NFL Wire News

Veteran coach Saunders in camp with Bengals


The Sports Xchange

CINCINNATI — Longtime NFL offensive assistant Al Saunders, who had an unsuccessful two-plus-year stint (17-22) as head coach of the San Diego Chargers from 1986-88, is spending training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals as a senior offensive assistant.

Saunders, 68, was receivers coach for the St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” teams in 1999-2000 and since then has coached with the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders. He was an assistant on Don Coryell’s staff in San Diego and became head coach in 1986 when Coryell resigned after eight games.

Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and Saunders coached together in Baltimore, and when Jackson was the Raiders’ head coach in 2011, Saunders was his offensive coordinator. He stayed with the Raiders through last season as a senior offensive assistant, but wasn’t brought back when Jack Del Rio was named head coach.

“He’s a guy who I know will give me an honest evaluation, next to our owner and head coach, about how this offense is,” Jackson told the team website. “When somebody knows you and what you’re trying to accomplish, it always makes it a little bit easier.

“I’m excited about it. He’s got a tremendous football mind and he’s a tremendous football coach. Jon Hayes and Ken Zampese; he knows a lot of people here.”

Zampese, the Bengals’ quarterbacks coach, was with the Rams during Saunders’ tenure there. Hayes, Cincinnati’s tight ends coach, played for the Chiefs under Saunders.

Hayes said, “Al Saunders has forgotten more football than most people know.”

Saunders is a fitness freak, and has always been known as a coach that races down the field in practice to congratulate receivers after big plays. He has run 25 marathons, although those are off his plate now at his age.

“I still run, but I don’t put in the marathon training,” he said. “I’m back in the pool now.”

Still, he has made a quick impression on the team’s receivers with his energy and knowledge.

Said wide receiver A.J. Green, “I love him. He’s so energetic. He’s running down the field giving me the high five every time I catch the ball. He’s been around the league a long time. He knows a lot. I was talking to him the whole day. He’s real hands-on. Having him and Urb (receivers coach James Urban) in my ear is really going to help me.

“Al Saunders told me the Hall of Famers always need something to work on. I’m just trying to do better on my releases. If I take five to 10 minutes every day to get better at one little thing this whole year, I’ll be fine.”

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