Vincent Rey is now entering his ninth season in the NFL, all with the Bengals, which is fairly surprising given how many young linebackers the Bengals have brought in during the past few seasons. Rey will be turning 31-years-old in September, and it looks like he will still have to fight for his job just as hard as he did when he came to the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
The Bengals have hit on quite a few undrafted free agents. The most notable of course is Vontaze Burfict, but the rest of the roster has undrafted players littered throughout such as Alex Erickson, Ryan Hewitt, Trey Hopkins, and Alex Redmond, to name a few. However, Rey has been around the longest. He joined the Bengals the same offseason as guys like Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, which makes him one of the longest-tenured players on the team.
To go from being an undrafted free agent fighting for a roster spot to a nine-year veteran is no easy task, and with the Bengals’ newest class of undrafted free agents set to hit the practice field this weekend, Rey shared some advice that got him through the offseason practices and onto the team.
“Whatever is important to the coaches is important to you,” Rey told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “No matter what it is. If it’s important to him, make it important to you. That’s the way to be a pro, in my opinion.
“Just buy in. Believe in the coaches. They know what they’re talking about. Some of the coaches have been coaching longer than you’ve been alive so just trust they know what they’re talking about. If you trust that, do what they say, it will eventually work in your favor.”
It seems like a simple concept, but it is one that often may get overlooked by younger guys entering the league. The coaches, especially with the Bengals, ultimately will not only decide who gets to play, but they also decide who makes the team. Undrafted players often start behind the eight ball as far as competition with other players. It is on them to make an impression on these coaches if they have any hope of sticking around.
“Coming from Duke at that time, we didn’t have guys who looked like a (Jermaine) Gresham. I didn’t see a guy like (Carlos) Dunlap or Geno Atkins. You see those guys and say, ‘Oh, this is big-time football,’” Rey said in regards to focusing on what you’re doing and not others around you. “It was a little intimidating. They turned out to be great players, but I’m still here. At the end of the day you’re competing against each other, but it really comes down to taking care of yourself and being mentally focused on what you have to do.”
Most of Rey’s advice seems like little things, but as an undrafted guy you have to nail all those little things down. Rey goes on to say how “not everyone has the same opportunity,” which could not be more true in the NFL.
The Bengals drafted linebacker Malik Jefferson in the third round and reportedly signed Chris Worley as an undrafted free agent as well. These two players won’t have the same odds of making the team with identical play. Jefferson is almost certainly going to make the roster even if he struggles. Worley will have to not only show he can be relied upon on defense, but he needs to show he can be a producer as a special teams player as well. Even then, he still may not make the roster.
“I’ll never forget my rookie minicamp camp. It’s the second most tired I’ve ever been next to my rookie training camp with the two-a-days (practices),” Rey says alluding to the expectations and effort undrafted rookies need to put in. “It’s still going to be a lot of reps. You do 20 right and one wrong, it’s not good enough. It’s going to be a long rookie camp. It’s going to be a long OTA camp. It’s going to be a long training camp.”
The whole mentality of going out there and making sure you do your job every chance you get is something Rey mentions a few times. As an undrafted player, you aren’t going to get as many chances as other guys, so you have to make each one count.
“Don’t count the reps. Make every rep count. Coaches really want someone they can trust. They’re not going to play someone they can’t trust generally,” Rey says.
When it comes down to it, that is why Rey has been around so long. He has had a good bill of health, playing in 108 straight games before missing a few last season when injuries piled on. However, the fact that coaches feel they don’t have to worry about him missing an assignment is what’s kept him on the roster for such a long time, nine years and counting, to be exact.