Mike Pollak, the busy backup Bengals offensive lineman, has been such a good fit with his new team that his arrival has gone virtually unnoticed. He's backed up at both guards, resurrected his center days, and adds to a young roster surprisingly heavy with postseason experience.
The Bengals may be young, yet as the youngest AFC playoff team last year their homegrown players now have been to the dance at least once. But they also have 10 players that have been in a playoff game with other teams, led by
Which are more regular-season season starts than Cincinnati's starting safety and fullback and two of its top three receivers.
And Pollak, 28, who made the postseason during his first three years in the league with the Colts, sees plenty of similarities in this locker room.
"There's amazing chemistry on this team with the amount of talent," Pollak said before Wednesday's practice. "That's what we had in Indy. We had great talent and great chemistry. Hopefully come this fall we can prove we're an elite team."
Pollak started 41 games for the Colts while they won a Wild Card berth and an AFC South title, and while he was inactive during the Colts Super Bowl run in 2009 he's one of four Bengals (Harrison,
"I think there are very similar things I see here that I saw in Indy," said Pollak, who said the energy over there didn't come just from Peyton Manning. "Peyton's an amazing quarterback, but we had a supporting cast that helped out as well. We had Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne, (Robert) Mathis, (Dwight) Freeney."
Nobody is like Manning when it comes to leadership, but Pollak has not only been impressed by the camaraderie in the Bengals room but also the depth of leaders. He ticks off names of guys you don't usually think of, perhaps reflecting a bit of a transition.
"You've got a lot of young guys kind of stepping up," Pollak said. "Geno. A.J. Dalton. BenJarvus is a great leader. You have to have leaders at those core positions to have success on Sundays."
Pollak knew the Bengals well when he signed with them during the offseason after a one-year stint in Carolina turned into just one game because of a shoulder injury. He started against the Bengals in 2011 when the Colts were sliding out of the elite with a 2-14 record and the baby Bengals helped establish themselves with a 27-17 win over Indy at Paul Brown Stadium.
"When we came into that game we looked at them as an up-and-coming team and they haven't taken a step back; they've gotten better," Pollak said. "The defense here, you look at it on paper and you're scared coming in every week."
The defense certainly left an impression on Pollak. When he signed he thought, 'Great, now I have to block Geno every day in practice.' "
"After we played in 2011, I thought that this guy was going to be one of the league's dominant defensive tackles."
Pollak has seen Atkins plenty this summer because he's been a staple in the interior. He's getting a ton of snaps, mainly at left guard behind
The Bengals have been pleased what they've received so far from the former second-round pick out of Arizona State and he looks to be emerging as a valuable backup that can cover anywhere in the middle. Pollak is healthy now and offensive line coach Paul Alexander loves his approach.
"Very serious about his job and he's really done a good job for us moving around," Alexander said.
And Pollak is happy he's able to get his hands on the ball again, something he hasn't done since college.
"I feel like my skill sets are better suited for center, but I got drafted and went right to guard," Pollak said. "I battled and ended up starting on both sides. With 41 starts, my confidence level is much higher now. Cook is a great veteran who has really helped me. He knows the offense like the back of his hand. He's definitely the guy I go to when I have questions."
So far it has been one of those seamless fits on the paper and on the field. Alexander is stunned to hear Pollak hasn't worked at center since college.
"Doesn't look it," he said.