If you are a member of a growing community that's irritated with Dre Kirkpatrick not being a Pro Bowler (because he's a former first-round pick), then most likely you've attributed his 40-yard interception return for a touchdown as dumb luck... or "he should have done it anyway". Anyone could have caught it... it was an unwrapped gift during Cincinnati's 41-39 loss Thursday night. In every respect, everyone is right... including Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who argues that "I could have caught it."
For his part, Kirkpatrick acknowledges the gift he was given.
"He overthrew him. I saw the tight end coming across. The ball came off his hand kind of funny. I was there," Kirkpatrick said. "I’m going to take presents. You give them to me, I’m going to take them."
Kirkpatrick's career is not unlike a stalled sports car, plagued by an assortment of injuries that's prevented him from ever being 100 percent. Yet for the first time in his career, he has taken part in spring workouts, training camp and the preseason... all in the same year. Cincinnati's newest defensive backs coach, Vance Joseph, praised Kirkpatrick's spring workouts.
"Dre has had a hell of a spring," Joseph said. "I think Dre has been very focused and is working very hard. I think Dre wants to be good. I think Dre wants to help our team win. So to hear that Dre is excited about wanting to bring in Darqueze, that's not surprising. I think Dre is secure in himself, he knows what he can do and what he should be able to do, so he's not worried about anything but himself, but of course happy for the team."
Kirkpatrick feels as confident as he ever has. Breakout season? Maybe. Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther also praised his third-year cornerback earlier this year.
"It’s high. Especially because of all the things I’ve been through, trying to get back to where I am now, so just hearing it from the man that’s making all the calls is a good thing," Kirkpatrick said via Bengals.com. Geoff Hobson wrote that "one insider said it was his best as a Bengal".
After such a poor start to his career, there is a feeling of "bust" but not for a lack of talent. Because of his injuries, Kirkpatrick has played just 406 defensive snaps in his career, 363 of which came last year. Also, 232 of those came in the final four games (including playoffs) when Terence Newman went down after Leon Hall was already out with a torn Achilles.
It doesn't really need to be said that this is a huge season for Kirkpatrick. And since earlier this spring it's started well. Now he has an interception return for a touchdown to his credit. Yes. He should have had it. And he returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Blow it off as a gift, or admit he did exactly what he should have. Either way, it defensive touchdowns help Cincinnati.