Cincinnati Bengals' Family Dynamic Helps Overcome Adversity

NICI RUFFINContributor IJanuary 19, 2010

CINCINNATI - DECEMBER 27: Chad Ochocinco  #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates his touchdown catch by holding up the number 15 in memory of Chris Henry against the Kansas City Chiefs in their NFL game at Paul Brown Stadium December 27, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.    (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
John Sommers II/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals were established in 1968. Since then the Bengals have grown into a very established and respected franchise. Growing up in Cincinnati, I was raised in a Bengals household. Win or lose we stood by our Bengals. We supported them and they went out there each game and gave us their all in return week after week.

The Bengals are an extension of our family and the Bengals themselves are a family as well. Just like a typical family the Bengals have faced a lot of adversity recently and together they made it through still standing.

Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals?! Well in the 2008 season eleven teams thought they could and did. The first eight teams that the Bengals played ended in losses. The Bengals struggled to form a winning team. During that season the Bengals only won four games and they tied one game.

People started to question the coaching abilities of Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Bengal Nation began to lose hope in the Bengals. But the Bengals 2009 season was a complete change for this great team. They went 10-6 and no one questioned the coaching ability of Marvin Lewis or his coaching staff.

The Bengals had one of the toughest defenses in the league and Carson Palmer made some amazing plays. The Bengals banned together and were the AFC North Champions.

In the beginning of the Bengals 2009 season they were still faced with adversity when their leading rusher, Cedric Benson injured his hip against the Steelers. Bengal Nation was shocked and stunned because Benson was an essential asset to the Bengal offense.

But to everyone’s surprise the rookie from Abilene Christian University, Bernard Scott, came in and performed just as well as Benson did. When the Bengals thought they would be down and out with Benson’s injury, Bernard stepped up and not only performed but performed big!

The Bengals seemed to be able to overcome anything that was thrown at them on the field. The next tragedy that the Bengals had to go through came in October and it was an off the field heartbreak. Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer’s wife suddenly passed away from natural causes. Mike and Vikki were married for 27 years and they have three beautiful children together.

The Bengals family was very supportive to the Zimmer family and Mike returned the support to them when he decided to coach the game that same week that put the Bengals in the No. 1 seed in the AFC North.

The Bengals dedicated that game to Vikki Zimmer and Mike’s defensive line could not have played any better. This was one the most emotional wins the Bengals had received and Mike Zimmer knew that he had so much support from his Bengal family.

Christopher “Slim” Henry joined the Bengals family in 2005. His talent on the field was undeniable and he was a terror to the defense of any opposing team. It seemed like no matter where the ball was thrown Chris Henry could and would catch it. Slim was very important to the Bengals offense but off the field trouble just seemed to follow him.

He got charges for possession of marijuana, DUI, criminal damages, and assault. Almost all of these charges were dropped but none the less it certainly tainted the image of this great player. Often times I think people forget how easy it is for young people to slip up.

Just because you give these young people money and a career does not automatically make them model citizens. There are plenty of young people who are not millionaires that have the same slip ups that Chris had but because he is in the public eye his reputation was ruined. The Bengals had frankly had enough of his behavior so they released him in April 2008.

Slim was re-signed in August of 2008. During the break that he had when he was released Chris had to take that time to overcome all the trouble that he had gotten into. He took this time to get his life back in line and once again performed big when the Bengals needed him to on the field in the 2008 season.

He started off really well in the 2009 season on and off the field. Unfortunately, in November he suffered a broken forearm that put him on the injured reserve list.

On December 16, 2009 the Bengal family suffered yet another unspeakable tragedy when Chris Henry fell from the back of a pickup truck. The team made statements Praying and hoping for the return of their teammate but tragically on December 17 Chris passed away.

This came so suddenly and so unexpected that the Bengals were speechless. Bengal Nation out poured prayers, their sympathy and even flowers to their beloved Bengals. There were many tearful interviews and the loss of Chris was a great blow to the Bengal family.

They still stood together and went out and played their best against the Oakland Raiders but they lost that game. But we all know that Slim was there with his team in spirit cheering them on. 

This past season for the Bengals was a tough one in more ways than one with injuries and losses but overall they overcame it on top. The Bengals were the AFC North Champions, they made it to the playoffs, Chad Ochocinco will be in the Pro Bowl, Marvin Lewis won the AFC coach of the year, and Mike Zimmer resigned to come back as the Defensive Coordinator for the Bengals.

But most importantly after this 2009 season the Bengals have grown closer as a family.

Even though the Bengals did not go all the way to the Super Bowl this season, overcoming, and banning together to support one another like a family through the loss of a teammate, a family member and taking on adversity head-on was more rewarding than any championship trophy.