- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2006

Cincinnati might be the NFL’s scariest team, on and off the field. Last week, the Bengals overcame three turnovers, six sacks and Pittsburgh’s 170 rushing yards to outlast the defending champion Steelers 28-20 on the road in payback for January’s first-round playoff loss in Cincinnati.

After that game, coach Bill Cowher and his Steelers mocked out the Bengals’ rags-to-riches “Who-dey?” cheer. Cowher later apologized, but his former assistant, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, showed the video of Cowher to his players last week.

Receiver Chad Johnson, who probably leads the league in trash-talking and called out several Patriots in advance of Sunday’s visit by 2-1 New England, laughably termed Cowher “very rude,” but it’s the 3-0 Bengals who are treating foes and the law rudely. Cincinnati, which led the league with 44 takeaways last year, is tied for the lead with 11 so far. Only San Diego, Indianapolis and Philadelphia are averaging more points than the Bengals (28.3). And of course, they’re one of just six undefeated teams.

Lewis downplayed the significance of the victory in Pittsburgh, knowing it was his team’s third such triumph in four years. The Bengals have bigger goals than just another AFC North title.

The coach maintained that there has been “no carryover on the field” from the multiple off-field incidents, but in January he apologized to Cincinnati fans for a “dark cloud [that] has tried to drop on our franchise.”

And that was before the following: Receiver Chris Henry was arrested on gun charges and then twice on alcohol-related charges; the Bengals drafted three players with histories of either sexual misconduct charges or substance abuse violations; linebacker A.J. Nicholson was charged with burglary and grand theft; defensive end Frostee Rucker was charged with vandalism and spousal battery; defensive tackle Matthias Askew was charged with resisting arrest; guard Eric Steinbach was arrested for driving under the influence and linebacker Odell Thurman, already serving a four-game NFL substance abuse suspension, was arrested for drunken driving.

“They have a responsibility to act as good people and good citizens,” Lewis said. “[But] this has [involved] very peripheral people. It doesn’t affect the core of our team.”

Amazing how Henry, who has 11 catches and two touchdowns, and Steinbach and Thurman, both starters last year, are “peripheral people.” All of the troubled players were drafted by Lewis.

The final incident involving Thurman happened on Monday, five days after new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with the Bengals.

“I was very direct with the players about their responsibility in their community … and how important they are in setting a positive tone,” Goodell said. “I think they understood the message.”

Henry, who has pleaded guilty to marijuana possession and a concealed weapons charge, said he got the message.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about how lucky I am and how many people would love to be in my shoes,” Henry said.

Not the same athlete — Wondering if Miami quarterback Daunte Culpepper is fully recovered from the major knee surgery that ended his 2005 season in October? Culpepper, who averaged 465 rushing yards and 5.5 a carry in his five full seasons before the injury, has 20 yards on 10 carries. He has been sacked 15 times in three games.

“Coming off a serious injury like that, I can’t be as mobile, but everything else is fine,” Culpepper said. “Whether I have to move a little bit or just sit in the pocket and get the ball out of my hands quicker, I have to do that. I still have the same arm.”

Flippin’ mad — Kansas City general manager Carl Peterson has lobbied without success for years to change the overtime rule so both teams get at least one possession. So when Denver got the ball first and scored to beat the Chiefs 9-6 in overtime in Week 2, Peterson was angry.

“Maybe we get the ball and we don’t score, but it’s just not right for these games to come down to a coin flip,” Peterson said.



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