While the 31-year-old quarterback sits in California, the 31-year-old cornerback keeps making plays.
Nate Clements is 15 days older than Carson Palmer and is the 2nd-oldest player on the Bengals roster behind 35-year-old Bobbie Williams. He is one of only four 30-plus players on the AFC’s youngest team.
But if there’s any doubt that Clements still has the athleticism to play cornerback in the NFL, consider the play that he made in the 4th quarter of Cincinnati’s 27-17 win over Indianapolis.
The Colts had scored 10 straight points and were on the verge of tying the game as one of the NFL’s all-time best kickers – Adam Vinatieri – lined up for a 52-year-field goal attempt. But Clements bolted from the edge and blocked the kick with a Pete Rose-like head-first dive.
“I knew it was going to be a lower projection on the kick because of the distance of the field goal,” Clements told me. “Throughout the game I had been trying to get good reads on the snap, and I was fortunate to be able to. The guys up front did a great job to get a push up front, and the ball came out low. I had a good jump and just stuck my arms out there.”
“That was crazy,” said safety Reggie Nelson. “Nate’s been in this game for awhile and it’s nothing new to see him make plays out there. He’s still got it and that’s a key to our defense. He’s doing great.”
Clements is the only current Bengal who has played in a Pro Bowl (2004) and was once considered the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history when he signed an 8-year, $80 million contract with San Francisco. When the 49ers released him in July to free up $15.7 million in cap space, Cincinnati pounced on the veteran free agent to replace Johnathan Joseph at cornerback.
“Nate Clements has already helped us and upgraded the back end,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “His veteran leadership has been very helpful.”
“He comes to practice every day and works hard,” said linebacker Thomas Howard. “I said, ‘Hey Nate, how freaking long are you going to play this game?’ And he said, ‘As long as I can.’ He approaches it the way that you’re supposed to approach it.”
One thing that Clements hasn’t done in his 10 NFL seasons is appear in a playoff game, and while the 4-2 Bengals are a long way from accomplishing that feat, they’re in the hunt as they enter the bye week.
“One week at a time,” said Clements. “It’s hard to win in this league. On any given Sunday, anything can happen. I understand how hard it is to win in this league and to come away with a ‘W’ at home was crucial.”
Cincinnati’s victory might not have happened if the Bengals oldest player on defense didn’t make a youthful-looking play.
“I’ve still got it in me,” said Clements. “I’ve still got that burst.”
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