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Takeaways from Zac Taylor’s OTA presser

Most of the Bengals are back to work.

Super Bowl LVI - Cincinnati Bengals Practice & Media Day Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Organized Team Activities, more commonly referred to as OTAs, are underway for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Head coach Zac Taylor has made all offseason workout sessions voluntary leading up to training camp in late-July, but it appears that the vast major of the roster is back in Paul Brown Stadium.

Taylor, along with cornerback Mike Hilton, linebacker Logan Wilson, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, all spoke with media Tuesday morning. Here are some takeaways from their media sessions.

Voluntary means voluntary

There wasn’t any confusion in regards to Taylor’s attendance policy for OTAs. While most players were present, some were not and may not be until later.

“Of course we’d prefer everyone is here, but it’s voluntary,” Taylor said. “Some guys right now before we get on the field, they got their own workouts they’re doing. Part of it is because we ended so late in February they just kinda got into their routine in the last month and a half. So there’s a couple of guys that don’t have workout bonuses and just wanted to continue with that routine and then once we get onto the field they show up, so that’s just part of it.”

Taylor was asked a lot about the character factors he looks for in his players and how that translates to offseason workouts, but Taylor brought up a great point that goes against the conventional wisdom.

“You can put the football character two different ways there,” Taylor said. “They’ve got a routine, they love working out, they don’t want to deviate from that until we’re actually on the field throwing footballs around and doing drills and stuff like that. So there are probably a couple of guys that fit that mold where they’ve got a good thing going and they wanna continue that for another two weeks.”

Any on-field drills and things of that nature isn’t happening right now, so we’ll see if Taylor’s remarks ring true when those sessions ensue in the next week or two.

Franchise player

If you’re surprised by Jessie Bates III being one of the players Taylor alluded to not being present for OTAs, you shouldn’t be. Last year, when Bates was rallying his teammates to report and get to work off of a 4-11-1 season, the Bengals and his representation were just beginning talks of a contract extension. Fast-forward a year and both sides have yet to reach an agreement, and Bates was designated with the franchise tag.

Bates has virtually no incentive participating in anything he’s not financially required to do so long as his future isn’t secured. Bates hasn’t even signed his tag as of yet, and the deadline for an extension is July 15th. It’s possible that Bates shows up for some workouts, but he may not show up until camp.

It’s tough to project what the narrative will be if it comes to that, but as of now, Bates has the support of his teammates.

“Everybody in that locker room wants Jessie to get what he deserves,” Hilton said. “We know as a team, he’s a cornerstone piece for this franchise.”

Hilton’s campaign for a Bates extension has gone back to last season when he was still a new member of Cincinnati’s secondary. His role as a leader has only grown since then, so when he speaks, he speaks for the team.

And it doesn’t take a football savant to know what Bates meant to the defense in the playoffs. He was at his best in January in February, and we’re not talking about a Super Bowl run without the play of No. 30. His teammates know that better than most.

The Bates situation is fluid at best. A resolution may not happen for a while, but that’s the business of the sport.

Special competition

Based on the comments made by Simmons earlier in the offseason, a new returner seemed to be in the plans for the Bengals. Six NFL Draft picks and several college free agent additions later, the names at that position remain the same. Simmons said Tuesday that the class of returners this year was “lean,” and with no new challenger on the roster, it looks like Brandon Wilson and Trent Taylor are going to get first cracks at those spots.

As for the other sides of special teams, you can expect some battles.

Kevin Huber re-signed with the team after waiting to sign the offer until the conclusion of the draft. No rookie punter meant Huber would return to reclaim his job, and the competition is fellow Cincinnati native Drue Chrisman.

Chrisman will have to match Huber’s ability to hold for second-year kicker Evan McPherson, and that will come via reps with Clark Harris and rookie long snapper Cal Adomitis, whom the team signed as a CFA. Adomitis was arguably the top long snapper in this draft class, and he even earned a draftable grade from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler.

Harris has been around since before the Andy Dalton era along with Huber, but it’s entirely possible neither long-time vet is on the 2022 roster. Wouldn’t that be something.