Chick Ludwig
Chick Ludwig

For the past 30 years, Chick Ludwig has been one of the Miami Valley’s most popular sports columnists, the past twelve as the Bengals beat writer for the Dayton Daily News. He retired from the DDN in October of 2009, and currently writes a weekly Bengals blog for the Cincinnati Enquirer and is the Bengals correspondent for the The Sporting News. A former voting member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, Ludwig is a journalism graduate of Ohio State University.

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After one of the most disappointing, frustrating, mystifying and crushing losses in Cincinnati Bengals history — a lopsided 24-3 home loss to the Cleveland Browns — “The Chickster” takes a turn tackling your questions (and observations) as the Bengals prepare to invade New Orleans.

From Martin Hunter: “Press Pros has recently published some very fine articles relative to safety in football, and the limit to which the human body can stand. Are the Bengals’ injury issues, at football’s highest level, proof that even the biggest, strongest and best football players in the world can only take so much?”

MARTIN: Truer words have never been spoken or written. Sadly and unfortunately, injuries are a part, a very critical part, of the NFL and all sports. The NFL has tweaked and changed rules designed to enhance player safety. But the truth is: When two big, strong, fast, highly-conditioned, helmeted athletes collide — no matter the amount of padding — bones break, limbs snap, ligaments tear and muscles stretch past their design specs. That’s why I admire and respect every athlete who has ever suited up on a football field. It takes courage to be a gladiator in a collision sport.

From Gerry: “I’d like to know why the Bengals did not fine or suspend Vontaze Burfict for his obvious dirty play in the Carolina game. Was that not an embarrassment to the organization, or does anyone care about things like that in professional football?”

GERRY: Teams fine players for various things — like an unexcused absence or being late for a meeting — but any on-field indiscretions are left in the hands of the league office. That’s what happened in Burfict’s case. He was fined $25,000 for twisting the ankles of both quarterback Cam Newton and tight end Greg Olsen during the Bengals’ 37-37 tie with the Carolina Panthers. You can rest assured the league will keep a close eye on Burfict — he’s missed two straight games after having his left knee scoped — and a suspension could be in his future if his aggressiveness goes over the top. But why would the Bengals suspend him? He’s their best defensive player. His actions were not an embarrassment to the franchise. Losing 24-3 to the Cleveland Browns on national TV is an embarrassment. On a side note, 25K is a lot of money, but it’s less than the $30,000 Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was fined for dunking over the crossbar goalposts in the preseason. Go figure.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…Comcast SportsNet Washington (CSNWashington.com) unveiled its 2014 NFL Uniform Power Rankings and the Bengals finished 30th, just ahead of Jacksonville (31) and Tampa Bay (32).

From David Waller: “The Bengals’ uniforms are among the most hideous in pro football. But I’d like to know who determines which bad uniform they wear on a given Sunday?”

DAVID: In 2004 — Marvin Lewis’ second season as head coach — the Bengals made their first significant uniform change since 1981. The signature striped helmet was not changed (and I’m told it never will be changed), but the jersey design was modernized, black pants were added as a regular option to white pants, and a special-occasion orange jersey was added for up to two games per year. Home teams select their uniforms on a given Sunday and visitors adjust. All I can add, David, is that you’re not alone in your views about the Bengals uniforms. Comcast SportsNet Washington (CSNWashington.com) unveiled its 2014 NFL Uniform Power Rankings and the Bengals finished 30th, just ahead of Jacksonville (31) and Tampa Bay (32). “Unfortunately, the stripes (on the helmets) have also made their way down on the shoulder pads and pants, too,” writes Peter Hailey. “Maybe Jay Gruden left Cincy because he couldn’t stand this clownish look any longer.” Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

From Joe Goldschmidt: “Can you explain what the PUP list is all about?” And why can’t a player come back and play in the same season if he’s well enough?”

JOE: Injured players can come back and play in the same season, but rules must be followed. All players get physical exams upon arrival at training camp. If they fail the physical, they get placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. As soon as they pass the exam, they return to practice and they’re off the PUP list. On “Cutdown Day” when rosters are reduced to 53, if the player is still injured, he gets placed on the Reserve/PUP list. He remains with the team for rehab and meetings, but may not practice for Weeks 1-6 of the regular season. Beginning the week following Week 6, he begins a three-week window of eligibility to return to practice under a roster exemption, if medically cleared. After the three-week window, teams must make one of three moves regarding the player — activate him to the 53-man roster; place him on Injured Reserve, ending his season; or release him.

From Matt: “Do you consider the Bengals to be a mediocre football team, or is the league mediocre, considering there are 25 others just like them in the National Football League?”

MATT: With two wins over the talented Baltimore Ravens, I considered the Bengals a very good team until they got humiliated by the Cleveland Browns, 24-3, on Thursday Night Football. Quarterback Andy Dalton was, in a word, awful. He needs to get his confidence back because the Bengals (5-3-1) hit the road for three straight games — at New Orleans, Houston and Tampa Bay. Five of their final seven games are on the road and their two home games are against Pittsburgh and Denver. It’s going to be difficult to reach the magic number of 10 victories. I see the Bengals finishing 9-6-1 with their playoff hopes in jeopardy.

From Joe B: ” (Press Pros) recently wrote that the Denver Broncos are the most over-hyped team in football. Where would the Bengals rank on that list?”

JOE: The Bengals deserve to be the least-hyped team in the league because they haven’t won a playoff game since Jan. 6, 1991 — the longest current postseason victory drought in the NFL. Marvin Lewis earned a Super Bowl ring as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens. His playoff record as Cincinnati’s head coach: 0-5. Dalton’s playoff record: 0-3. The Bengals got tons of love after their 3-0 start, but two of the early victories came against Atlanta and Tennessee. And they still haven’t proven they can win when the lights come on. In big games, they play small.

The Keyhole, in Newport, is proud to sponsor coverage of the MAC athletic conference on Press Pros.

From Corey: “The Browns and Bengals used to be a big rivalry, but I don’t hear much about it anymore. Why?”

COREY: Generations of fans don’t realize just how good these two franchises once were and how intense the “Battle of Ohio” once was. The Bengals were awesome in the 1980s, reaching the Super Bowl twice (after the 1981 and 1988 seasons) only to lose both times to the San Francisco 49ers. The Browns were a dynasty in the 1950s and 1960s, last winning the NFL championship in 1964. They were denied AFC titles and Super Bowl bids following the 1986 and 1987 seasons by the Denver Broncos in a pair of memorable games known as “The Drive” and “The Fumble.” The “Battle of Ohio” rivalry was especially intense when club owners Paul Brown (Bengals) and Art Modell (Browns) were alive. That’s because Modell fired Brown as Cleveland’s head coach after the 1962 season. The rivalry will heat up again as soon as both teams become consistent winners.

From Tim: “Andre Smith is the most out-of-shape human being in the world playing football. Why to the Bengals allow him to look that way?”

TIM: Smith is a big man — 6 feet, 4 inches and 340 pounds. He’s not the first NFL player to have a stomach that resembles a sack of flour bulging from a cupboard. Teams don’t care what players look like. They care about how they play. Smith was a shutdown left offensive tackle at Alabama. He’s more suited for right tackle with the Bengals because he’s a road-grading run blocker and solid pass protector. He sat out the Cleveland game after suffering an ankle injury Week 9 against the Jaguars. Marshall Newhouse replaced Smith opposite left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and Newhouse has struggled mightily. The Bengals desperately need a healthy Smith for the season’s stretch run.

(Chick Ludwig hosts the “Monday Morning Quarterback Show” on Mondays from 6-9 a.m. on Cincinnati’s Fox Sports 1360 (WSAI-AM). Follow Ludwig on Twitter @ChickLudwig)

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