Bengals look to carry momentum of productive offseason program into break

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor liked hearing that Joe Burrow said “it’s go time” as the team is about to break for the next month and a half before training camp.

While Taylor hopes players can enjoy some down time, he appreciated Burrow’s acknowledgement of the importance of coming to camp in late July prepared. The Bengals are wrapping up a seven-week offseason workout program -- which began May 2 – much later than most other teams to account for playing the longest season in NFL history.

The last day of Organized Team Activities is Thursday.

“That’s a great message for our team,” Taylor said Tuesday, the final day media was able to attend OTAs. “The time for vacation was in March and April. That doesn’t mean you can’t get away for a couple days, but physically you need to come back and be in the best shape of your life when we hit training camp. So, when your leadership is making those statements it trickles down to the entirety of the roster. If they want to keep up, they got to get on that level. That’s what we want as a team. That’s where we want to get to and we just got to be prepared when the first day of training camp rolls around that we don’t skip a beat.”

The Bengals have had a productive offseason program with all but two players attending. Free safety Jessie Bates is holding out of team activities while trying to negotiate a long-term contract before the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players to reach agreements on new deals. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson stayed home to continue workouts on his own while spending time with family after a long season.

Several players coming back from injury are making good progress and Taylor is hopeful everyone except maybe linebacker Joe Bachie – who tore his ACL late in December – will be ready for the start of training camp or at least early in camp. Bachie likely will need more time to get back.

Asked specifically about Tee Higgins, Logan Wilson and Joseph Ossai, Taylor said all three are progressing toward potentially being cleared by camp. Wilson and Higgins both had shoulder surgery after the Super Bowl, and Ossai tore his ACL last August but had another minor procedure this offseason to help his recovery.

“I’m hopeful,” Taylor said. “You know, I should be careful to say someone is going to be ready day one of training camp. But the thought is they’ve really attacked the rehab, doing all the things, the progression has been as we hoped it would be. It remains to be seen these five weeks how they handle it, but I’m encouraged that they’ll be ready to go.”

Taylor expects guard Alex Cappa to be ready for the start of training camp as well. Cappa has been nursing a core muscle issue but doing some side work during OTAs.

The next five weeks Taylor will be finalizing “things that are important personally for the season” to make sure the team is ready to hit the ground running in July and that training camp runs smoothly. He, too, will take advantage of some time off to spend time with family in Cincinnati.

“It’s really the first, as you mentioned, normal offseason,” Taylor said. “We’re going to try to make it the first normal summer, where we just wake up and have coffee and spend time here in the area. I think so often as my years as a coach, this first day of vacation you’re booking your plans to go see this or that and get out of the city you’re in. We truly enjoy it here for a reason. So we want to spend the time to actually get to enjoy it without the stress of planning the day and getting ready for the day. And so it’ll be nice to kind of sit around and enjoy Cincinnati for a couple weeks.”

Taylor joked that his favorite thing to do is plan training camp. He and his coaching staff will make a few tweaks this year, but nothing that would easily be noticed. Some segments of practices will be longer than others compared to last year, and the structure of the weeks could be different just based on when preseason games fall.

“The structure of the actual practice itself remains relatively unchanged,” Taylor said. “I thought we had a good training camp last year. We got what we needed out of it, got everything installed, got the right level of contact with the padded practices. This year, we’ll throw in the wrinkle of practicing against a different team (Rams) for two days, which I think will be good. So again, I’m excited to get some work done this training camp, the way it’s going to fall for us.”

About the Author