Mike Nugent's difficult week has perfect ending

CLEVELAND -- Mike Nugent just had to get a few kicks off his toe.

Last Wednesday, while his teammates went home after a long day of practice, meetings and treatment, the Cincinnati Bengals kicker was on the field inside Paul Brown Stadium, joined by his wife, his brother and his sister-in-law.

With the sun down, team president Mike Brown had requested the lights to the stadium be turned on at Nugent's behest.

For the first time since dealing with the unexpected death of his father, the kicker simply had to do what he does best: blasting footballs into the sky.

Daniel Nugent was 66.

"Most of it was just me thinking, 'I need to hit 20 to 30 balls, just to get some in,'" Mike Nugent, a Centerville, Ohio, native said Sunday afternoon following the Bengals' 30-0 road win over the Cleveland Browns. "At the end of the day, the kicker's the closer. We need to get points if we don't get the ball in the end zone. I didn't want to kick [last] Sunday vs. Pittsburgh and not again until [this Sunday].

"It's a lot for me to get out there and kick some balls, but I also wanted my coaches to know, 'Hey, I'm still playing. Everything's going to be fine.'"

Everything was.

In addition to the Bengals' physical play on defense and their trouncing on offense, Mike Nugent was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts. Since his 36-yard miss at the end of overtime 10 games ago, he hasn't missed. He's now 11-for-11 since his wide-right kick ended the Panthers game in a 37-all tie.

Of everything Mike Nugent heard following the miss, nothing had as much impact as the 14 words he heard from his father.

"Hey, you have been down before," Daniel Nugent told his son. "The next kick is the one that matters."

Daniel Nugent played college ball at Wisconsin and Dayton. His son played at Ohio State before embarking on a 10-year professional career that has taken him to four NFL cities, including the one closest to home. A Bengal since 2010, Mike Nugent has been playing less than an hour from where he grew up. He spent Monday and Tuesday with his family before his late-night kicking session Wednesday.

Mike Nugent didn't practice with the Bengals all week, returning home for a five-and-a-half-hour visitation ceremony for his father Thursday. The funeral was Friday.

"People are incredible and my coach has been, too," Nugent said. "The Cincinnati organization has been unbelievable this week in letting me be with my family."

Special-teams coordinator Darrin Simmons waited until the end of the game, after Nugent's final kickoff with about 20 seconds remaining, to show him a picture of Daniel Nugent that he had alongside his play-calling sheets.

There was more heartache for the Bengals early in the week. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's father also died.

"We haven't ever done much as far as giving out a game ball, but Mike Nugent got one," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "We all had to put our arms around each other and come out here. We knew how important it was and how much our loved ones that we lost would want this game to be for them. That meant the most to everybody."