Bengal fan excitement is a rare thing. Usually, the impending doom of the season is a foregone conclusion, yet we watch and cheer anyways hoping our analysis is dead wrong and the product on the field isn't complete garbage. More often than not, the predictions are correct, the season is a disappointment, and we savor our high draft pick. But every now and then Bengal nation is gifted with a pleasant surprised. 2011 was one of those surprises. The gifts: a stud rookie quarterback, a game changing rookie receiver, a classic Mike Zimmer defensive line, and a play-off berth. But the biggest gift of them all?--Hope. Hope is a dangerous thing, but with a team this young, promising, and undeniably on the rise, of course the fans are all in (and ready to have their hearts mercilessly broken). Even certain players have taken notice of CIncinnati, including the biggest Bengal free agent signing of the off-season, BenJarvis Green-Ellis.
In an interview with Mo Egger on ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati, Green-Ellis discussed the attraction of the youthful Bengals and playing with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton:
I was just intrigued by the fact that to just go play with a young football team that never ever won. It seemed like they are working hard all trying to obtain one goal and that's play winning football. Coach Lewis and his staff and Coach Gruden and Mr.Brown and all those people with the Bengals when I went there and I really enjoyed myself and I felt like there was no place else where I could fit in and hopefully I go in and work hard and all that.
I thought it would be fun for all of us to develop as a team together and grow together in this league. This offense isn't only A.J. and Andy and the guys. It's Bernard Scott and Jermaine Gresham and all the guys they have on offense and all the guys they have on defense. I've seen how hard everyone has been working to get to where they are today and I thought I could come in and help myself and just try to do my part to contribute to more wins.
The football knowledge and positive attitude Green-Ellis possesses are tremendous, a fact coach Marvin Lewis acknowledged shortly after the signing. He's willing to do whatever he is asked, as long as the result success. Regarding his new role withing Jay Gruden's offense, the Law Firm said the following:
I'm just trying to come in man and just work hard and do whatever they ask me to. I don't care what they ask me to do like run, catch, block. I'll do whatever they want me to do and try to go out and give 110% effort.
Green-Ellis' previous owner Robert Kraft also recognized the value BenJarvis brought to the table. The relationship Green-Ellis was able to build with his ex-owner is commendable, making it that much more difficult for the running back when his team was unable to win another Super Bowl for their owner. On the Super Bowl loss, Green-Ellis said:
It was a hard fought and competitive game that we just didn't come out on top of. I congratulate the New York Football Giants on winning a Super Bowl this year and being a champion. I felt like they were the one team that were champions and there were 31 losers and we were one of them this year, but we worked hard to get to where we were and we just didn't come away with everything we wanted. That's the only one regret that I have in all my years in the league was this past season and not being able to bring home that Super Bowl to Mr.Kraft. I felt like that was one of the things to help ease his pain going through everything with his wife, so that was one of my only regrets about leaving New England and not bringing Mr.Kraft that Super Bowl this past season.
The signing of BenJarvis Green-Ellis signifies a few things for the Cincinnati Bengals franchise, but what it speaks to most is the direction Cincinnati is headed regarding the character of their players. Breaking away from the jail-bird perception, the Bengals most recently drafted the high character players of A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, parted ways with Cedric Benson and (presumably) Jerome Simpson, and now sign another high character guy in BenJarvis Green-Ellis as their No. 1 running back.
The promise of the 2012 season is truly exciting, like, as a Morgan Freeman played character once said, "the beginning of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain". We hope great things are on the horizon in Cincinnati. We hope BenJarvis Green-Ellis can carry the load and be as dependable as he was in New England. We hope nothing goes horribly wrong. We hope.