Howard Preps For 2nd Bengals Season With Eye On Future

Posted by Dan Hoard on July 7, 2012 – 3:11 am

Adam Jones is not the only player on the Bengals roster who would have made a good speaker at the NFL’s recent rookie symposium.  Perhaps next time the league should invite Thomas Howard too.

While Jones shared embarrassing details about his checkered past and delivered a heartfelt message on how not to behave, Howard could provide a good example of a professional athlete who entered the league realizing that fame and fortune are usually fleeting.

“The misconception is that once you’re done playing, you’re going to retire,” said Howard.  “That generally doesn’t happen unless you’re making a boatload of money and you’ve managed it well.  The best thing that I’ve learned is that you have to learn about money and how to manage it.  We’re football players – we’re not accountants or CPAs – and every day it’s football, football, football.  When you read about guys who go broke or declare bankruptcy it’s sad.  You need to manage your risks, do your due diligence, and don’t rush into anything.”

Although he’s only 28 years old, the Bengals linebacker is already preparing for life after football.  In February, Thomas took advantage of a job-shadowing opportunity at NFL headquarters in New York (you can see video here).

“I went to the league office and spent three days there, and I saw some things that I can transfer from the football field to an everyday job,” said Howard.  “I was there from eight to five, and I really gained an appreciation for what they do.  I went everywhere from sales, to human resources, to player discipline, to game day operations, to public relations, and to community relations.  I learned a lot and it narrowed down what I think that I could possibly do when I’m done playing.

“The NFL also offers the BM & E which is a business, management, entrepreneurial program at different business schools.  Last year, I was among a group of guys including Bruce Gradkowski that attended the one at Harvard.  I try to feed my brain.”

While Howard is preparing for his future, he isn’t ignoring the present.  After leading the Bengals in tackles in his first year on Mike Zimmer’s defense, Thomas expects to be even more productive in 2012.

“After being here for a year, you get a little more comfortable and play with a little more confidence,” said Howard.  “You get a better feel for where everybody is and you understand Zim’s system better.  Your communication is better and it’s all about communication on defense.”

“He took a lot of snaps last year and was learning as he went along, but now he’s fine-tuning everything and you can see that it’s starting to pay off,” said linebackers coach Paul Guenther.  “He really understands the details now.”

“When I’m playing behind guys like Geno Atkins, Robert Gathers, and Domata Peko, I should have a good year because those guys are phenomenal and they make my job easy…or at least easier,” said Howard.

The Bengals went 9-7 in Howard’s first year in Cincinnati and Thomas says the team is setting the bar higher this season.

“We had a decent year and got a taste of the playoffs, but we want more,” said Howard.  “Everyone plays this game to win the Lombardi Trophy and that’s our goal.  We have high standards and if we don’t win it all, that’s a failed year.”

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