Berk's Blog - 11/25/13
With the NFL Films cameras rolling for "Hard Knocks" the Bengals had a little extra bounce in their collective step, as the team stepped into the 2013 NFL season this morning. A conditioning workout preceded their first session with the media, and the players we spoke with seem just fine with the lofty expectations being placed on this team. They're also anxious to put the Wildcard playoff loss behind them.
"That's the last time we played, and thats the last thing everyone remembers playing," said Quarterback Andy Dalton of the team's loss in Houston. "I'm happy training camp has started and the off-season is over," he continued.
Dalton isn't alone, 2nd year Defensive Back Dre Kirkpatrick essentially lost his rookie season due to injury appearing in just five games. For all intents and purposes, he's a rookie all over again.
"It was a lot of stress, and a lot of depression," Kirkpatrick said of missing most of the 2012 season. "You can't let it get to you too much, but in private you sit around and think," he added. "But I'm ready to go now."
The Bengals are being picked by many to have a breakout season in 2012. I don't know how you define breakout for a team that's appeared in the post season in each of the last two years, but I'm guessing anything short of at least winning one playoff game, will fall short of a breakout? For the team to meet that level, it'll come down to Dalton. The TCU product enters his 3rd season at the helm of the Bengals offense, and even he knows his role is about to take on a whole, new meaning. "It should be the Quarterback's team, you've got to make sure the other guys trust you enough to say that, (its the Quarterback's team)," Dalton said with the utmost conviction.
Dalton and his top receiving target A.J Green are entering their 3rd season together. This relationship hasn't even begun to truly take flight, but if you look at history, it will have to for this team to reach a Super Bowl level. "I think were very close," Green said. "That great (QB-Receiver) tandem takes a while, five or six years, getting to know each other. Andy and I just want to be great, and that's what we focus on each and every day," the Pro-Bowler added.
Defensively the Bengals seem loaded if that unit can stay healthy, and it also seems after 11-years on the job, Marvin Lewis has fostered a culture conducive to playing winning football. Defensive End Michael Johnson drove that point home. "I think we're all naturally good people, and if you put good people together it'll rub off," Johnson said.
"They say a bad apple spoils the crowd, but I think it works the same way as far as good guys, rallying around someone. We've got a lot of good guys in this locker room and were going to continue to rub off on each other and be even better," Johnson concluded.
The Bengals would also like to avoid having to play like the 1972 Dolphins down the stretch. In short, they need to avoid another 3-5 start so they don't have to be perfect just to make a run at a Wildcard spot. "We got to hit the ground running," Johnson said. "Jump in head first. Can't just put your toe in. Just go!"
And just like that, it's all systems go outside Paul Brown Stadium. Training camp is underway and Opening day in Chicago is officially on the clock...
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HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 05: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass against the Houston Texans during their AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at Reliant Stadium on January 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)