On his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season, Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins missed out on two things he wanted to do: visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial and hike the Diamond Head trail.
But when you go to two straight Pro Bowls, you can plan on getting to the stuff you missed in Hawaii.
"It's fun. It's nice knowing what to expect," Atkins said after Thursday's practice in preparation for Sunday's game (7 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5). "It's always great meeting guys you've never met before and spending time with them."
Atkins is with a whole new crew this year with Buffalo's Kyle Williams and Miami's Randy Starks the AFC tackles, but he's still the young guy by quite a few years. He and fellow Bengals
"I tell them the difference between being young and old is having kids so they can go off and do whatever they want while they're here," Bengals left tackle
But Whitworth, 31, enjoying his first Pro Bowl trip, has spent some pool time with his guys, particularly Gresham. He and wife Melissa brought their three children (two years of age and under), and Atkins doesn't mind spending time with what wife Melissa calls "The Circus."
"No, there are a lot of kids over here," Atkins said. "It's a family atmosphere. It's part of why it's a great experience."
Atkins has also made it a family time by bringing his two sisters, mother and aunt, along with a few friends. He also brought the 100-percent motor that has made him what many believe to be the NFL's best defensive tackle.
So he's not quite sure about the ruckus being kicked up about how hard the players are going to play this game. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning implored both teams Tuesday night to play harder than what has transpired the past few years.
But that's news to Atkins. Go back and look what Atkins had to say last year after the AFC's 58-41 victory:
"In the second half we turned it up; we got after it. We didn’t like what the NFC was doing with onside kicks and fake punts. It was a slap in the face. But as you saw, it didn’t matter because they lost."
As usual, Atkins was active with a tipped pass against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and he had two tackles, one for a loss in his Pro Bowl debut.
"Peyton gave a good talk; he's a funny guy," Atkins said. "I think guys are going to go out there and we'll give it a good show for everybody."
Atkins finds himself in the middle of a Pro Bowl with rookies like Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson and guys like Manning and Champ Bailey in their 12th appearances. Atkins has never thought about in how many he may end up playing.
"I just want to get to the Super Bowl," Atkins said.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» In their bid to make the Super Bowl, the Bengals had what Atkins's agent called a "brief, casual" encounter at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., as the effort to extend his contract begins before he becomes a free agent after the 2013 season.
"We had some dialogue down here," Pat Dye said after one of the Senior Bowl workouts. "In an ideal world, both sides would like to get something sooner rather than later. He's been to two Pro Bowls at age 24, so he's en elite player at his position. I know they recognize that. It's just a matter of sitting down and getting it done in a way that that satisfies both sides."
» Dye's firm also represents left end
"It's a credit to Robert and to the organization for honoring the deal," Dye said. "They could have reached an injury settlement with him before the year, but it paid dividends. His leadership is off the charts and he played real well."
» Dye and partner Bill Johnson were headed to the Pro Bowl to visit Atkins as well as another client, Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth made his first Pro Bowl when another Dye client, Denver's Ryan Clady, had shoulder surgery.
» Another Dye client, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, showed the flag after one of the practices. Lattimore, considered one of the top running backs in the country before he tore up his ACL this past season, begins jogging next week and Dye wanted to make sure the NFL personnel people not only remember him, but see him up and around and grinding through rehab.
Dye says after visiting Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., Lattimore has been told two of his three ligaments that were torn, the LCL and the PCL, are "tight as a drum," and he's on an ACL rehab that should get him ready for the season.
Lattimore's knee is going to be examined more than the Dead Sea Scrolls before the April 25-27 draft and the Bengals will be in there poking around like every other NFL team. Until then, it's hard to say what anyone might do.
On one hand there are guys like Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore and Willis McGahee that have come back. On the other hand there are Ki-Jana Carter and Kenny Irons.