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STARTING OVER (Article on Willie Anderson)

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[quote][size=5][b]STARTING OVER[/b][/size]
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Sports Reporter

For a while, it seemed as though Willie Anderson might be leading a charmed life.

As he broke the decade mark of service in the NFL, the former Vigor High and Auburn star was enjoying the best years of his career, making the Pro Bowl four years in a row from 2003-06. At an age at which other offensive linemen start wearing down, Anderson was in his prime.

Now, after missing nine games in the 2007 season with the Cincinnati Bengals, Anderson is looking forward to proving his prime isn't past.

"I've always had to prove myself at every level and right now's no different," said Anderson, a 6-foot-5, 340-pound mountain whose string of 116 straight starts was snapped five games into the 2007 season by knee and heel injuries. "I know when playing time comes, my play will speak for itself."

Anderson, who is in town this weekend conducting his football camp at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, will enter his 13th NFL season slotted at No. 2 on the Bengals' depth chart at right tackle behind fifth-year pro Stacy Andrews, who stepped in last year when Anderson was hurt and has been designated the team's franchise player. While some Pro Bowl-caliber players would take such a demotion as a slap in the face, Anderson sees no reason to take offense. He's healthy again and he's ready to win his job back.

"I really don't see myself being No. 2 the whole time," he said. "They want a guy to be in front of me to see if I'm going to hold up. But my teammates know and I know I'm still the best offensive lineman on the team. It's just me being able to prove to them that I can hold up in practice, that I can come off the injury last year. It's just me showing them in training camp: Hey, I'm back to my old self.

"I can't be mad. I'll only get mad if I'm not given the opportunity to show that I still am an All-Pro football player," he added. "At some point in the season, I'm going to be in the starting lineup. That's how I feel about it."

Anderson is not ignorant of the economics of the NFL, however. He will be 33 years old this year and he's scheduled to make $3.15 million for the 2008 season. He knows that in a league with a salary cap, there's always a chance a team will choose to dump the salary of a high-priced experienced player in favor of a younger, less expensive one.

But he remains confident he'll still be in Cincinnati this year. Even if he isn't, he figures he'd quickly be picked up by another team.

"I don't worry about it at this point in my career," he said. "I've been fortunate enough through the last 13 years to make it to my third contract and I know my salary is a high salary for a guy my age. Ownership wants me to be there and start; the coaches want to see physically if I'll hold up. As long as I have management on my side and (quarterback) Carson Palmer, I'll be OK.

"I want to play three or four more years. It's up to me now to convince the Bengals I can do that."

If Anderson stays in a Cincinnati uniform this year, he and his squad will have plenty of other questions to answer. Can the Bengals rebound from a 7-9 season? Will star receiver Chad Johnson's trade demands be a distraction? Can the team shed its reputation for off-the-field trouble?

Anderson believes a healthy lineup and the addition of new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer can get Cincinnati back to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The Johnson situation, he says, won't be a distraction unless it drags into the season — and he doesn't believe it will. "He loves football too much and he loves being competitive and showing people how good he is," Anderson said.

And Anderson believes it isn't a coincidence the Bengals have had more than their share of trouble with off-field issues like Chris Henry's repeated arrests and Odell Thurman's substance-abuse issues. Both players were eventually released as a result of behavior. In all, 11 Cincinnati players player have faced criminal charges in the last two years.

"You can't push under the rug and hide the fact that we're picking players that are getting in trouble like this," Anderson said. "I'm sure that now, after the last couple of years, (team officials) are looking at the evaluation process. They'll change that a little bit.

"These guys have blown opportunities," Anderson added of Henry and Thurman. "Both of them are very, very, very talented players. They're good at heart, but the surroundings they're in, the circumstances they've gone through in life, it's shaped them in a certain way. Instead of going straight, they veered off. And they got caught. And they're out of the league."

In addition to proper blocking technique, these are the lessons Anderson hopes to share in his football camp, which ends today. The event is only for linemen, a position he believes is often overlooked in summer camps, many of which are strictly for skill-position players.

"We're skill guys too, we're just big skill guys," he said. "If I can teach these kids some of the stuff we learned in college and in the pro game, these kids will be better players."

More than showing campers how to handle speed-rushing defensive ends, however, Anderson hopes to show them how to handle things like peer pressure. More than teaching the fundamentals of football, he wants to teach the fundamentals of life.

"It just may be one thing like watching who you hang out with," he said. "If you're the smartest person in your group, how's that going to help you? Get somebody around you who can help you succeed and get to the level you want to get to as well.

"It sounds corny now at 18 but when you're 22 in college — you look at how hard college is for a student-athlete — those basic fundamentals are what's going to get you throughout college and throughout life."[/quote]

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In life, there are givers and takers.Big Willie is a giver.He'll certainly get more out of life by helping others. Takers are all about me.After football they'll have a struggle with every day life. No need to mention names.
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[quote name='BlackJesus' post='674793' date='Jun 22 2008, 04:41 PM'][b]I wish we could teach Stacy Center.

Would be the most formidable OL ever assembled ![/b][/quote]

Alexander says he's too tall,BJ.Leverage etc.
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[quote name='BlackJesus' post='674793' date='Jun 22 2008, 05:41 PM'][b]I wish we could teach Stacy Center.

Would be the most formidable OL ever assembled ![/b][/quote]

Or develop Bobbie as a Center.
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I love big Willie. The man has always been a favorite of mine. Good person, great football player. I was glad when they signed him this last time, letting him retire a Bengal. His loyalty to franchise didn't go unnoticed. I just hope he comes back from this past year like the Willie of old.
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