When Nate Clements decided to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals, who needed a new cornerback to replace Johnathan Joseph, he had to take time to look at the roster and the situation the team was in after loosing its franchise quarterback and the franchise's all-time leading receiver. He had been in the league for 10 years with two teams, the Bills and the 49ers. He had been a pro bowler but had never been on a team that made it to the playoffs.
Like us, he had to figure that he was signing a contract with a team that was going into a rebuilding year and that his 11th season was going to finish the same way that his other 10 did. Since he's on the field, he may not be as surprised as we are, but I'm sure he's just as happy as we are, probably more, at the fact that he's making his first trip to the playoffs in his long career.
"I’ve learned as much from these guys as they’ve learned from me," Clements said. "I’m honored to go into battle with these guys week in and week out. We’re going to embrace the joy and cherish the opportunity we have."
He's not the only NFL veteran that is making his first trip to the playoffs as a Bengal in 2011, though.
Adam Jones is heading to the playoffs for the first time. In his four seasons with the Tennessee Titans and the Dallas Cowboys. Jones came to Cincinnati in 2010 but only played five games before injuring his neck. He missed the first half of their 2011 season too, but he has been a key player now that Leon Hall is on Injured Reserve. He may still be more famous for his off-field actions from when he was a Titan and Cowboy but now he has a chance at making a name for himself on the field in the playoffs.
Thomas Howard hasn't been to the playoffs either. Howard came to the Raiders in 2006 and has been in the league for five years before he came to Cincinnati in 2011. He was signed to replace Keith Rivers and has played so well that many wonder if Rivers will be a Bengal in 2012.
Manny Lawson is another linebacker that signed with the Bengals in the offseason. He came to Cincinnati in response to Rey Maualuga's move to middle linebacker. He spent his his first five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, who didn't make the playoffs until this season after Lawson left.
These four players have a chance to do something they've never done before on Saturday in Houston. Not only will they make their first playoff appearances of their careers, but they'll also get a chance to win a playoff game as well. Each of these players start for the Bengals defense and have played a large part in the team's No. 7 ranking to finish the season. All four of them will have a large part to play on Saturday as well. Hopefully they're not just satisfied with just going to the playoffs.