Just over two months ago, Brandon LaFell was a free agent wide receiver, recently released from the Patriots due to a lackluster 2015 campaign. He's only been with the Bengals since the end of March, but he already seems to think that he's found the place that he seems himself succeeding in.
"I'm definitely hoping that, man. It's a great situation, a lot of young guys around here, a good young quarterback, A.J., Tyler, Gio, J. Hill." LaFell told Geoff Hobson discussing what he hopes will turn into a long-term relationship with the Bengals. "We got a lot of great guys on this offense, defense is loaded too. I feel like it's a great situation."
When LaFell signed with the Bengals at the end of March, one of the most significant deciding factors for him was the opportunity to play on a team where he felt he'd have a chance to succeed, as would the school.
"I wanted to come into a great situation where I had an opportunity to play with a good quarterback, get a lot of playing time, and also win," LaFell told Hobson."Since I've been here, that's all I've been seeing."
For example, he made a point to compare how the offenses operate just a couple of weeks after joining the team. So far, he seems to be very happy with his new quarterback situation and the direction that shows for the team going forward.
"Andy's a great young guy, a great young quarterback that's been producing year in and year out, getting this team better year in and year out," LaFell told Hobson. "This team has been winning for the last six to seven years since Andy's been in the league and before that when they had Chad and those guys."
Having previously played with a team as well built and successful as the Patriots, it's a very good sign that LaFell already feels comfortable with the situation he's in. In fact, if you ask him, he'll tell you that Andy Dalton and Tom Brady have certain similarities that make a receiver's life much easier.
"They both go out there and get us in the best place possible," LaFell said. "Don't matter what the defense is showing, and the way they deliver the ball on time."
That's definitely something to be excited to hear if you're a Bengals fan, especially given how highly LaFell talks about Brady.
"Give a lot of credit to Tom, he's one of the greatest quarterbacks to play this game. He made the game much easier for me, much slower." LaFell said, praising Brady for making it easy for him to put up the kind of numbers he did. 74 catches for 953 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014 is impressive, but it doesn't just happen without a leader like Brady at center. "My first year in the offense, he made it so simple. I just had to go out there, play fast, and catch the ball."
However, it's also worth noting that half of the equation for putting up those kind of numbers was LaFell's personal talent and drive. He had a down year in 2015, largely due to a foot injury that caused the Patriots to lose faith and release him, but he's looking to return to his 2014 form given the situation he has with the Bengals.
"I definitely showed what I can do when I'm healthy. Last season, I didn't play healthy at all," LaFell told Hobson. "But, this year I've got another chance to go out there, put my best foot forward, and make up for what I did last year."
For the Bengals, one of the biggest goals heading into 2016 has been rebuilding their wide receiver corps. Losing Marvin Jones to the Detroit Lions and Mohamed Sanu to the Atlanta Falcons was a pretty significant blow. But, the team has put together a respectable pool of potential players who could fill the roles left by the duo.
LaFell, in particular, has drawn quite a few comparisons to Mohamed Sanu due to his body size and playing style. He was quick to agree with these sentiments when questioned, although he made it clear that he is a great receiver in his own right who brings his own talents to the table, not just as Sanu's replacement.
"We're pretty similar in size," LaFell said. "We definitely got two different games but he's a great player."
However, LaFell does understand that he was brought in to attempt to fill the roles of departed players. A lot is going to be expected of him, and that's just the way he likes it.
"It's nothing different than anywhere else I've been. I have always demanded a lot of, a lot from me, and I've also demanded a lot from myself." LaFell said, "It's a good opportunity here for me, so all I'm going to do is go out there and make the plays that are available and do well with what I need to do to help this team win."
'Winning' is exactly what LaFell was brought to Cincinnati to do, and it seems like that's what his entire focus is with this team. He can rave about the quarterback situation and how he wants to be around long-term all he wants, but ultimately, he knows what he's really after. He won the Super Bowl once with the Patriots in 2014, but he insists that he isn't satisfied with having won just the Championship once.
"It's crazy. I tell my friends, after we won, they were like 'you can't wait for next season?' I was like, man, since we won, all I can think about is winning another one," LaFell recalled." I tell the guys it's like playing golf. Once you hit that perfect swing, that's all you're chasing the rest of the time you're playing. It's the same way with football. Once you win a big game, you want the team to win a big game. That's my goal every year is to get back."