The Bengals’ new quarterback Joe Burrow, center, joins the Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers teams during a unity statement as they sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” prior to the kickoff of the NFL football season at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday. Photo by Michael Mitchell
By Conrad Clowers
Cincinnati Herald Contributor
If 2020 hadn’t punched Cincinnati sports fans in the face with a big fist yet, it did this past Sunday.
Two things have taken center stage in 2020 worldwide. They are a once-in-one-hundred-years pandemic killing hundreds of thousands and still counting and age-old race relations.
Before the opening kickoff to the 2020 season for the new-look Cincinnati Bengals, the team was focused on making a statement. That statement was unity. The statement that no human is superior or inferior to his brother or sister was a strong message sent. All united as one.
That message was made clear as the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals joined arms to form one long line of unity as the song ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ was played. The message to end racism was clear. After the murder of George Floyd in late May and all that followed the NFL committed to doing what it could to bring awareness to the centuries old issue. Never before approved messages of awareness of the issue on player equipment was worn. The Bengals did their job of putting racists on notice they are doing their part to end the issue.
After the message was made clear, the long-awaited debut of the one player coming off the greatest season in college football history started. Joe Burrow got his first taste of what it will be like to play in the highest league featuring football, albeit in front of no fans.
As for the game, ehh. It finished in typical Bengal fashion. Cincinnati having a chance to tie or win and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The reason for hope is that of the 22 starters from last seasons team that went 2-14, about half are gone. Prize free agents and high college draft picks make up the other part of the new starters.
Defense has been a weakness for several years for the Bengals. The team went out and got not just new players, but difference makers. Bengal defense was actually the reason the game was kept close with the Chargers. New players Vonn Bell finished with four tackles and four assists, while prize new defensive lineman D.J Reader finished with one tackle and three assists in the 16-13 loss.
Offensively, all eyes were on Joe Burrow. Burrow had not been involved in a losing game all last season, as he went 15-0 and won a National Championship. Bengal Great A.J Green saw his first action in two years and played a pivotal roll in the game in catching five passes and recording 51 yards.
Cincinnati will try and get its first victory playing intrastate rival Cleveland on Thursday. Both teams are coming off a loss. Cleveland, who had high expectations last year, but underachieved. The team has a new coach and will look to make a statement.
The Bengals were successful in making a message off the field to try and end racism. Hopefully, Thursday they will make a statement on it.