Bengals Links and Notes: On Hawkins Injury, The Pro Bowl, and the Bengals relationship with fans

We take a look at some specific issues that are facing the Bengals and the NFL.

When Cincinnati Bengals slot receiver Andrew Hawkins grabbed his ankle after laying out to make a diving reception Thursday evening, the pulse quickened and breathing became shallow. For a Cincinnati Bengals squad entering 2013 with expectations that aren't quite to the level of 2005 (but close), injuries are the menacing variable that can plunge expectations into a blender. The Bengals have already lost practice squad candidate Larry Black. Brandon Thompson is out for at least a week, probably more. Andrew Whitworth and A.J. Green won't play against the Atlanta Falcons, and the Bengals may take a far more conservative approach with both players.

There's an MRI scheduled for Hawkins' injury, who believes it's a high ankle sprain. However, there are varying degrees that can range from soreness to actual ligament damaged. Bengals center Kyle Cook was placed on Injured Reserve last season and if not for a late-changing league rule that allowed one player on I.R. to return, he would have missed the entire season.

Geoff Hobson with Bengals.com wrote on Thursday that "indications" are that "Hawkins won't be out more than two weeks."

Good news.

However, remember at the beginning that Cook's injury didn't have an alarming note either. Following the team's Thursday night game against the Green Bay Packers, Cook was placed in a protective boot, but showed up for work the following Monday "thinking he could practice." Tests that were taken over the weekend concerned the medical staff and Cook received bad news visiting with a foot specialist later that afternoon.

We're not suggesting pessimist expectations with Hawkins, but high ankle sprains are tricky injuries.

***

The NFL announced changes to the Pro Bowl, which eliminates the old AFC-NFC format. Now multiple people, from honorary captains, fantasy football winners, and leading vote-getters, will conduct a football draft until both teams are created.

Hey. At least it's change. And guaranteed that the interest on how this works will be extremely high. Though tradition is the foundation of any football fan, we like new things. On the other hand, we're still not sure how this addresses the overall criticisms of the Pro Bowl.

Here's how it is. Players aren't going to play hard during an exhibition game at the end of the season. An injury could significantly during a pointless contest could impact the following season and even, to some degree, a player's financial opportunities. Why would anyone risk that?

There is no fix to the Pro Bowl because nothing is broken. This is how it is and how it will be from now on. It's not like the "old era" when players weren't paid nearly as much, some even needing a summer job to get by.

It comes down to this: Don't like it, don't watch it. Or if the league still can't get around their issues with the Pro Bowl, then just hold an award's show and name the Pro Bowl players that year and call it a season. In any case, save for actually watching the game, what impact does this have on you as a fan? None.

***

Back for a moment on the expectations part mentioned earlier.

There were nearly 6,500 fans that turned out for Family Night on Thursday, which is an impressive number any way that you look at it. It's another effort by the Bengals to continue warming relations between the organization and its fans, who at one point felt like hostages to the franchise. Family Night was a wonderful effort by the Bengals to reach out to families, inviting young children who will have to wait before they can attend an NFL game. And if the kids were board with practice, the family could take part in array of activities.

Prior to training camp, Cincinnati held a pep rally with live music, introductions to the team, players and coaches talking, autographs from former players. And more activities for children. And for the second time in four years, the Bengals will take their road on the show to practice in the Miami Valley.

All of it... free.

And when it's not free, it's cheaper. Cincinnati has made multiple effort to reduce ticket costs in sections that makes going to a Bengals game more affordable.

Highlighted with Dan Wetzel enlightening article on Yahoo! Sports that talks about the philosophical change following the team's four-win season in 2010, this is a completely different organization compared to even five years ago.

Not only have the Bengals made substantial strides to repairing those relations with all of us, they've improved the product on the field with quality characters and people, surrounded by leaders like Andrew Whitworth. During Wetzel's interview with Lance McAlister on Sports Talk Thursday evening, Wetzel related a story how rookie Tyler Eifert is staying with Whitworth while the tight end's condo is being prepared (maybe built, I can't remember).

In the end, it's all about winning and losing. But the core philosophy of this organization has made enough strides that if Cincinnati faces a slump earlier during the season, a majority of the fans won't abandon this team.

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