Former Bengals QB Ken Anderson's back surgery doesn't stop him from cheering for current team

Anderson was 1981 NFL MVP
Ken smile.png
Posted at 11:03 AM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 11:19:02-05

CINCINNATI — Former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson is leaving nothing to chance when he watches his former team play at Kansas City Sunday afternoon in the AFC championship.

"I'm going to be in the exact same chair wearing the exact same clothes I did for the last (game)," Anderson said with a smile. "I'm not changing a doggone thing for this. It's going to be a good one."

Anderson, who played at 16 years of his career for the Bengals from 1971 to 1986, was the NFL MVP in 1981 and led Cincinnati to its first Super Bowl appearance in 1982. He was inducted into the Bengals' Ring of Honor this past September.

The Hilton Head, S.C. resident is visiting family in Fort Wright this month and is recovering from back surgery last week.

"I'm supposed to take it easy," Anderson said. "I think I might have to go in for more surgery this week after jumping around with the excitement of that game (last week). So I hope it calms down a little bit because they are driving me crazy making games close like that."

Anderson, 72, has plenty of admiration for this year's Bengals team as the franchise prepares to play in its first AFC championship game since 1989 and its third overall in team history.

"Cincinnati has a tradition, a good tradition, a winning tradition in football," said Anderson, a four-time Pro Bowl selection. "And I think a lot of people had forgotten that. So to see this team come up not being burdened by the past, setting their own future and playing well, and now all of a sudden people are taking notice of Cincinnati and how a good football team we are. That makes me feel good."

History has been rewritten this month. Cincinnati's postseason journey this season includes its first playoff win in 31 years and the first road playoff victory in franchise history.

Those milestones have meant a great deal to Anderson, who was drafted just a few years after the Bengals started as an expansion team in 1968.

"A lot of people who have been in Cincinnati for a while may be more excited than the football team is," Anderson said.

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Former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson led Cincinnati to its first AFC title in January 1982 during the Freezer Bowl against the San Diego Chargers at Riverfront Stadium.

Who could blame Anderson for the euphoria? Forty years ago he was the quarterback of a close-knit team whose confidence grew during the season to help it reach the Super Bowl at the Pontiac Silverdome.

While Arrowhead Stadium won't be the "Freezer Bowl" conditions of the 1981 AFC championship game, there are some similarities to this year's Bengals with second-year quarterback Joe Burrow and the confidence he exudes.

"You see him smoking the cigar and doing the little dance after they clinched the division and after they won the first playoff game," Anderson said.

"'Hey Joe, are you smoking a cigar?' 'No, there's nothing to celebrate. We got another game that we got to play. We expected to win this game. This is not a celebration point yet. We've got more to go.' So these guys - their heads are screwed on right."

Anderson isn't getting ahead of himself either. There has been a lot speculation in recent years on whether he will get the call to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former Bengals kicker Jim Breech - the team's all-time leading scorer - believes Anderson and the late Bengals cornerback Ken Riley should be in the Hall.

Breech said the national spotlight on the Bengals this postseason can't hurt Anderson's case.

"He was so good," Breech said of Anderson's 1981 season. "He had an unbelievable year."

Anderson said he isn't sure what the future holds for a possible induction.

"For some reason quarterback seems to be the only position on the field that they judge by whether you won a championship or not," Anderson said. "So I think that hurts me a little bit. But, like I say, I'm in my high school hall of fame, college hall of fame and I'm in the Bengals' Ring of Honor - I'm pretty proud of those three."

He said if it happens he hopes it sooner rather than later so he could enjoy the annual festivities in Canton.

"I don't want to go up (on the Hall of Fame stage) on a walker. I want to be able to enjoy it. Go back every year, enjoy the festivities, go to the golf tournaments, go to the game, be a part of it. So if you don't do it soon, then who cares?"

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