Mixon had declined interview requests with media throughout training camp while wishing to avoid questions about the contract extension he was negotiating with the Bengals ahead of the final season on his rookie deal.
The 2017 second-round draft pick posted several cryptic Tweets on social media over the last few weeks, many of which seemed to express frustration with the process. Then, last week he spent practice sessions on the sidelines or not present. He did some side work Sunday before the team’s scrimmage, but the Bengals were off Monday.
“We’ve had communication with Joe,” Taylor said last week when asked about Mixon’s status. “We’re helping Joe through it and that’s all I have to say right now. … Joe has been an honest guy with us and we’ve always had great communication with Joe.”
Mixon was late arriving to practice Tuesday but as warmups got underway, he posted a photo with Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn, vice president of player personnel Paul Brown Jr. and director of strategy and engagement Elizabeth Blackburn. The team then posted a GIF on Twitter of Mixon celebrating a touchdown.
The Bengals have not made the extension official, but director of player personnel Duke Tobin has been upfront about the organization’s interest in retaining Mixon long-term.
Mixon posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, managing to achieve that milestone in 2019 despite a slow start. He recorded 817 of his 1,137 yards rushing over the final eight games.
“He’s an overall back,” wide receiver Tyler Boyd said of Mixon recently. “He’s an every-down back. He can pass protect, he can catch out the backfield, he can make you miss. His yards after contact is I think No. 2 in the league. He makes things out of nothing most of the time. It’s hard to say because I play with him each and every day, I see it. I’m like, how does nobody else see it on Sundays? Without me in the top 100, he should definitely be in there in the top 100.”
Boyd was referring to the NFL Top 100, which is voted on by players around the league and had no Bengals players listed this year.
New right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo blocked for Zeke Elliott last year in Dallas and said he looks forward to doing the same for Mixon this season. Elliott rushed for more than 1,300 yards in 2018 and 2019 and is one of the top five running backs in the league.
“Joe runs hard so it makes our job easier as an offensive linemen for us when we have a back like that to block for him,” Su’a-Filo said.
Asked last week if Mixon will be negatively impacted by the lack of reps in training camp, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said he doesn’t doubt the young running back will be ready for the start of the season. The Bengals open Sept. 13 against the Chargers.
“I think Joe (Mixon) is a little bit in the same boat as A.J. (Green) is in a sense that we all know what Joe is capable of,” Callahan said. “In all the things scheme wise in the run game, he’s been doing well and at a high level. There’s not a lot of things that are new for him as far as carrying the ball. But reps are good and being able to get behind those guys upfront again and get some reps is important as the season gets closer for sure. But I don’t know that he needs to come out there and carry the ball 30 times in a practice for us to evaluate him.
“…Right now, the guys are competing for reps to separate (for roster cutdowns). I think Joe come September will be ready to rock and roll as far as that goes. I don’t think this is gonna be make or break for him.”