At least 21 NFL teams are skipping voluntary offseason workouts this year. The Cincinnati Bengals are not one of them.
“A lot of teams are not even practicing in the offseason,” former Steeler and Cincinnati’s current slot cornerback Mike Hilton told Bengals.com recently. “But knowing where we’re trying to get, how we’re just trying to turn this team around, I feel like that will give us a leg up on some guys.”
Hilton is one of three new starting cornerbacks for the Bengals, and he is looking forward to learning the scheme and getting to know his new teammates on the field.
“There are different types of learners,” Hilton said. “Some people have to actually be on the field and get those reps and get that muscle memory going and some are actually better in the classroom. You’ve got different guys, but personally I’d rather be on the field so I can get movement in action. It won’t do anything but help us, in my eyes.
“Especially for us new guys. It’s an opportunity just to be around the team and the coaches and really learn the system and organization as a whole. It’s definitely much needed.”
Cincinnati’s rookies got an early start on the process with Friday’s minicamp and this week’s workouts. And the early reports were certainly promising.
“There weren’t any disappointments out there and that’s always a good thing,” Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said. “They look like they’re in shape. There is a plan and design and a hope for all of them, even the college free agents.”
Cincinnati did not have the luxury of rookie minicamp, OTAs or even preseason last year, and had to do most of their preparation via Zoom. Even so, the Bengals’ ended up with the NFL’s top rookie class, according to Pro Football Focus.
And when Cincinnati’s 2021 draft class and undrafted free agents took the field for the first time on Friday, the excitement was palpable.
“There’s a plan for everybody we brought in,” Tobin says. “We’ll see what happens, but there’s a plan.”
A majority of Bengals’ veterans will be joining the rookies on Tuesday of next week, and most, like Hilton, are excited about the opportunity to begin working on the chemistry that was definitely lacking to begin the season last year. Next up is the mid-June mandatory minicamp.
Of course, the key is being able to stay together, and being able to avoid the injury bug that struck early and often last year. Only time will tell.