The Bengals and Carlos Dunlap had one of the worst breakups a player and team could have. Most of it was completely public as well, which never looks good for a team that has struggled to take that next step.
Despite Dunlap publicly calling out coaches and forcing his way out of Cincinnati for a shot to actually compete for something in 2020, the former-Bengal had nothing but nice things to say about the team’s first overall pick last season.
“I believe Joe Burrow is definitely going to be the future of the NFL. He has a lot of potential,” Dunlap told Zach Gelb on CBS Sports Radio. “He has a lot of heart. He cares. He’s very passionate about what he does and about getting better at what he does. It’s clear what the Bengals organization saw, and I think the world got to see in him in the games he was able to play in. It just sucks that he got hurt the way he did and now he’s got to tackle the rehab process. But I believe he has more than enough mental toughness to get through that. I can’t wait to see him get back.”
Before last season, Dunlap’s opinion was held very high among the team and fans. It is unfortunate that it turned into a messy divorce, but he did het to see up close just how right the Bengals were to draft Burrow to turn their franchise around.
Burrow was well on his way to being in the competition for Rookie of the Year with 2,688 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions while completing just above 63 percent of his passes in a little under 10 games. More importantly, he had the Bengals looking competitive in games that probably would’ve been blowouts the past couple of seasons.
Burrow’s biggest impact can’t be quantified in the box score, though. His ability to come to an NFL franchise an instantly earn the respect of the locker room and be viewed as a leader just can’t be ignored. He earned that through preparation on the field and learning the offense, which was impossible for players to ignore this offseason. It is probably the biggest reason why no one is really doubting that the Bengals’ franchise quarterback will be able to return from his ACL injury in time for the regular season.
Dunlap used to be one of the guys in Cincinnati. His opinion on the team has obviously degraded quite a bit, but that makes the chorus of compliments for Burrow look that much more impressive. Burrow came in as a rookie and earned one of the longest tenured player’s unquestioned respect. That is probably just as impressive as anything that Burrow pulled off on the field during his rookie season.