight end in high school, take one step forward. Michael Johnson, not so fast.”

They scouted Skuta as both a fullback and linebacker when he was coming out of Grand Valley State, sending both running backs coach Jim Anderson and assistant linebackers coach Paul Guenther to work him out.

And head coach Marvin Lewis was intrigued enough that he put Skuta in some offensive meetings this past spring in a potential backup role. Last Tuesday he said it was a good time to make the switch because they see Skuta as playing some linebacker and since he’s well-versed in the defense, they could take some time before the season to school him in the offense and see what he can do.

Even if starting fullback Fui Vakapuna didn’t get hurt it sounds like they would have done it anyway because Skuta can’t remember if Lewis came to him before or after Vakapuna dinged his shoulder.

So the move didn’t come out of left field.

One of the great differences between football and baseball:

In baseball, a guy moving from first base to left field merely has to change gloves and catch a few flies to change positions. But in football, a guy has to change his life and if it’s going to work it can’t be thrown together.


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Thoughts with Ickey and family

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 12, 2010 – 8:31 pm

Thoughts and prayers for the family of former running back Ickey Woods on Thursday night flooded Bengaldom with news that their 16-year-old son Elbert Jovante Woods is in critical condition. He collapsed at his home Wednesday when he had an asthma attack, according to a press release issued by the Princeton School District via The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Jovante Woods, a junior at Princeton, has complied a grade-point-average of 3.8 while playing football for the Vikings. His dad, Elbert “Ickey” Woods, is one of the most beloved of all Bengals  and his “Ickey Shuffle” during his rookie season of 1988 when he gained 1,066 yards and helped get the Bengals to the Super Bowl has made him one of the NFL’s all-time cult figures.

Ickey Woods stayed in Cincinnati after bad knees forced his early retirement in the early ‘90s and he’s now the head coach of the Cincinnati Sizzle women’s football team.


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Wednesday wrap: Brat calls for protection

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 12, 2010 – 5:03 am

Bratkowski

GEORGETOWN, Ky. – After Wednesday night’s practice offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski indicated the first-team offense is going to get more snaps this Sunday night against Denver at Paul Brown Stadium than it got in the Hall of Fame Game against the Cowboys.

Quarterback Carson Palmer’s group wasn’t good, but he also didn’t think they were “miserable,” and Bratkowski pretty much isolated his concern from Canton as well as for the rest of the season. The pass-protection wasn’t sharp.

“He had some pressure.  In essence that is going to be the key to our pass game; the protection,” Bratkowski said.  “In many cases the reason we did what we did last year was to help that young group out and to run the ball and not put a lot of pressure on them to drop back and throw it all the time. We’re improving as a pass-protection unit, but they still have a ways to go.”

Bratkowski thinks things would have looked better if the first-teamers had 15 of 20 snaps, although he’s not exactly sure how many they’ll get against the Broncos. He liked some of the things they did, although he said the four of Palmer’s five passes headed to wide receiver Terrell Owens were not designed and were  dictated by coverage that shifted to wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.

“I think we had 14 practices prior to that game and Dallas had somewhere around 26. They were a little ahead of us. Give us another 15 to 20 plays on offense and we’ll see what happens,” Bratkowski said.

Take Wednesday night. The Bengals were much sharper passing the ball compared to a comatose effort in the morning. The no-huddle looked crisp and Palmer hooked up with The Ocho and Owens on some long plays. The Ocho made a particularly nice grab over the middle in which he fended off cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Roy Williams and then broke away from them toward the right sideline.

SLANTS AND SCREENS

» Defensive tackle Tank Johnson sat out the evening practice in shells after working in the morning in pads while fellow starter Domata Peko flipped the workouts.

» Cornerback Adam Jones, nursing a couple of nicks, practiced, both sessions. Rookie cornerback Brandon Ghee didn’t but thinks he can play Sunday.

» Bengals Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz arrived on campus with an arm in his sling after some extensive shoulder surgery, a gift from his 13-year-playing career.  The procedure came at a tough time. Muñoz has never missed a Hall of Fame induction since he went in back in 1998, but he had to bow out of this one because he was just a week removed from the operation.

Tough because he wanted to be there for former Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau’s induction and while he doesn’t usually stay for the game, he would have watched the Bengals play the Cowboys. Now he’s prepping for his 13th season as the TV analyst on the Bengals preseason games and Sunday night’s debut with new play-by-play man Dan Hoard on Channel 12.  If the 7 p.m. game isn’t sold out by the Thursday deadline, it will be tape delayed at 11:30 p.m.

“I’ve worked with Dan doing high school games and I know he’s excellent. If he can tolerate me we’ll be OK,” said Muñoz, who worked for several years with Paul Keels. “I got spoiled with Paul but I know Dan will do a great job.”

Hoard, the radio voice of University of Cincinnati football and basketball, is taking a break from his play-by-play duties with the Triple A Red Sox in Pawtucket, R.I. Keels, the radio voice of Ohio State football and basketball, is tied up with calling the Reds on Fox Sports Ohio.


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RB health first roster crisis; Hope for Leonard; James Johnson in wings

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 9, 2010 – 1:29 pm

Leonard

If running back Brian Leonard’s face and voice read like an MRI Sunday night, he has suffered torn ligaments in his foot and that very well could be a season-ending injury. As he sat on a cart outside the locker room in the last minutes of the Hall of Fame Game with his foot in a boot he shook his head and said, “It doesn’t look good,” and said he feared they were torn but didn’t know for sure.

There was some hope Monday that things might turn out better. Leonard’s agent, Mike McCartney, confirmed that Leonard has “a significant injury,” but depending on the size of the tear, it could be a six-week injury or it could be season-ending. Definitive word won’t come, McCartney said, until Leonard’s visit to a foot specialist Tuesday.

“There are some things going on in there and it has to be sorted out,” McCartney said.

Here’s what seems to be going down as of Monday night. Indications are that the Bengals are bringing in running back James Johnson to Georgetown College on Tuesday and he’ll be on the field for the 3 p.m. practice if he passes a physical. Then they may give the Leonard situation a few weeks to play out to see how it is coming along before setting the roster.

Six weeks out for Leonard would be a relief. Season-ending would be a crusher. As the third-down back last season Leonard bailed the Bengals out of more jams than Lindsay Lohan’s lawyer. There was the fourth-and-10 dive to make the first Pittsburgh win possible. The recovered fumble on a blown shotgun snap to make the win in Baltimore possible. The first-down run backed up on the goal line in San Diego’s fourth-quarter din.

The Bengals don’t seem to have that kind of guy on the roster and, plus, they’re really banged up there. In fact, there are indications that rookie running back Cordera Eason suffered the worst of torn ligaments in the foot Sunday night and may be done for the season. In fact, Johnson may end up taking his roster spot. Cedric Peerman missed the game with a hamstring issue and should be back this week. But suddenly that leaves the Bengals with only Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott healthy, which makes you think they have to go get somebody right now.

And they may do it.

A league source outside Cincinnati said early Monday afternoon that the Bengals contacted James Johnson a few times in the morning. Johnson, the former Bengal, was recently released from the Vikings. The 5-11, 205-pound Johnson played in four games at the end of the 2008 season and looked impressive catching the ball out of the backfield. He had 29 yards on nine carries and caught six balls for 47 yards. He’s best remembered for keeping the lone offensive touchdown drive against the Browns going in a 14-0 win at Cleveland on Dec. 21, 2008 when he converted third downs on a 12-yard run and 15-yard catch in Leonard-esque fashion.

Johnson, who didn’t play last season, arrived in Cincinnati in ’08 as a free agent out of Kansas State. He got crunched out of the roster last training camp with the trade for Leonard and drafting of Scott after a 2009 preseason he averaged 4.4 yards per rush on 23 carries. The Bengals cut him and then re-signed him to the practice squad, where he spent the entire season before opting to go to Minnesota in the offseason.


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Bengals-Cowboys a hit

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 9, 2010 – 12:44 pm

 According to USA Today via Pro Football Talk.com., the Bengals’ appearance on NBC’s Hall of Fame Game Sunday night against the Cowboys drew the highest rating for a preseason telecast in six years. The 7.6 overnight rating had to fend off tough competition from ESPN’s Red Sox-Yankees game. The Cowboys are used to this sort of thing. It was the most watched preseason game since they played the Titans in 2004. The top three metered markets in the country were Cincinnati, Dallas and Dayton, OH.

People keep tuning into the drama that is Bengaldom. The team head backs to Georgetown College Monday night for the final three public days of training camp on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as the Bengals hover near a daily average attendance record for the 14 years they’ve trained at the Georgetown, Ky., campus.


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Waiting for Gresham

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 2, 2010 – 9:04 am

GEORGETOWN, Ky. – Marvin Lewis’ first depth chart contains few surprises, although it has one big caveat.

Even though he’s listed as the No. 1 tight end, rookie Jermaine Gresham is going to get moved to the back of the depth chart because he’s not here. Whether that means he’ll get moved back to No. 1 when he ends his holdout (now in its seventh practice) is anyone’s guess. 

Released as the Bengals took the field for the first of two practices Monday, the depth chart also showed injured wide receiver Antonio Bryant (knee) ahead of Terrell Owens in the spot opposite Chad Ochocinco. Bryant didn’t practice again Monday morning and has missed six straight, but he remains No. 1 because if he was healthy he’d be the starter. 

Andre Caldwell is listed as the third receiver behind Bryant and Owens, and Jerome Simpson is backing up The Ocho followed by Matt Jones. Third running back Brian Leonard is also listed as the backup fullback.

On defense, Adam Jones backs up Johnathan Joseph at left cornerback and on the right Morgan Trent is behind Leon Hall.  Rookie Brandon Ghee and David Jones are behind them. Converted defensive end Michael Johnson is backing up Rey Maualuga at SAM linebacker.

 Mike Nugent is ahead of Dave Rayner at kicker.


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