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Carl Lawson’s motto after signing with Bengals: “Just work, that’s it”

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Carl Lawson is looking to make up for lost time by buckling down with the Bengals and working hard for a roster spot and playing time in his rookie year.

NCAA Football: Alabama A&M at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time when Carl Lawson was one of the most heavily recruited defensive ends out of high school, ranked with five-stars and receiving offers from a number of programs. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his development in college at Auburn. By the time he was ready to declare for the NFL Draft, he was considered a mid-round prospect due to the amount of development he still needs, despite his impressive natural talent. The Bengals took a chance on that natural talent with the No. 116 overall pick in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and so far, the selection seems to have made fans and analysts happy. And, Lawson seems pretty happy, too.

“I feel like it’s a great fit,” Lawson told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “I’m just humbled, ready to work to be the best, learn from everybody else, keep my nose clean, my head down. Just work. That’s it.”

Lawson’s focus and drive is truly admirable, especially following a college career that, for the most part, didn’t go as planned. It should go a long way toward helping him impress head coach Marvin Lewis, who is already happy about Lawson’s potential in the NFL.

Carl Lawson in the fourth round really provided (us with) a player that has played on his feet, played outside in the 3-4 defense there at Auburn, and we really feel he has the versatility to be one of those swing guys here,” Lewis said after the draft. “We can teach him to play linebacker in our defense, (and he can) have an opportunity to be a down guy on third downs and in passing situations.”

Asking players to change positions after the draft is a strategy that, historically, has not worked well for the Bengals. But, Lawson is approaching the transition with the right mindset and a tenacious work ethic that could be the difference between him finding success and fizzling out.

“This is my job and what they brought me in here to do,” Lawson told Mike Hartsock of the Dayton Daily News regarding playing both defensive end and outside linebacker. “I need to be able to do that, and do it better than anybody else in the league. That’s what I’m working for.”

Working hard seems to be Lawson’s focus as he heads into his first offseason of work with the Bengals. If that mindset translates to his actions on-the-field, there is a good chance he will develop into a solid long-term player for the Bengals. Luckily, he can’t wait to come to practice and show everyone what he’s made of.

“I’m not going to go out there with a frowny face. I’m going to be happy every time I go,” Lawson said. “That’s my excitement level. You can’t really see it right now in an interview because I’m just talking, but when I go out to practice, you’ll see how much fun I have.”

Lawson will have plenty to work on at practice with the Bengals. At Auburn, his build and natural talent always seemed to be hindered by his lack of hip flexibility and predictable rushing style. The Bengals are hoping that can be chalked up to the time he missed due to injuries, and that coaching at the NFL level will help in his development.

“There’s a lot of stuff I still need to learn in due time,” Lawson said. “Especially because we’ve got preseason games and camp (for) a month-and-a-half, two months. I think that’s plenty of time because in three days I think I made a lot progress.”

There seems to be no question as to why the Bengals felt he would be a great fit with team.

“I’m real comfortable,” he said. “If you work at something you’re going to become good at it. That’s what I plan on doing. Wherever they want me to be, I plan to be the best out there.”

With that attitude, he very well could be.