Coaches haven't been able to make contact with their players since early March. A lot has happened since then, but nothing as important as the NFL Draft. The Bengals were thrust into a very sticky situation by their former quarterback, Carson Palmer, when he demanded a trade and threatened retirement. Now the Bengals are heading into the 2011 season with rookies at positions that need a lot of coaching.
According to Joe Kay of the Associated Press says that Bengals veteran players are stepping up as leaders and acting as coaches for the younger players during their team practices.
The Bengals defense gets into position and runs through the play. Afterward, a veteran takes a young player aside to explain the intricacy of the pass coverage. Others talk among themselves about how it turned out. Then, they line up and do it again.
The two leaders that seem to have stepped into the limelight are defensive lineman Domata Peko and offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth, both of which were largely responsible for organizing team workouts in Cincinnati. Peko is entering his sixth year in the NFL and feels that it's his time to step up and be a team leader.
"I like to lead by example and the way I work," said Peko, who organized the defense's two weeks of workouts at a suburban soccer complex. "I'm (in) my sixth year this season, so now I can talk without feeling like a young guy. Now I can speak up more and guys seem to respect that, so it's going really well."
Peko and the defense are attempting to run the practices like coaches usually would by taking on small chunks of the playbook at a time so rookies and younger players can grasp the new style of playing one small chunk at a time.
"We've been able to get after the playbook and chop away at that and get these young guys some experience on the field with all the play calls and hand signals," Peko said. "I know how important the (offseason workouts) are. Those aren't happening, so you need something like this to get things going."
This doesn't mean that players don't miss their coaches and normal practices, though. Rookie players couldn't know what they're missing, but veteran players do. Tank Johnson is one of those veteran players and he knows that even though their time on the field right now is invaluable, good NFL coaches are hard to replace.
"It's nice, but coaches are always a great motivator," defensive lineman Tank Johnson said Tuesday. "Like play-to-player breeds competition, coaches bring out the best in the players. Part of me misses having the coaches around."
The Bengals, like all other teams, are going to have to wait for their chance to work out with their coaches. When the lockout finally comes to an end, which is hopefully right around the corner, the players will finally be able to get together with their coaches and prepare for the season. Until that happens, though, they'll just keep practicing together where the veteran players act as coaches.
While I, like all of you, want the lockout to end, I can't imagine a better scenario to force veteran players into the leadership roles that they should be in. Who know, maybe the Bengals will be better for their time together without their coaches.