On Wednesday, the number of Super Bowl rings in the Bengals locker room doubled when Cincinnati signed free agent tight end Donald Lee.
Safety Gibril Wilson won a ring with the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII and Lee started six games for the Super Bowl-winning Green Bay Packers last year.
“It was like a dream come true,” Lee told me. “When I was a little kid in Mississippi, me and my dad used to watch the Super Bowl every year and I was like, ‘Wow. It would be great to play in a game like that one day.’ I tell little kids out there, ‘Never stop dreaming and work hard because dreams do come true.’ To play in that game and to win it was the pinnacle of my career.”
Lee, 31, has 198 career receptions and gives the Bengals an experienced tight end on the active roster to go with 2nd-year pro Jermaine Gresham and rookie Colin Cochart.
After practicing with the Bengals for the first time this week, Lee came away raving about Gresham.
“He’s going to be one of the greatest tight ends to ever play this game,” said Lee. “I didn’t know much about him, but watching him in practice, he looked like a wide receiver out there. I look at that guy as like a Randy Moss for this team. He’s a great guy and I feel blessed to be here and to be able to work with him.”
Wait a second…let me get this straight. After watching him in one practice, Donald Lee thinks that Jermaine Gresham could become one of the best tight ends in NFL history?
“I’m not saying ‘the best’ that ever played the game, but if he continues to work hard and keeps getting better each and every day, then he can one of the best tight ends to ever play the game,” said Lee.
Donald Lee, on the other hand, is more of a solid-but-not-spectacular type, but he’s lasted nine years in the NFL and earned that Super Bowl ring.
“It’s at home locked in a steel vault,” said Lee. “I keep it locked up until some of my friends come around or I’m about to go to church or some event. That thing has got to be the best ring that they ever made. They gave us a magazine that showed every ring from the first one right up until the one that they gave us, and I didn’t see any on that page that looked better than the one that we got.”
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After Week 1, Cedric Benson is tied for the NFL lead in carries with 25 (with Washington’s Tim Hightower).
“I love carrying the ball all day on Sunday and I usually get warmed up as the game goes along,” said Benson. “You tend to take over the football game when you execute in the run game and we have the tools here in Cincinnati to do that with a strong offensive line up front.”
Benson is currently third in the NFL in rushing yards with 121. The league leader is Oakland’s Darren McFadden who gained his 150 yards against the Bengals next opponent Denver.
“They drafted Von Miller and have a lot of good linebackers, but being able to see the Raiders open up some holes on them and create big plays was exciting.”
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A.J. Green’s first NFL catch was a memorable one – a game-winning 41-yard touchdown grab in the 4th quarter to beat the Browns.
But Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden says that Green needs to be targeted more frequently than he was the opener.
“He’s got one catch for 41 yards and shame on me for not getting him the ball more,” said Gruden. “We have to do a better job of finding ways to get him the ball and letting him make plays because he is a very, very fun guy to watch and explosive.”
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The big debate in Denver this week is whether it’s time to dump quarterback Kyle Orton in favor of Tim Tebow.
Orton passed for 304 yards in the Broncos’ Monday night loss to Oakland, and averaged 281 passing yards a game last year to rank 4th in the NFL. The Orton-or-Tebow debate does not appear to extend into the Bengals locker room.
“I’m an Orton fan and I think he’s a good quarterback,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “I know that he doesn’t get a lot of the credit, but he led the Bears into the playoffs and to me, he’s been a guy who has been pretty efficient. You have to keep him off of the spot. You want to keep him thinking, keep him moving, and not allow him to sit back and be comfortable.”
“He can make all the throws and you have to defend the whole field,” said cornerback Leon Hall. “As a defense, you can’t say that he only does one or two reads – he goes through the whole progression. If you let him sit back there and give him a lot of space, he can be as good as anybody in the league.
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Who led the NFL in receiving yards last year?
Roddy White? Reggie Wayne? Andre Johnson? Larry Fitzgerald?
Nope, nope, nope, and nope.
The answer is Denver’s Brandon Lloyd who caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards – an average of 18.8 yards per catch.
“The fans probably wouldn’t know, but I can guarantee that our defensive backs know and the guys that play in the NFL know,” said Leon Hall. “Everybody in the league watches what people do during the year, and it didn’t go unnoticed last year when he was playing well. We’re hoping that he doesn’t use us as a stepping stone to repeat what he did last year.”
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