He had players like Terence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones on the team who all had years of being a quality corner in the NFL under their belts. It may have costed him getting reps earlier in his career when he was healthy, but it is never bad to have those guys around to ask questions.
This offseason is different, though. The Bengals declined Jones’ option on his contract, and the team took Davontae Harris and Darius Phillips in the draft. With the emergence of William Jackson, it makes it extremely doubtful that Jones will be returning to the team to compete for a spot.
That makes Kirkpatrick the oldest player in the secondary for the first time in his career.
“I’m in a different position now,” Kirkpatrick told Jay Morrison of Dayton Daily News. “I’m one of the oldest guys in the DB room. I’m just trying to fulfill the leadership role that I’ve worked to earn. If I see guys lacking in certain areas, it’s my job to make sure they’re up to speed.”
Kirkpatrick is passing it forward like the veterans did for him when he was young. Phillips has already seen results from his advice. After one play, Kirkpatrick told the young corner how he was responsible for the outside because of there being inside help. The next time around, Phillips got a pass deflection.
Kirkpatrick has also gone above and beyond for Harris as well.
“Dre reached out to me before I even got here,” Harris said. “He contacted me right after I got drafted. So when I got here I felt like I already knew him. He was somebody I knew I could confide in from a learning standpoint, from a teammate standpoint.”
It is no surprise then to hear that Kirkpatrick is considering staying on the sidelines in a different capacity once he hangs his pads up. He is considering trading in those pads for a whistle, something his new rookies could easily see him excelling at. Harris seems just happy he can get advice from someone who has gone through it and experienced how to play certain coverages.
Time will tell if Kirkpatrick will rush to join the coaching ranks once his playing days are done. If his career is anything like his predecessors, then he will have a very long time to think about it, as Newman is still playing for the Vikings. while Jones and Hall each played last season.
Kirkpatrick is only entering his seventh season, but I’m sure he is doing his vets proud by paying it forward like they did. After all he is grooming the next group of corners who will likely have to take helm one day.
“At the end of the day, I just want to be a good team leader, be a great veteran and help these guys,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s like I just told Davontae a little bit ago, one day he’ll be in my shoes. I’m not always going to hold this position.”