The Bengals are hoping Year 2 is when John Ross shows the NFL what he’s made of.
After being drafted No. 9 overall Bengals in 2017, it looked inevitable that Ross would be a major player in Cincinnati. However, injuries and a lack of playing time helped prevent him from ever making an impact.
Part of that was due to offseason shoulder surgery that caused Ross to miss training camp and be limited in the preseason. He was recovering from shoulder surgery when he joined the team, and that recovery forced him to be limited during the beginning of training camp and the preseason.
When Ross finally played in the preseason, he suffered a knee sprain in the final game that caused him to miss the Bengals regular season opener. After making his debut in Week 2, he fumbled the ball and was benched.
Ross would go on to play in just two more games due to knee and shoulder injuries, the latter of which required surgery toward the end of the regular season. In an interview with The Athletic, Ross talked about that mysterious injury, which came out of nowhere and led to Ross going on injured reserve after it appeared he would have a bigger role in the final weeks.
But as it turned out, Ross was dealing with a tear in his labrum that ultimately ended his disastrous rookie campaign.
“Yeah, well I talked to my doctor, and my doctor looked at it, and he was like, ‘For you to have this strength still with this injury, it’s kind of scary.’ I’m kind of built different, my shoulders look like they want to pop out the back, so there was no telling when I tore (my labrum),” said Ross. “He asked how long it had been bugging me, and I couldn’t even tell him. I just felt it getting worse. That’s how I answered his question — before I got the MRI, I had no idea it was torn.”
Ross couldn’t pinpoint when the injury occurred, but it became too much to bear as the season wore on. He admitted he didn’t communicate the issue to the Bengals until it was too late.
“I just think it was tough because I really didn’t communicate very well,” said Ross. “And I can be honest, I didn’t, because I thought: If I tell them this, I’m really not going to play. So I was just like, I’m going to keep going hard. It wasn’t me trying to keep anything from anybody. It was just me telling myself: You’re not dying, just work hard.”
While the injury was unfortunately, it never appeared to be why Ross wasn’t playing. Marvin Lewis repeatedly emphasized how Ross wasn’t ready to play, even when he was healthy. It seemed like Lewis was being more critical of Ross than most rookies he’s had, but Ross isn’t upset about that.
Instead, he’s accepting all of the blame for his lost rookie season, adding “I think we have a good relationship” when asked about Lewis, who taught Ross how to be a pro.
“I learned that in this business, you have to work for everything you want,” said Ross. “Not saying that I was asking for anything to be given to me, but it doesn’t matter who you are — you have to work. And I’m fine with that. I love working hard, working hard is what got me where I am. He’s said it before — the best players get on the field. I wasn’t that last year. I look forward to being one of those players this year.
It’s great to hear Ross accepting his mistakes as his own and not blaming others for it. He sounds like a player ready to overcome his rough entrance to the NFL and be an impact player for the Bengals in 2018.