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Lockout locker room bustles with maturity

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on June 13, 2011 – 3:22 pm

Even when the Bengals are here going through the paces in May and June, it is surreal football without pads.

Take last spring’s headlines, when head coach Marvin Lewis called wide receiver Andre Caldwell his most improved player and Jerome Simpson looked good playing in Chad Ochocinco’s X receiver spot. But both weren’t seen until The Ocho and Terrell Owens were iced by injury in December. Or take the Michael Johnson experiment at SAM linebacker and how it all blew up in August with injuries to a slew of defensive lineman.

Oh, sometimes you can tell things in the spring. You saw cornerback Adam Jones still retained some elite athleticism despite an 18-month layoff, saw their concern for wide receiver Antonio Bryant’s knee grow more and more real as they gradually backed him off, and saw that No. 1 pick Jermaine Gresham was Mr. Obvious as he worked at tight end.

But if you went to see Midnight in Paris on the big screen this weekend, you don’t have to be Robert Redford to know that Rachel McAdams steams with sulk and Owen Wilson is no Woody Allen.
The nuances and subtleties are very rarely revealed without the pads, so you wonder exactly what you can find out during the voluntary voluntaries that were held last week and are on again this week.

They’re not even wearing helmets in these things and there’s not a coach in sight, even though the scribes say offensive leader Andrew Whitworth looks and sounds every bit the part and defensive captain Domata Peko would make a great intern for public relations chiefs Jack Brennan and P.J. Combs.

That’s just it. From what can be read and heard, you can make at least one substantive deduction away from football.

This team, more than at any point in the nine seasons Lewis has coached it, really seems to have true ownership in it. The lockout locker room, one of those moving exhibits, is bustling with maturity. The locker room has had no other choice in the lockout. They say character is revealed in tough times. The locker room gives you the 45 guys or so that have arrived the last couple of weeks.

It is a locker room that hasn’t been able to fall back on the intervention of coaches. It hasn’t been able to slough it off on quarterback Carson Palmer because of the salary he makes and the position he plays. There is no hiding behind anyone now. True leaders are going to be revealed in a lockout the players only have themselves and they seem to be popping up all over with one of the larger attendance rates in the NFL.

Not just Whitworth and Peko, guys we already know are solid and have gone above and beyond the last couple of weeks according to the news reports.

There is also the stoic dean of the defense that has helped Peko even though Robert Geathers prefers the low profile route. There is a young guy on defense like third-year linebacker Rey Maualuga stepping up even though he’s never played his natural position. There is a guy with just 15 NFL passes taking it upon himself to start a passing camp in Jordan Palmer. There is a veteran linebacker like Brandon Johnson working out even though his contract status is unknown. Yes, there is Adam Jones again, who is out there anyway even though he has yet to be cleared medically as he rehabs from last season’s surgery for a herniated neck disc.

And there is the very tenacious Simpson, the fourth-year wide receiver showing the true meaning of the word “substance.” For the past three years he has taken a lot of slings and arrows from critics and yet he has always studied hard, practiced hard, and contributed hard. He has rallied to rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, reportedly diving for one of his long balls last week on a route not covered by insurance. He has rallied in a community not quite sure what to make of these transition Bengals, showing up at virtually every charity event on the calendar.

You’ve always needed a couple of Master’s degrees to discuss the Bengals locker room because of the myriad of personalities. No question some were divisive, but even if they weren’t they were good guys to blame.

Ever since the 2008 season broke up the ’05 division champs through injury and age, the Bengals have been headed from a locker room where the coaches wielded the say to a room where the coaches would like to see the players to assert more control. Now more of them have been forced to since the coaches can’t be around.

And if Carson Palmer hasn’t been the Hall of Fame leader in the Norman Julius Esiason mold, he has certainly been a big enough guy to hide behind. Palmer doesn’t relish the role. He doesn’t crave it like other franchise quarterbacks. Yet, to his everlasting credit he has tried to lead with grace and passion and he’d be a hell of a lot better at it if he had some more help besides the usual suspects.

Irony of ironies, they seem to be coming out of the woodwork with him in California demanding a trade. Just like the irony that the Bengals are now running a quick-throw offense he knows well from college and just like he now has a stable of talented young targets (Gresham, Simpson, A.J. Green, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley) that would never dream of showing him up on the field. If Palmer told these guys to jump off a bridge, they’d take turns leaping from the Roebling, Taylor Southgate, and Clay Wade Bailey.

No, we may not be able to find out who is going to play on Sunday from these spring flings. But we seem to be finding out this is a group that has enough leaders not to back down from adversity with no coaches and No. 9 around to shoulder it all.

Now let’s see what they do when the helmets come on.


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Posted in Hobson's Choice | 12 Comments »


12 Responses to “Lockout locker room bustles with maturity”

  1. By bengalpirate on Jun 14, 2011 | Reply

    Surreal football indeed, as is the attempt to reach a collective bargaining agreement between ownership and the players, so we have a full season. Right now it is an eyeball to eyeball game of chicken and no one has blinked yet, but they are talking and when the Federal Appeals Court reaches it decision, maybe then we can get organized training sessions in place. I know it is early, but I really like the overall team chemistry and leadership so far. I do hope after a CBA agreement is reached, a deal is made to trade Ocho and call me a fool, but I keep holding onto the dream that after Ocho is traded, maybe Carson will come back for one more season. Who Dey!!!

  2. By donnyscott on Jun 14, 2011 | Reply

    Hobs, your last sentence is really all that matters. Other than having a QB who can take command in the huddle and instill confidence and probably also a similar presence in the defensive huddle, all this leadership talk is almost meaningless. It comes down to performance on the field. All the players you mentioned that are showing great leadership were all a part of our 10 game losing streak last year. Where was the leadership then? If you’re Robert Geathers, how do you lead coming off a 1 sack in 16 starts season and you and your teammates probably aren’t even sure you’ll be on the final roster. You obviously need hard workers in the locker room but having a coaching staff that can step up and have this team prepared to play will always be the key. Then the players have to step up.

  3. By jamison007 on Jun 14, 2011 | Reply

    Fellow Bengal Nation – love to hear Hobson having to take note of all kinds of our guys stepping it up like men and taking control of what they can…their conditioning, camrauderie, study of the playbook, working the feet, hitting the street – getting physically and mentally in order – clearing the cobwebs out. As I noted on last GH blog, I want Ocho and TO out…Coach has to take back his team, and clearly something else was going on with Carson’s decision…I think he was done dealing with Divas too. We may have lost Carson, who has been our hero, but if Coach doesn’t take out the TO/Ocho tude’, he destroys a great group of humble, hard working and psyched up kids that want to play ball, NOW! C;mon Coach Lew, don’t be a weak-minded coach, gets some gut and make the cut!

  4. By 2ndboot on Jun 14, 2011 | Reply

    With the two egomaniacs gone with the sideshows of garbage “reality shows” and the main general sitting it out and all the rest of the nonsense maybe this team can actually play some football and rock the league.
    Well, now that would be a change, huh?

  5. By mwindle1973 on Jun 15, 2011 | Reply

    Man reading the Whitworth article and the coments he made about Andre Smth are great. If Andre managed to keep his weight down through the lockout when he had no help from the team. THen I believe he may have truly turned the corner. To me ROT was the biggest wildcard last season…and it remains so this season. If Andre comes into form…you may have one of the best bookend tandems in the NFL. If he doesn’t you may have Dennis Roland playing ROT again… :D

  6. By overthroensamoan on Jun 15, 2011 | Reply

    I agree even without Palmer this will be the most tight group to walk onto PBS. No huge me first egos, no realty TV and no more waiting for the yearly train wreck that was #85. Not sure how good this team actually is with a rookie QB and a questionable OL but one thing is certain I look for Marvin to rebound back to his 2003 form when I firmly believed he did his best coaching job. He has no problem children and no off the field situations to deal with he finally has a team he can put his stamp on.

  7. By 303bengalguy on Jun 15, 2011 | Reply

    Nice perspective piece Hobs. It is indeed ironic regarding the Palmer situation and I like the fact that this lockout is forcing leadership to emerge.

  8. By mwindle1973 on Jun 16, 2011 | Reply

    I’m really begining to like what I’m hearing from Gruden on what his WCO will be made up of. It’s going to be a smashmouth WCO…and probably have the biggest Oline that has ever anchored a WCO. I picked up on one thing to at the end of te article that Gruden said. He said “…with A.J. Green and Jerome (Simpson) and (Jermaine) Gresham and (Jordan) Shipley…They’ll want to throw the ball a little bit.” I’ve said since the draft that AJ would play in TOs spot and either Rome or Ocho would play the X spot. Sounds like Gruden may have alluded to both issues in his statement. It shows his line of thought right now is his starters will likely be Green & Simpson, with SHipley in the slot. Simpson can still only play the X. That’s where Ocho plays, and Gruden didn’t mention Ocho. So if Simpson is playing the X spot, then Green must be slotted for the Z. I know that Ocho being traded or cut is a virtua certainty. But him not including Ocho in this list, tells me it’s a fact, he’s gone as soon as the CBA is reaced.

  9. By atn1980 on Jun 17, 2011 | Reply

    How about making it possible that the fans can comment on the “Who Dey Perspective”? Because that last article about the ESPN rankings and defending their latest ranking is a joke. Never once did they ever touch on the negative side of things and apologized to the fans for the Bengals short comings. For gosh sakes, they signed a WR to a multi-million dollar contract and he never played a down. Not to mention they let the franchise QB get so frustrated that he quit on them. How about the fact that if you bought tickets that cost well over $100 they will give you a box of popcorn? Those are the kind of things that make our beloved Bengals look like a joke. I’m all for the Bengals standing up for themselves against publications who take swipes at them to sell papers, but not recognizing the issues that made the Bengals the worst franchise in sports within the past 5 years is the best example why they just don’t get it. They may think that the ESPN fan voting is not very accurate, but I would tell them accurate or not, it’s all about perception.

  10. By mwindle1973 on Jun 20, 2011 | Reply

    I don’t think the Who dey perspective on the ESPN rankings was a joke. THey were a sound argument against the ranking. Now whether or not you agree is a different stroy…but it’s not a joke. I happen to think the rankings were a joke and not very scientific in any way. Just a hodge podge of crap.

  11. By atn1980 on Jun 21, 2011 | Reply

    I respect your opinion but I think you missed my point. My point is that they never touched on the recent negative aspects of the organization. They only defended themselves by discrediting the poll rather than acknowledging the issues, apologizing for their part, and accepting the issues at hand. In that article it seemed to me that they were only trying to say “We are not the worst organization in sports.”, rather than saying, “We understand our issues and we are working very hard to get back on track.” To me, there is a big difference between deflecting and accepting.

  12. By whodeysteve on Jun 21, 2011 | Reply

    I can not put my finger on it but something does seem very different about this group of Bengals. From AJ Green saying it does matter how many catches he has as long as we win(The last time a Bengals WR would say something like that would proably be Isaac Curtis way back in the 70′s). Maybe it’s the fact that 47 players showed up to voluntary voluntaries and the 2nd largest was the Saints with around 32 players(I think). I love the fact that Andre and Benson from all reports seem to be in the best shape of their career’s. Heck, even Mike Brown himself released a statement through the Who Dey Perspective saying “the goal every season is to win the Super Bowl.” Even though some fans are wondering how good we can be this year with so many young players, the players to their credit seem to fully believe they can win this year(Benson even mentioned the Super Bowl). I have to say I’m excited to see how this team plays this year. I would like to take this time to thank the players and everyone for their hard work this offseason, your hard work is very much appreciated.

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