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Behind The Number 88: A Number Fit For Special Teams Players In Bengals History

While the Bengals sixth round pick, Stanford wide receiver Ryan Whalen, isn't expected to be a game-changer, or redefine the history of the team's best receivers, he will wear a number that's heavy in special teams tradition; the unit that Whalen is expected to play for.

Lemar Parrish is considered one of the top punt returners in franchise history. Throughout the franchise's records, you see Parrish's name on virtually every punt return record. He's the only Bengals player to record two punt returns for a touchdown in the same game. His four touchdowns fall one short of Ken Riley's record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown. And Parrish played seven fewer seasons than Riley. Parrish's name shows up on such things like total punt returns and punt return yards and average yards per return. But he's doesn't own those records; simply listed as the second best at that respective category.

The man ahead of Parrish?

Wide receiver Mike Martin, who played for the Bengals from 1983-1989.

An eighth round pick selected 221st overall in the 1983 NFL Draft, Martin, while wearing No. 88, holds the all-time record for most punt returns (140) in a career, most punt return yards (1,381) and highest career average yard/punt return (9.9). An example of Martin that younger fans can relate to? Think of an 80s version of Quan Cosby, only much better. A life-long returner that plays wide receiver only when the other active receivers above him on the depth chart can't fill out certain formations. The only place that Martin lacked, being supplanted by Lemar Parrish in the debate for greatest punt returner is touchdowns scored. Martin never thrilled crowds with one on special teams. Not as a punt returner or on kickoff returns. He did post six touchdowns on offense during the final three seasons of his career however.

During the 1987 regular season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, a fight broke out after Indianapolis' Dave Ahrens tackle on Bengals running back James Brooks on the first play of the fourth quarter. Cincinnati's Larry Kinnebrew and Indianapolis' Cliff Odom were ejected once the brew ha-ha was settled.

The game soon resumed and five players later, Boomer Esiason hit Martin for a 20-yard gain to the Colts one-yard line. While they were unable to get the touchdown, Jim Breech kicked a 20-yard touchdown that would be all the difference Cincinnati needed for a win. On the following possession, safety David Fulcher picked off a Jack Trudeau pass that led to a James Brooks one-yard touchdown, giving the Bengals a 23-14 lead. Robert Jackson picked off two pass that game, including one towards the end of the fourth quarter that sealed a 23-21 (uncomfortably close) Bengals win when the Colts were driving.

Another player deep in special teams tradition that sported No. 88 is tight end Bruce Coslet, who spent his entire playing career with the Cincinnati Bengals from 1969-1976. Mostly as a backup to Bob Trumpy, who is unquestionably the franchise's best tight end all-time, Coslet spent a majority of his time as a special teamer, eventually becoming the team's special teams captain for six consecutive seasons.

Coslet would later become the Bengals offensive coordinator during one of team's most productive offenses from 1986-1989, ranked in the top five during all four seasons -- twice being the NFL's first ranked offense, including the Bengals Super Bowl XXIII team that averaged 28.0 points/game. After the 1989 season, Closet took the New York Jets head coaching job, posting a 26-38 record during his four-year stay.

After the 1993 season, Coslet returned to Cincinnati as the team's offensive coordinator from 1994 until midway through the 1996 season where he took over for Dave Shula and actually put together a 7-2 record during the final nine games that season. Closet would remain as the Bengals head coach through the first three games in 2000, compiling a 21-39 record as the franchise's head coach.

Third round selection Dontay Moch selected No. 52. We wondered if No. 14 should be retired, Clint Boling can carry the tradition of good offensive guards wearing No. 65. Safety Robert Sands could bring No. 49 into his own image -- if he bothers to keep the number; reportedly he didn't pick it and plans to change it.