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Coming full circle: Impact of having Willie Anderson back with Bengals

Willie Anderson is making up for the way his career ended by passing on the torch to Cedric Ogbuehi as he gets ready for his first year as a starter at right tackle.

Cincinnati Bengals v Miami Dolphins Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Throughout the history of the Cincinnati Bengals, there are few players who have had a stronger impact on the team than Willie Anderson. To be fair, his impact and talent could seem a bit inflated given how bad the entire team was around him for most of his career. Now, he’s back in Cincinnati and helping out the offensive line in training camp, a welcomed addition to the coaching staff by everyone in Cincinnati.

“To see how talented this team is, it’s amazing,” Anderson said via the Dayton Daily News. “To be in a position to be around here and to see these guys able to win 10-plus games every year where it’s the norm, to where in the ’90s we struggled for a long time until Marvin (Lewis) got here and things changed around.”

Anderson isn’t kidding, the Bengals seriously struggled throughout much of his career in Cincinnati, a vast contrast to where things stand right now for a Bengals team that’s made it to the playoffs in six of the last seven years.

“The big thing Marvin and these guys have done, they've changed the culture to where we wanted to get it to," Anderson told ESPN’s Coley Harvey. "It's good to see it."

Once Lewis arrived in 2003, everything started to really change for the Bengals and Anderson in particular. Anderson was a productive player from 1996-2002, but, after 2003 he made the Pro Bowl every remaining year with the Bengals except for his final one in 2007 and was named a Second Team All-Pro in 2003 and First-Team All-Pro from 2004-2006.

“When I made the Pro Bowl the first year (2003), he knew how hard I wanted to make the Pro Bowl,” Anderson said of Mike Brown’s interest in his Pro Bowl bid. “I was scrambling trying to make it. We thought for the five previous years I should’ve made it. Three of those years I was the first alternate. Mr. Brown wrote me a letter, my first Pro Bowl. That meant so much to me, just reading that letter. I just remember it being so special.”

The way Anderson’s career with the Bengals ended was not exactly the most encouraging for the team or fans. Due to a contract dispute between he and the team prior to the 2008 season, the Bengals cut him. If that ending isn’t ugly enough already, he joined the rival Baltimore Ravens before the next season, starting 10 games and playing in one against the Bengals in a 34-3 blowout Baltimore victory, before retiring at the end of the season.

But, now Anderson is finally back with the Bengals and making things right. He’s coming in at the perfect time as the Bengals are preparing to work in a new right tackle who is entering his second season and first as a starter, with great expectations. In a way, it’s kind of like Anderson is passing the torch to Cedric Ogbuehi and finally bringing his career full circle. As with just about every other member of the Bengals’ staff who has said anything about Ogbuehi this offseason, Anderson already seems very impressed by the young player.

"He's stronger than I thought he was," Anderson told ESPN. "You see his body type. He's got very strong hands. Obviously a great athlete, great feet."

“I want to see him do more things,” Anderson told the Dayton Daily News. “I was talking to Carlos Dunlap this morning, he was asking me different moves that give tackles problems. That’s what I’m here for. He’s at that age.”

Coming full circle and helping develop younger players like Ogbuehi is generally the way things go on the Bengals’ offensive line, as evidenced by players like Rich Braham and even Andrew Whitworth getting ready to ‘pass the torch’ near the end of their illustrious playing careers.

“It’s always been that way in (Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander’s) room,” Anderson continued. “The older guys help the younger guys and eventually you help them to replace you. That’s the nature of the game.”

Unfortunately, the contract dispute at the end of Anderson’s playing days with the Bengals meant that his ‘full circle’ took much more time to complete. But, the fact that he’s back and making up for love lost by passing the torch on to Ogbuehi makes it all ok. It also gives him that much more reason to remember his NFL career fondly in Cincinnati.

"I'm in Atlanta and no one ever talks about the Bengals in Atlanta," Anderson said from inside the Bengals' locker room this week. "But when it comes on and they have national games and they're winning national games, you can brag a little bit."