As soon as I saw the article, I got excited. Willie Anderson is one of my favorite Bengals of all time. He served the Bengals and the city of Cincinnati proudly and was a beacon of light through many dark years. When the Bengals went to the post season in 2005, I felt that nobody on the team deserved it more than Anderson. I do whatever I can to support him, including eating my self into a moo moo at Fatburger, the burger joint in Oakley that Anderson owns. If you haven't been there, you should check it out.
Anyway, Willie says he's not just interested in being a player, he also feels like he has something to offer the younger players in the NFL.
"There is no manual for playing in the NFL, no book that explains to a young guy everything you're going to go through, all the ups and downs you'll experience in a career … and how to prepare for life [after football]," Anderson said over lunch after a workout. "I think someone who has been through it all, has seen all the sides on and off the field, has a better chance to [impart] all of those things. And I think that's basically a part of what I have to offer either as a player or as a former player. There's no [camouflaging] that I would like to play again. But if not, I feel I owe it to the game and to players to help them prepare for things."
At his age (34), Anderson would be a long shot to start for any team but the fact that a 13 year veteran with four Pro Bowl invites, three All-Pro citations and a stretch where he played 10 years while only missing two games would be backing up a young tackle could mean a lot. He would have a lot of wisdom to impart on somebody like.... say... Andre Smith.
"Wilie was always there for the younger guys, he was [selfless] with his time," said ex-Bengal and current Eagles tackle Stacy Andrews.
A return to the NFL wouldn't just be about mentoring young players for Anderson, he does want one thing for himself. The one thing he never got in his long career. A Super Bowl ring.
"When you're in your 20s, you think about the money and how much you can make … and it can be the most important thing for you," Anderson said. "And then when you get to be 30-something, you start thinking about the ring and what it would mean to win one. And, yeah, to be honest, it does kind of gnaw at me that, with everything else I accomplished, I don't have [a Super Bowl ring]."
Anderson had some interest from teams to play in 2009 but took the year off, feeling that he needed the rest to allow his body time to heal from 13 seasons of hitting and being hit in the AFC North trenches. Now he says his weight is down from 360 to a healthy 338 and he feels that his body is ready to play again.
I'm not saying that I expect the Bengals to take Anderson up on his offer. I'm just saying that it would be cool to have one of my favorite Bengals players of all time back in stripes where he belongs. It would be good for the offensive line, it would be good for the locker room and it would be good for the city of Cincinnati. I know that the chances of this happening are slim to none so I'm not going to be disappointed when it doesn't happen. I guess what I'm saying is I wish the best for Willie and I hope he gets that Super Bowl ring (with the rest of the Bengals team). There isn't a guy who deserves it more.
"I've seen and learned an awful lot," Anderson said. "If I could pass that knowledge on to people, on the field and off it, that would be great. I don't want to be a coach; that has never interested me. And I don't want to impose myself on people, because that isn't my nature. But I definitely feel I've got something to offer."