The Cincinnati Bengals rookies will be arriving at Paul Brown Stadium this weekend for their minicamp, and the veterans are looking forward to seeing what they bring to the group as they prepare to integrate into the full offseason training program next week.
Rookie minicamp takes place Friday and Saturday and will feature this year’s 10 draft picks, as well as undrafted college free agents the team has signed or will be giving a tryout. There have been at least six players rumored to be joining as undrafted college free agents.
“I’m just eager to see what we’ve got, to see who can help us and see what talent we got from this draft,” fourth-year wide receiver Tyler Boyd said in a group interview after voluntary workouts Tuesday. “I can’t wait to see what these guys got. I am going to watch the rookie camp this weekend and see what those guys can do and just help them along the way and just try to make everybody around me and all of us better.”
It was this time a year ago that defensive end Sam Hubbard was trying to settle in as a rookie, and he remembers it well. Hubbard said the first days with the team are the most important in terms of establishing a good rapport with the coaches and veterans and leaving a good impression.
“It’s the first time you get to put on an NFL helmet, uniform, go out and compete against some top talent and really try to show the coaches what you’re all about and leave your first impression,” Hubbard said. “So, it’s a really important weekend for those guys and a big-time learning experience to get a head start on learning the defense and try to get on the 90-man roster to come to OTAs and camp.”
Seventh-year running back Giovani Bernard is much further removed from his days as a rookie, but still recalls the excitement he felt those initial days at Paul Brown Stadium.
“You’ve got a little time after you get drafted, so you’ve got family and everybody calling, and then all of a sudden you have to be back here ready for football,” he said. “I think that’s kind of where the work starts. I know these guys have had a chance to kind of breathe a little bit the past couple weeks, but once they get back here it’s really go time for a long time so for them it’s a good time. For me, I just really enjoyed it, getting here and getting to meet everybody. It was a cool time.”
Bernard said there wasn’t anything that shocked him those first few days with the team as he learned the ropes and began to understand the expectations for the players, but it was quite the adjustment from college.
Rookie minicamp, he said, was a good way to get accustomed to how the NFL works. He remembers thinking how businesslike it was.
“It’s not just you go out and throw the ball, it’s really a reason why we are doing each and every step,” Bernard said. “I guess, just understanding the entire game instead of just going out and throwing the football.”
If Bernard was to give any advice to the incoming rookies, it would be to “stay level-headed,” he said.
“No matter what happens, good or bad, just stay even-keeled,” Bernard said. “That’s pretty much been my M.O. my time here. I never know when my opportunity is going to come so just shine when the opportunity comes and stay level-headed.”
Boyd said the rookies need to make sure not to get overwhelmed with all the information they will be flooded with those first few days. Even he has to remember that as the returning players try to pick up the new playbook under coach Zac Taylor.
This is Boyd’s third new offensive coordinator since his rookie year in 2016, but at least he has the advantage of understanding the way things are done in the NFL and is familiar with the team. Everything is new for the rookies.
“Just consume things, bits and pieces and as the days go on and plays get called, just listen and just stay focused, take great notes,” Boyd said. “That’s one thing Zac overemphasized was taking a lot of notes. That’s something I’ve done a lot more than I have done previously. That’s a huge step in understanding new information. Just be a sponge and soak it all up.”
Hubbard’s advice was just to work hard from Day 1 and never take anything for granted.
“You’ve got to earn everything,” he said. “You’re going to come here. There are going to be draft picks and non-draft picks and everybody comes on the same playing field. What you do that weekend and from then on is going to be your reputation. How much you are going to play and how much you are going to contribute, everything starts that moment. You aren’t given anything in this league.”