The Bengals already had a sense where their leadership group was headed in the first post-Green-Dalton season of 2021 long before Monday's vote for captains. Of the seven players who modeled the new uniforms back in April, five of them are going to have the 'C,' on the new unis.
And four of them, running back Joe Mixon, wide receiver Tyler Boyd, free safety Jessie Bates III and defensive end Sam Hubbard, got the nod for the first time.
The vote merely reflected what has been going on since Zac Taylor became head coach in 2019.
"I think it was already cemented. I think captain is just a title," Hubbard said after Monday's practice. "The way all of us have carried ourselves and handled the last few months—there's a lot more people that could've been named a captain, especially young guys, new guys, free agents that are just getting here. A lot of guys that could've been named a captain. There's great leadership on this team, but (the vote) definitely cements that."
Except for 35-year-old special teams captain Kevin Huber, the oldest captains are the 26-year-old Boyd, the 26-year-old Hubbard and 26-year-old strong safety Vonn Bell, a repeat captain, as is 24-year-old Joe Burrow.
Despite the youth, there are still the four 1,000-yard seasons from Mixon and Boyd, Hubbard's 16.5 career sacks that lead his draft class and Bates' Pro Football Focus'-leading safety grade in 2020. Then there is Bell, who leads his safety draft class in tackles, quarterback hits and tackles for loss, according to Pro Football Reference.
"Young guys, but they've played a lot of football," Taylor said.
APPLE GETS START: Cornerback Trae Waynes has been a Bengal for two years and has yet to start an opener. On Monday Taylor ruled him out of Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) against the Vikings team that drafted Waynes with the 11th pick in 2015.
But this time Waynes (hamstring) is going to be back in a couple of weeks after missing all last season with pectoral surgery. And this time they can replace him with Eli Apple, the 10th pick in the following draft, making his fourth Opening Day start. Last year, third-year man Darius Phillips made his first Opening Day start in place of Waynes.
"That does give you confidence. We expect great things from Eli and we expect great things from Darius Phillips. He's going to play," Taylor said. "Jalen Davis. ... These are all the guys that might not be listed as starters, but they sure as heck are going to get a lot of opportunity.
"Watch every secondary in the league last year, you need your depth to step up and play. They're going to be called upon. Same thing on the offensive line and defensive line. You need depth at all these positions and corner is no different. We have great expectations for the all the guys that made our roster on the back end."
The addition of Apple allows Phillips to return punts, which he didn't do much of last season without Waynes.
CHASE LSU'S FAMILY: Bengals rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase says once Burrow started yelling at training camp, he knew he was back to his old self. He says another one of Burrow's LSU targets, practice squad tight end Thaddeus Moss, got him going.
"Joe had a powerful words when he was at LSU his last year just because he overcame so much confidence from the year before," Chase said. "I don't know if it was from the hit or wanting to be better. I definitely noticed once when we got here, he wasn't so vocal about the offense yet. And Thad told him. It's just Joe being himself. He finally got his confidence back. He's back out there screaming, yelling, playing (like) himself. So I believe Joe has his full confidence being himself now, that's the leader we need."
To make the Baton Rouge reunion complete, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson comes to town for the opener. While Chase was catching 221 yards from Burrow in the 2019 national title game, Jefferson was catching 106. Thanks to Jefferson's brilliant rookie year, he's got a Pro Bowl 1,400-yard head start on Chase in the NFL.
"Actually I don't know what that's going to be like," Chase said. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to call him and make our usual bet. But I'm just excited to watch him play and he's excited to watch me play. I'm not really playing against him, the defense is. I'm hoping we win and he (doesn't) do nothing."
The bet sometimes involves touchdowns, sometimes yards. But something of substance is always on the line.
"Of course," Chase said.