Because of the current NFL lockout, players are prohibited from contact with coaches or stepping foot on team property; that includes the team weight room or any other workout facility that would usually be filled with football players during the offseason. It's kind of like the teams, finally having enough of the abuse, have gotten a restraining order placed against their players. Now the players can't come within 100 feet of the teams, and if they do, they'll be in trouble.
Usually, one would think that the Bengals players would deal with their "restraining order" by spending time in the large tree across the street (or the new Great American building) keeping a watchful eye on the Bengals while making sure they don't violate the stupid law. Maybe that's what some of them are doing, but not all of them.
Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson, linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive linemen Tank Johnson and Domata Peko have been working out together at a facility in Mason with former Bengals strength and conditioning coach Clif Marshall.
Simpson was part of a group at the Mason facility on Wednesday that included Domata Peko, Tank Johnson and Rey Maualuga. One advantage of working out at Ignition is that Clif Marshall was on the Bengals strength and conditioning staff from 2005-07 and also worked on speed drills with the team during recent offseason programs.
I'm sure that all NFL players currently locked out of their team's workout facilities have found other places to work out and I'm sure that Simpson, Maualuga, Peko and Johnson aren't the only teammates working out together, but that doesn't make the four Bengals players workout any less nice to see. Most, if not all, of these Bengals have something to prove in 2011.
Most people believe that Chad Ochocinco won't be on the roster when the 2011 season starts, and if the Bengals don't draft a wide receiver like A.J. Green or Julio Jones in the first round, it would pretty much make Simpson the man. He produced like he could be a No. 1 receiver in the final couple games of the 2010 season but before that he produced like he couldn't even handle being a practice team receiver. He'll need to prove to everybody that he can be consistently good.
Maualuga is probably going to slide from SAM linebacker to MIKE linebacker due to the likelihood that the Bengals won't resign middle linebacker Dhani Jones for a fifth season. Most believe that Maualuga is better suited to play middle linebacker and that this move was going to inevitably come, but after a year that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer called Maualuga "extremely average," one would question whether or not he's ready yet. Maualuga has said that it's time for him to "stand up," and working out with his teammates in Cincinnati could be a sign of the soon-to-be middle linebacker developing the leadership skills he'll need to run Zimmer's defense in 2011.
Tank Johnson has only played in 21 games out of the possible 32 in his two years on the Bengals roster. In that time, he's only made 21 tackles and sacked the quarterback twice. With the emergence of Geno Atkins as a pass rusher and with a large push to give Pat Sims a larger role on the defensive line, Johnson may have worked his way out of a starting role in Cincinnati, especially if the Bengals decide to draft a defensive lineman, like Marcell Dareus, high in the draft. Of the four players working out together, Johnson probably has the most to prove.
And then there's Peko. Peko has been fairly reliable since he became a Bengal in 2006 but with the sub-par play of the defense in 2010, and with a defensive coordinator like Mike Zimmer, nothing is certain. Like Tank, if Marcell Dareus falls to the Bengals and they take advantage of it, even Peko could find his place on the team in jeopardy.
It's nice to see the players that need to step up in 2011, Simpson, Maualuga, Peko and Tank (what a cool first name), taking steps to do so, even though the lockout prohibits them from working out in the team's facilities. All four players are going to need to be leaders for the Bengals to succeed, and hopefully the group workout will help them all step up and lead the Bengals to a more successful 2011.