For the last several weeks, every Bengals player except for one has been on the practice field for organized team activities. The only player missing was Carlos Dunlap.
Now that Dunlap has reported for mandatory minicamp, the Bengals are at 100%.
The media got a chance to talk with Dunlap about being missing from OTAs and now returning to Cincinnati for the final week before summer break.
“What happened happened,” Dunlap said via Dayton Daily News. “I’m here now. I’m just going to take advantage of what I can.”
Dunlap is set to play out the final year of his contract this season, unless the Bengals extend him with a new contract sooner. Many speculated that he was skipping OTAs in an effort to avoid a nasty injury that could cheat him out of millions of dollars on any future deal. It is also possible that he was trying to pressure the Bengals into giving him a contract extension. The Bengals clearly don’t want to go on with out him and are working on giving him a new deal.
“We’re obviously in negotiations, so that’s obvious,” he said “That’s been stated by both teams, and we’re making great progress. I just wanted to make sure I was in the best shape for the season, which I feel like I am. And I just wanted to work one-on-one with my guys down there (in Miami) and make sure I was ready for when I need to be there.”
Obviously, since football is a business, neither side was hurt by the other.
“There are no hard feelings between any of us. This is the process. Both sides understand it, and me personally, I just wanted to make sure I was in the best shape because obviously that’s going to tell all,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap has been wearing Bengals stripes for nine years now, and he would like to continue doing so. He has collected 361 combined tackles over the years, along with 64.5 sacks, three touchdowns, and two Pro Bowl appearances. He wants the stats and accolades to keep coming while he is in the Queen City.
“Cincinnati gave me my first shot,” he said. “I would love to be here and finish my career here because I feel like I’m working on a legacy. I’ve done some great things up to this point. I have the career sack record and I have one stud behind me (Geno Atkins) and one young stud coming in afterwards (Carl Lawson). I’d like to extend that gap between me and the next person so that it’s something that lasts generations for my future kids.”
As important as this extension is to both parties involved, Dunlap doesn’t feel any extra pressure on his shoulders or that it will contribute to any discord to the locker room.
“The guys in the locker room don’t talk about it, and my agent only brings me positive news, so it’s not weighing on me,” he said. “I’ve got guys in place so that they take on the weight of the back and forth stuff. He just lets me know when we’re making progress or if we’re not making progress and we’ll let that handle itself.
“I’m just going to make sure I’m ready to play football. Because at the end of the day, that will help push the needle whichever way it goes.”
At the end of the day, Dunlap just wants to play football.
“All the comments and everything talking about the reasons for me not being here obviously hit home a little bit because they painted me to be a selfish guy, which was not my objective,” Dunlap said. “My goal was to make sure I was in the best shape for when football starts so that I can be there for my team for the long haul. And I feel like I’m there. I feel like I accomplished that. And I’m ready for whatever.”
Whatever happens, fans in Cincinnati would sure love to keep to Dunlap in town. Over the last few years, Dunlap has without a doubt been the Bengals best and most consistent pass rusher. With the influx of young pass rushers in the organization, such as Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, and Sam Hubbard, the franchise could benefit from having the veteran around.
Even though the 29-year-old has been on the team since 2010, his best years still could be ahead of him. Hopefully those years will take place in Cincinnati.