Losing the first five games of the season is a recipe for potential disaster. With 11 games remaining on the schedule, so many early failures could rip apart an NFL locker room.
That doesn’t seem to be the case (yet) for the Cincinnati Bengals, who made “It’s About Us” their motto for the season. Back in April when the saying was first coined, Dre Kirkpatrick described it like this:
“Worry about us. Re-focusing. Coming together. Building a bond. Don’t worry about outside distractions, but what we can build on as a team.”
The biggest outside distraction regarding the Bengals is the on-going discourse of a potential A.J. Green trade. Rumors of Green’s camp not wanting him to re-sign with Cincinnati and the possible return of a first-round pick if a trade went down have only escalated the noise. Eventually, it found its way to Kirkpatrick in the Bengals’ locker room, and he was not having it.
“It (trading Green away) better not happen. It’s going to fall apart if you do that,” Kirkpatrick said. “That’s our best player on the team. He’s not even out there. We don’t know how the team really should look. They can’t do that. I’m a team player first. I rally around my guys. That would really hurt my spirit if he walked out this door.”
Kirkpatrick’s passion isn’t anything new. After last week’s blowout loss to the Steelers, he was quoted: “We gotta just figure this s*** out. We gotta get wins. They don’t pay me to lose. That s*** is unacceptable to me.”
But any player—especially a long-time veteran—would be against trading away core players for the sake of rebuilding for the future. Which is why players don’t have the final say in what’s best for the team.
If trading Green is what will make things “fall apart” after an 0-5 start...well, how much lower can they really go? The Bengals are just one of four winless teams remaining, and they’re so far away from being competitive again. The idea of trading Green is supported by the notion that by the time the rest of the team is good again, Green won’t be the player he used to be. From an ownership’s perspective, it’s logical. From a fellow player’s perspective, it’s blasphemous.
“I want everybody to stay,” Kirkpatrick continued. “I want to win here. I don’t want to go anywhere. I’m not just a player for the Bengals. I do things in the community. A lot of guys in here do.”
Kirkpatrick will likely get his wish. The Bengals have never been prominent sellers at the trade deadline before, and there are no new decision makers in the building aside from Zac Taylor.
As far as wanting to win here, Kirkpatrick may be asking for too much in regards to that.