On Saturday, I wrote about how the 2013 Bengals are different from other successful Bengals teams in the Marvin Lewis era because there aren't any divas in this locker room. Now, I know we can't crown the 2013 Bengals as anything but "looking good on paper" at this point, however many in the media are drinking the same orange and black Kool-Aid that the Bengal nation has been sipping on for some time now. Aside from having some quality guys in this locker room, there is one other noticeable observation that many have made since we have had the luxury of getting an inside view on "Hard Knocks".
Team cohesion. Translation: the players and coaches like each other.
Even the tackiest of sports movies have a built-in storyline of the team coming together, despite all odds and differences, and winning a championship. Though this Bengals team has loftier expectations than those Cleveland Indians teams in the "Major League" movies, or the Shane Falco-led Sentinels in "The Replacements", they do have that one common thread--team unity.
"Hard Knocks" has given us the opportunity to witness the high-quality characters that this team has brought in with both players and the coaching staff. Yes, a good chunk of those associated with the Bengals have mouths like dock workers. Yes, there have been some tussles during practice. But, in general, this team looks out for one another.
Example one: in the first episode, running backs coach Hue Jackson was profiled and introduced to the nation. In one shot from his previous stint with the Bengals as receivers coach, we saw Jackson get in a physical altercation with the late Chris Henry on the sidelines during a game. Not a pretty picture and though we mourn Henry's untimely death, it painted a realistic picture that he wasn't the most coachable of players.
In the 2013 installment, we see Jackson getting on Orson Charles (hard) about his transition to fullback and we get to watch Charles take everything in. He'll stay after practice, walk like a duck and thank Jackson for his harsh words after a meeting. Quite a stark contrast from the Henry scuffle and the rumors of Chad Ochocinco taking a swing at him in the locker room, no?
For example two, we'll use Jackson again. The Bengals have assembled an All-Star cast with their coaches and they know it. In the third episode, there was a brief moment where Jackson embraced defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and simply said to him, "Marvelous". It was an obvious reference to the job that Zimmer has done with the Cincinnati defense. This was after we had seen Jackson and Zimmer joking around with each other in the first episode. Mutual respect at its best.
There are a number of examples to point at with the Bengals players. A.J. Green and Andrew Hawkins, two injured wide receivers, spent time and had dinner with each other while watching the first preseason game back in The Queen City. Rey Maualuga, Terence Newman, Taylor Mays and Vontaze Burfict all chatting about superpowers and laughing with each other at the end of the Titans game. Or, how about the ugliest swimming contest ever captured on film that showed the Bengals' defensive linemen and linebackers challenging each other in their hotel pool in Atlanta?
Though "Hard Knocks" can paint certain pictures surrounding certain situations, the team cohesion with the 2013 Bengals is obvious. And, as corny as it might sound, the more one likes and respects his teammates, the determination to let down ones comrades skyrockets. We've seen talented Bengals teams before, but fractured locker rooms poisoned the golden opportunity to seize success.
Maybe, just maybe, the 2013 Cincinnati Bengals will follow one of the plots from Hollywood and pull together for a Championship season. It will start in the locker room.