The death of an all-star game and Bengals mandatory minicamp

We open with a quick repost/recap of an old all-star game dying. Looking for a positive with Rey Maualuga. And more.

When it was a game.

[Note: A revised posting from 2011]

For 40 years starting in 1934, the National Football League Champions faced a team of college All-Star seniors from the previous season during an exhibition game called the Chicago College All-Star Game. As one can only imagine, the NFL champions routinely beat the College All-Stars, who only won nine of the 42 contests. Former Bengals quarterback Greg Cook was awarded the MVP for the College All-Stars in 1969 (note: The MVP award was only awarded to the College All-Stars).

In 1976 the Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl X Champions, were beating the College All-Stars 24-0 with 1:22 left in the third quarter when the game was delayed after a torrential rainstorm hit Soldier Field. Thousands among the 52,895 at the game poured onto the field and pulled down the goalposts. The game was called after ushers and police were unable to clear the field.

This would be the last time the midsummer game would be played when Chicago Tribute Charities, Inc. discontinued sponsorship of the event because of "increasing expenses reflected in insurance costs" that doubled because of "high player salaries."

"The College All-Star game played a major role in promoting the growth of the National Football League," Commissioner Pete Rozelle commented. "I regret it is no longer practical economically for Chicago Tribute Charities to sponsor it."

The game raised nearly $4 million for charity dating back 1934 when it was created by Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribute.

***

Looking for a positive spin on Rey Maualuga.

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December 2, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga (58) after a 20-13 win against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

There's considerable, and understandable concern with Rey Maualuga returning; a storyline promised into the regular season this year. Expectations, while low, should apply a revised filter.

Maualuga is not a three-down linebacker. We've learned that. Keeping him in coverage during obvious passing downs becomes a liability. This isn't a tearing down of Maualuga, rather a more common limitation around the NFL. Three-down backers are not common. One either covers well, or plays the run well. Those that do everything well... well, those are the birds that most fans covet.

Cincinnati doesn't have that.

Vontaze Burfict played as well as any rookie linebacker could, leading the team with 174 tackles. However, he was a rookie and there were plays and periodic outbursts that accentuated that (we're hoping to do a more detailed analysis of Burfict next week). Emmanuel Lamur, who appears to be the next golden child of young linebackers, figures to play a significant role in 2013, possibly as a full-time nickel linebacker during "obvious" situations.

Maybe he'll be joined by James Harrison, possibly Burfict. Maybe it'll be Harrison and Burfict in nickel. Endless possibilities, but only because Cincinnati's linebackers isn't a position filled with "all-around" guys, qualities suited for specific roles.

Now some would argue Maualuga isn't particularly good at either. Maybe. There's no doubt that he's had his moments. Cincinnati's coaches say that his confidence is shot and the thought of failure, along with previous failures, tends to hold him back. Reviewing last year's games using NFL.com's excellent NFL Rewind service, it's evident. A step slow towards the point of attack, not willing to commit with his natural abilities.

And maybe Maualuga is absorbing these experiences to relay a positive outcome. Knowing now what he needs to overcome, returning to the reckless machine that fans craved in 2010 after Dhani Jones' retirement, supplemented by a revised expectation of taking less responsibilities, could finally give a positive spin on the Maualuga saga.

Or not.

***

Mandatory camp schedule.

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Jul 31, 2011; Georgetown, KY, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith (71) warms up during training camp at Georgetown College. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals will conclude their final voluntary practice of the offseason on Thursday, take the weekend off (per specific CBA rules regarding offseason training sessions) and then kick off a three-day mandatory camp next week. Here's that schedule -- so make sure you plan your day to hang out on twitter to get updates during and after. We're that mindbogglingly obsessive.

Tuesday, June 11: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesday, June 12: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Thursday, June 13: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

A couple of thoughts.

Will Andre Smith make his offseason debut next week? It's mandatory, sure. But the biggest consequence for missing next week is a coach's doghouse accompanied with a fine -- both of which are easily recoverable for Smith.

Voluntary workouts are voluntary, hence the name. But even with injured players hanging out at Paul Brown Stadium, watching the practices, it's clear that camaraderie and hunger drives the heart of this organization today. Internally, that's not as a fan; rather an observer and writer for the past ten years, covering the Bengals.

And yes. Smith's history with weight issues and conditioning are at the forefront of concern from most fans, including myself. Rock us to sleep, Lewis will. It's a non-issue, he reiterates. They created a name for coaches trying to deflect potential storylines. Coaches speak.

On the other hand, it's also important that he gets his life in order. If given the choice, you'd rather have that happen now and not in the form of poor performances due to a personal distraction. Until then, some of will worry about what we think we know based on observations while others clap their hands behind faith confident that everything will be alright. Wasn't that the foundation of the first couple of seasons of Lost?

***

Bengals visit with the Reds on Wednesday.

Apparently Brandon Phillips goes to every Bengals game during the offseason, Geno Atkins can't swing a bat because "it's too light", and J.K. Schaffer crushed a batting practice fastball over the fence. Those were the stories being told from Great American Ball Park when Marvin Lewis brought his players to check out the Reds and Rockies Wednesday night.

The Bengals official twitter account sent out a few pictures.

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Brandon Phillips showing Andy Dalton, who appears to be day-dreaming in a completely different world, how to hit.

+ The Cincinnati Bengals will host the Pittsburgh Steelers during ESPN's Monday Night Football on September 16 this year. You're thinking, "oh noes, I have no ESPN."

Care not my penny-pinching friend. Channel 5 (WLWT) recently signed a three-year agreement with ESPN to carry any Bengals game on the national sports channel -- including the game against Pittsburgh.

WLWT will also host a pregame show called "Ready to Roar Live Kickoff Special" and conclude with a live-post game show.

+ We've evolved over the years, but often appealing to your advice. So my question to you is: Would you prefer every little bit of information posted to swim at you like a piranha with purpose? Or a single morning posting like this one that culminates the minor stories that you might otherwise shrug your shoulders? Your soap box is ready. Proceed.

+ The Pittsburgh Steelers announced on Wednesday that Ben Roethlisberger underwent minor surgery on his right knee, due to "slight discomfort this offseason." He's expected to be ready by training camp.

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