Mike Brown offered Dhani Jones a ride in his golf cart Wednesday during practice so he could get close to his old mates and say hello. Jones eyed the Bengals president with a mischievous smile.
“I’ve never sat in that golf cart. I’ve seen other people in that golf cart, but I’ve never been in it,” said Jones, never carted off the practice field in four seasons as a Bengal. “Do you have a license to drive this thing?”
Jones, 34, is in his second year of retirement since playing his last NFL game as the Bengals middle linebacker in 2010, and he continues to traverse the globe in all sorts of vehicles. But Wednesday was the first time in Mike Brown’s golf cart and yet it wasn’t their first conversation by a longshot.
” I’d barge into his office from time to time,” Jones said. “Mike’s a driven man. He’s got great intentions for the team and he’s got high expectations for the team.”
They talked about, in no particular order, Brown’s health, his family, maps, and his aspirations.
“I don’t think there’s any NFL owner who doesn’t want to win it all,” Jones said.
One of the reasons Brown no doubt feels so comfortable with Jones is that he’s the embodiment of the player Paul Brown coveted. Smart, prepared, and a plan for life after football.
Jones is busier than ever with seven shows on channels ranging from The Big Ten to Spike TV, where he’s got two. His Bow Tie foundation for charity also continues to expand with more than 80 organizations involved and the designs just keep coming.
His legacy with the Bengals is just as busy and connected. When the thing began to implode in the dog days of ’07 and ’08, Jones was one of the consummate professionals that kept head coach Marvin Lewis’ principles afloat and set the stage for the ’09 North title, the ’11 Wild Card and the high expectations of ’12.
It was a two-way street. On Wednesday Jones told Brown “The four years I spent here on the field as well as off the field were probably some of the best years I played the game.”
One of the players he watched Wednesday was his old roommate, Vincent Rey, the second-year linebacker who has modeled his life on and off the field after Jones. When Jones retired, Rey asked for and got Jones’ No. 57, and made the team as a special teams maven. A free-agent from Duke, he’s still here.
“I like watching him play because I remember the things we talked about while we were rooming together and that translates into the way he plays,” Jones said. “My little brother.”
His influence is so directly felt on the man that replaced him in the middle, Rey Maualuga, that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had to tell him, “Stop trying to be like Dhani.” Jones not only knew what all 10 guys were doing, he desperately had to know. Zimmer doesn’t think that fits Maualuga’s style of play.
Jones agrees and says he’s talked to him about it.
“I tell him the same thing. He has to be him. You can only be yourself for that position,” Jones said. “Rey does a great job. He’s got his own style and everybody knows he’s good. He’s got to play like that.
“If he makes the mistake, he’s going make the mistake that might cost you but never cost him. At the same time, he’s a young player on the verge of being a better young player and continuing to get better and better and be a superior player.”
“Reckless with intent,” Jones said.
Jones didn’t have to tackle the globe Wednesday to view some of his accomplishments. The view was pretty good from Mike Brown’s golf cart.
Tags: Dhani Jones, Rey Maualuga, Mike Brown, Marvin Lewis, Vincent Rey
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Sure they made the playoffs last year, but the team was 9-7 during the regular season.
And it was an unimpressive 9-7.
The team was outscored by the opposition during the regular season, did not have a winning record in its division, only had one regular season victory against a foe that finished with a winning record, and didn’t qualify for the postseason until the final game of the year.
That team was the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
The Bengals also made the playoffs with a 9-7 record last year and while they are not listed among the preseason favorites to go this year’s Super Bowl, Cincinnati is widely considered to be an up-and-coming team. Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com picks the Bengals to win the AFC North and advance to the AFC Championship game and ESPN’s Bill Polian also picks the Bengals to win the division.
“I think there are some people that realize that there is a lot of talent in this room,” said seven-year veteran Andrew Whitworth. “That’s fun. That’s going to make it exciting and it means there are expectations. That’s the environment that you love to play in.”
The highest expectations for the Bengals are inside of their own locker room. The players are wearing t-shirts that include the letters “DNO.” As NFL.com’s Albert Breer uncovered when he recently visited training camp, those letters stand for Destination: New Orleans – the sight of this year’s Super Bowl.
“That is nothing new,” said Andrew Hawkins. “The goal is to be world champs and you have to set your goals high and work toward that goal. I remember coming into camp last year. On my first day here, the very first thing that Coach Lewis talked about was going to the Super Bowl. That’s always the goal.”
Is it a realistic goal?
The Bengals certainly have a talented young nucleus with a quarterback to build around in Andy Dalton, but perhaps just as importantly, the team also has a roster filled with hard-working, no-nonsense pros.
“I don’t think that there are certain guys that are leaders – there are a ton of leaders in this locker room,” said Whitworth.
“We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” said BenJarvus Green-Ellis who played in the Super Bowl last year with New England. “Right now we’re just worried about having a good practice and making sure that we’re dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s. You don’t win a Super Bowl in February – you win it right now on the practice field doing the things that you’re supposed to be doing.”
The Bengals face a more difficult schedule this year, but it’s worth pointing out that Baltimore and Pittsburgh face even more challenging schedules. The opponents are the same for all three teams with the exception of the following matchups:
Cincinnati: Miami (home), at Jacksonville
Baltimore: New England (home), at Houston
Pittsburgh: New York Jets (home), at Tennessee
After getting their hopes up in previous seasons only to see Cincinnati stumble, I get the sense that many Bengals fans are reluctant to fully buy-in. They’ll dip a toe into the water, but won’t dive in head first.
I’m not saying that the Bengals are going to the Super Bowl this year, but there’s nothing wrong with joining the players and coaches in making New Orleans the destination.
“I think every team, every year starts out with the goal to go to the Super Bowl,” said Whitworth. “We want to go to New Orleans and we want to win it. I’ve had the luxury of winning a state and a national championship in New Orleans so it would be sweet to win a Super Bowl there too.”
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