Monday is kicking off a big week at Paul Brown Stadium, the last full one before the April 25-27 draft.
The Bengals begin their offseason workouts Monday and the first bevy of locker-room quotes since the players bagged their disappointment and belongings in the Jan. 7 Cleanout should start hitting cyberspace around 9:45 a.m.
Among the things we’ll hear is that left tackle Andrew Whitworth is recovering well from his knee surgery and expects to be back for the first day of training camp in late July and the same with rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. They may not be seen on the field during the spring, which is why the Bengals are looking for some bodies, particularly on the offensive line.
Also certain to be heard is that middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is in the best shape of his NFL career with the help of his MMA training in Los Angeles and that new SAM backer candidate Aaron Maybin is excited about the chance to join the lengthy list of players that have revived their careers under defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer: Safeties Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson, cornerbacks Terence Newman and Adam Jones, and linebackers Dhani Jones and Thomas Howard to name a few.
And franchise player Michael Johnson won’t be on the premises since he’s finishing up his semester’s work at Georgia Tech and is expected when the Bengals go on the field the week of May 20.
Also Monday, the Bengals should have a pretty good idea where the James Harrison thing is going. It’s believed the Bengals gave Harrison an offer over the weekend and that the sides have decided to talk about it Monday. It sounds like Harrison wants to be here and that head coach Marvin Lewis has already struck up a good relationship with him, and that means a lot in these parts and could very well bode well for a deal fairly quickly.
It looks like Harrison is Lewis’s kind of guy, a throwback to Lewis’s Greg Lloyd days in Pittsburgh when he loved coaching a deadly serious pro who had no fear, backed down from no one, and was all football. And it looks like Lewis has what Harrison wants, a top 10 defense that can win the AFC North.
(A snapshot to just how Lewis relates to players could be seen last week when he saw middle backer Vontaze Burfict for the first time since Jan. 7 and they wrestled around in a playful greeting. Then he promptly shot down Burfict’s request for a locker change.)
On Monday the Bengals are also expected to announce they’ve re-signed running back Bernard Scott and signed former Browns tight end Alex Smith.
Then on Tuesday morning the Bengals are hosting 31 college prospects that played high school or college in the metro Cincinnati area. It’s also the first Tuesday the NFL schedule could be released.
During the rest of the week the Bengals figure to entertain the last of their 30 draft prospects that each team is allowed to bring to its facility.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Andrew Whitworth, Dre Kirkpatrick, James Harrison, Marvin Lewis, Michael Johnson, Rey Maualuga
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Tuesday’s visit of Akeem Jordan underlines Cincinnati’s interest in veteran linebackers with the Bengals apparently searching for a SAM backer to go along with an assortment of draft prospects. With the draft just two weeks away, more free-agent backer visits figure to be on the way.
The 6-1 Jordan, who has been listed anywhere from 225 to 230 pounds, would figure to be here what he was in Philadelphia the past six seasons, which was primarily a backup/special-teamer.
There’s not a lot of room left on the defense with head coach Marvin Lewis saying he’s going to stick with Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker while virtually all his starters and regulars are intact except for starting SAM backer Manny Lawson and safety Chris Crocker.
Lawson only played about a third of the snaps and this upcoming season Maualuga and starting WILL backer Vontaze Burfict figure to get the bulk of the plays again if the same alignment is used. Plus there is emerging WILL backer Emmanuel Lamur, who played well on nickel downs late in his rookie season.
But the Bengals look like they are kicking tires on veterans and college prospects to see if they can upgrade the SAM spot and maybe get a guy that can play more.
They have been looking at backers all offseason, starting when the Raiders were shopping 2010 first-rounder Rolando McClain before Oakland cut him. But the Bengals had no interest even before they re-signed Maualuga.
The one spot that is wide open is the safety opposite Reggie Nelson. With no plans as of yet to re-sign Crocker, the Bengals have dipped a toe into the veteran market but seem intent on getting younger there via the draft. They did visit with former Saint and Brown Usama Young last Friday, but word was Tuesday that Young opted to reunite with one of his New Orleans coaches and now the Oakland head coach, Dennis Allen.
Tags: Akeem Jordan, Rey Maualuga, Usama Young, Vontaze Burfict
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While the Bengals are extolled for their finest all-around performance of the season in Sunday’s 31-13 victory over the Giants at Paul Brown Stadium, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is hearing the same thing.
Gone were the defense’s wide open receivers across the middle and the missed tackles that turned three-yard gains into eight and nine. Maualuga’s game-high 12 tackles were of the sure variety and he made certain his defense covered close enough to the receiver that the Bengals virtually eliminated yards after catch.
While cornerback Leon Hall shadowed Giants leading receiver Victor Cruz for much of the game, he had some help in holding him to three catches for 26 yards.
“Everything was similar from last week’s offense to this week’s offense,” Maualuga said. “We knew that Victor Cruz was such a big part of their offense and is a great weapon. Most of our plays were based on doubling him and making sure where he aligned on every play. We wanted to execute him out of the game plan and then stop the run and I think we did a good job.”
THIRD DOWN THRILLS: Talk about what a win can do for the locker room. It doesn’t hurt the stat sheet, either.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton came into the game next to last in the NFL in third-down passing ahead of only Arizona’s John Skelton with a 57.6 passer rating in 32nd place. But three of Sunday’s four touchdown passes came on third down, launching him 10 spots to No. 22 with a 74. 3 that is a rung ahead of Colts rookie Andrew Luck.
With a 91.1 passer rating, Dalton is 11th in the league and his 18 touchdown passes are tied for fifth behind co-leaders Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees with 25.
With 820 yards receiving, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has moved into sixth in the NFL. Dalton is three TD passes away from eclipsing his rookie total and Green is 238 yards away from passing his rookie total.
RUN GAME: The Bengals are still looking for their first 100-yard rusher of the season after nine games, the longest drought to open a season since the Bengals didn’t get any 100-yard rushing game during the 1993-96 seasons. Running back Cedric Benson got the first 100-yard game of 2008 in the ninth game when his 104 yards against Jacksonville became the first of his 15 100-yarders with the Bengals.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis didn’t get his first 100-yard rusher until the eighth game of his first season, when Rudi Johnson got the first 100-yard game of his career with 101 in a PBS victory over Seattle in 2003.
Tags: A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Leon Hall, Rey Maualuga, Victor Cruz
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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, Marvin Lewis, Mike Brown, Rey Maualuga, Vincent Rey
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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.
Tags: Brandon Johnson, Lockout leadership Jerome Simpson, Rey Maualuga, Robert Geathers
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The following was released by the NFL on Tuesday pertaining to Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga’s arrest in January 2010. He will not face any game suspension.
“Rey Maualuga of the Cincinnati Bengals has been fined two game checks and will forfeit an additional 2/17 of his signing bonus attributable to 2010 for an alcohol-related violation of law (DUI) that is also a violation of the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.”
Tags: Rey Maualuga
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