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Now that we’ve had a few days to get over the hangover that was Sunday’s debacle at Cleveland, its time to recharge our batteries and focus on the only thing we can control: the next game.  As the Bengals prepare to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Paul Brown, here are a few of the storylines that were being followed this week: 

>Since the Bucs are this week’s opponent, inevitably Marvin Lewis was asked about the curious case of Dez Briscoe.  Briscoe, a sixth round pick of the Bengals, was expected to be signed to the practice squad after being one of the last cuts of training camp, but a funny thing happened on the way.  Tampa offered him a spot on their squad, and for more than the standard salary.  As a result, Dez jumped to Tampa and Marvin got miffed.  “When you overpay for a guy on the practice squad, you create a problem for teams,” Lewis said. “I don’t know that teams want to set that precedent, and they did with Dez.”  Briscoe understandably jumped to the Bucs since they were offering $245,000/year more, but Coach Lewis has a point.  While teams can offer to pay practice squad players anything they want, almost 100% of the time players get the $80,000 minimum.  The Bucs decided to give the kid the minimum salary of an active player, clearly reflecting their respect for his talents.  You can’t blame Briscoe for taking it.  However, the Bucs did go outside of the norm here and aren’t exactly making friends with the folks in Cincy.  Lest we forget, the winky pirates already plucked safety Corey Lynch and fullback Chris Pressley off the Bengals practice squad last year. 

Florio makes the claim that Marvin’s comments amount to an admission of collusion in the league, an assertion that seems plain stupid to me.  The Bucs chose to go rogue, and they had that right.  The fact that every team follows a similar practice as the Bengals does not mean collusion.  It simply means most teams feel a player who doesn’t make the final roster is only worth the minimum, and truth be told, most players happily accept it. Lewis didn’t state that they broke any unwritten or unspoken rule.  He just said that they are setting a precedent.  Changing norms and setting precedents happen all the time in the business world.  Its something that tends raise concerns for businesses.  Collusion? No.  There’s a distinction. 

>Browns safety T.J. Ward got fined 15 large for his vicious hit on the defenseless Jordan Shipley.  I mentioned earlier this week that I wasn’t sure if it was a cheap shot or not, and frankly I still don’t.  None the less, the guy had to expect to get a fine.  Former Director of Officiating Mike Periera says it was in fact a cheap shot, and Ward’s fine should have been higher.  Meanwhile Chinny won his appeal and won’t get fined for his hit on Browns TE Benjamin Watson. 

>Chad says he’s going to play into his 40’s, “Like Brett” (or Jerry Rice).  I actually think he can do it. Meanwhile, T.O.’s 222-yard effort last Sunday qualified him as a nominee for the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award.  Unfortunately he lost out to another initials guy, L.T. of the Jets, most likely since they actually won their game.

>No Blackout!  Sunday’s game is a sell-out, despite early concerns. The aforementioned Ocho helped the effort along with more of his now legendary generosity.  He offered to buy two tickets for the first 85 fans to buy two themselves.  Add that to his offers to buy dinner for 85 people regularly and Chad is truly a football philanthropist–or at least a really nice guy.  I hope he’s taking care of his money, because a few more of these and I’m sure he’ll have to play into his 40’s… 

>Andre Smith is apparently getting off his tubby arse and working to contribute.  According to Hobson, he’s ready to prove the “naysayers” wrong.  Great, dude.  Get in the game.  You were the sixth overall pick and you are not starting on a pretty subpar offensive line for cryin’ out loud.  We could use a little more Willie Anderson and a little less Stacy Andrews out of you, Moobs. 

>The Bengals aren’t the only team with some minor drama this week.  Former Buc runningback and current Texans back-up Derrick Ward.  Ward was quoted as saying some pretty nasty things about his time in Florida: 

Ward’s bitterness toward the Buccaneers revealed itself when he said the Texans are “a team that actually wants to block for their running backs, actually wants to win and doesn’t set their goals to a (lower) standard.” He even said he’s blocked out his time in Tampa.

 Nice.  Hopefully the Bucs still don’t want to win.

>And lastly, on the lighter side of the news, word came out this week that Shayne “Moonlight Shank” Graham tried out for the Patriots.  Oh, God, please, let the Pats sign him, and line up for a 32 yard field goal attempt to win the AFC Championship game in Cincinnati.  Please let all of Cincinnati rejoice for a change in this guy’s uncanny ability to choke on easy kicks.  If the Pats are smart, they’ll sign Shaun Suisham instead.

Stay tuned for our Bucs-Bengals preview tomorrow.

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