Cincinnati Bengals players found out in a team meeting Monday morning that defensive tackle Geno Atkins had agreed to a five-year, $55 million contract extension.
And while they weren’t quite beaming as brightly as the man with the new bulge in his bank account, the players were thrilled to see Atkins rewarded for going from a fourth-round pick to one of the more dominant interior defensive linemen in the league.
Here is a sampling of reactions from Atkins’ teammates:
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap: “The fans in every city he hits when we play away games, they know after the game who Geno Atkins is. He’s one of the best in the league, and now he is going to get paid like it.”
Defensive tackle Domata Peko: “Quietly he’s been coming along from year one to now. People are starting to notice that, because when you study that tape you will see that 97 is all over the place wreaking havoc. One of your goals when you get into this business is to get that second deal done. He’s super excited, and the whole city is excited that he’s here. He’s a big piece of this defense. He makes our defense go around.”
Cornerback Leon Hall: “He’s so strong it’s unbelievable. He’s not very tall, but he’s just much stronger than a lot of people. He’s overpowering and can really take control of the center of the offense. And I think we’ve all benefited from his success.”
DE Robert Geathers: “Everybody knew it was coming. You’ve got to keep players like Geno. You can’t give him an opportunity to get away from you. Pay your guys. It makes everybody want to do better and know that you’ll be rewarded for playing great. It’s a good example.”
Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth: “You’ve seen a trend of guys that have worked their way into (contract extensions). It’s something that continues to make this locker room special – guys who continue to apply themselves and reap the rewards. That contract is going to change his entire family’s life. It’s a big deal.”
Waiting on Whit: Whitworth was doing rehab work on a side field during Monday afternoon’s practice, leading to further doubt that he will play in Sunday’s season opener at Chicago.
Whitworth has the second most starts among active Bengals with 102, including 64 in a row, but he did not play a snap during the preseason while recovering from offseason knee surgery.
If Whitworth is unable to go, six-year veteran Anthony Collins would get the start opposite Bears defensive end and eight-time Pro Bowler Julius Peppers.
Carlos confident: Dunlap, who missed the preseason with a concussion, said he is “very optimistic” he will play Sunday.
“We are going to give it a whirl today and keep building from there,” Dunlap said before practice.
“He’ll be fine,” defensive line coach Jay Hayes said. “He could have played Thursday (in the preseason finale against Indianapolis). He just hadn’t practiced.”
Howard homecoming: Former Bengals linebacker Thomas Howard will be at Paul Brown Stadium for a tryout today. Howard led the team in tackles in 2011 but suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice Sept. 13.
The Bengals kept only five linebackers when they cut the roster to 53 Saturday. If Howard proves his knee has recovered enough, his knowledge of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s system would make him an intriguing and inexpensive option as a backup.
“Thomas feels like the rehab has been good,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “It’s been almost a year. He feels good about things and we’ll see where he is with that and go from there.”
Moch moving: Former Bengals defensive end Dontay Moch, who was waived Saturday, appears to be heading to the Arizona Cardinals. While no signing was officially announced, Moch Tweeted a photo of the Cardinals logo along with #birdtime.