Bengals unveil new uniforms

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 23, 2004

CINCINNATI - The striped helmets stay. Marvin Lewis isn't messing with those. But the Cincinnati Bengals are making other sartorial changes this season for only the second time in franchise history.

Fans who buy the expensive seats in Paul Brown Stadium got a look at the new uniforms Thursday in an invitation-only fashion show.

''We've been trying to get new uniforms ever since we opened up the stadium,'' said linebacker Brian Simmons, one of several players who modeled the new look.

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Combinations of predominantly black, white and orange jerseys and black and white pants give the Bengals six uniform options, all with black shoes.

''It's important that we kept the tradition of the stripes and colors,'' Lewis said. He said the new uniforms give a feel of ''energy, movement and speed.''

When the Bengals took the field for the first time in 1968, they wore uniforms similar to the ones worn by the Cleveland Browns when Bengals founder Paul Brown coached there. The main difference in the orange helmets was that Cincinnati's had ''Bengals'' stenciled on the sides.

When the team made a radical change before the 1981 season, going for striped helmets and pants, players joked that they would have to play well so opponents wouldn't poke fun at the new, gaudy design.

They made it to the Super Bowl that season, losing to San Francisco.

Only minor changes were made for the next several years, such as adding a leaping tiger logo to the uniform sleeves.

Players lobbied for a different look last season, their first under Lewis, and he got the NFL's permission for the team to wear black pants for the first and last games.

It was the first time the Bengals wore black jerseys and pants, and the games were disasters - lopsided losses to Denver and Cleveland at home.

The season-ending loss to the Browns eliminated Cincinnati from playoff contention, and the Bengals finished their 13th straight season without a winning record.

''I think it will be good for us,'' defensive end Justin Smith said of the change. ''We're coming off an 8-8 season and hopefully that will be the worst one we have.''