Smart, quotable and candid, Bengals right end Carl Lawson is a media favorite and if free safety Jesse Bates III isn't the Bengals Defensive Player of the Year, then the Bengals hit leader is.
From stopping the option to dietary options, he'll break it down for you.
Lawson is also superstitious and a free agent. So he locks up about his future beyond Sunday's season finale (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) against the Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium.
"Don't jinx all that stuff. Don't jinx it. I don't want to talk about anything offseason wise. I'm going to cut you off now," Lawson Zoomed before Wednesday's practice. "Don't ask any more questions. I told you I had goals. I don't want to talk about anything related to it. I really haven't thought about any of that stuff, and I'll just tell you Cincinnati is a great place, but don't jinx it. And if anybody else comes with more questions about that, I'm going to respectfully say, next.'"
Lawson is always respectful. He's also fiery and this has been the best of his four seasons. Unless he gets to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson three times, he won't match his career high of 8.5 sacks set when he was a rookie in 2017. But this year he's blossomed into a three-down player, proving that he can play the run as well as get to the passer.
He's already played 197 more snaps than his high of 477 when he was a rookie. While Pro Football Focus has him rated 47th against the run among NFL edge players, the web site has him ranked 13th rushing the passer with more hits on the quarterback (23) than anybody but the Steelers' T.J. Watt (27) and fifth in overall pressures.
You know this has to be his best year because he doesn't want to talk about it.
"That's why I'm cutting you off now," Lawson said, "because things have been going good."
For one thing, he's about to play all 16 games for the first time since that rookie year after playing 19 in the previous two. If you call him injury prone, he won't get mad. He'll analyze that, too. You know when they say guys treat their body like a temple? Lawson is a high priest of fitness.
"I just kind of think my mindset is with anything, you can improve and you can do anything. And then when you say, 'This guy is injury prone,' don't have a fit about it," Lawson said. "Go sit there and figure out, 'How can I not be injury prone?' or 'How can I limit my injuries?' or 'How do I sustain and be healthy the whole time?,' you get what I'm saying? It's kind of like coaching. If you guys (the media) say something negative about a player, that's the way they should take it … It's like, 'OK, how can I improve on that?' … That's how I approach everything in life, to be honest."
Since Lawson's role has expanded, he's tinkered with his preparation.
"Anything that I've had in the past, I've either over-rehabbed or I make sure every six months that it's taken care of to the best of my ability and come back better than before," Lawson said. "Kind of like putting parts on a new car. I keep refueling. I'm good."
But he's still flogging himself about a recent meal in which he slathered on some "extra sour cream."
"I'd be lying if I said I was perfect with my diet," Lawson admitted.
But wins over Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the last three weeks of the season? That's getting closer to perfection.
"That would be great because we get to spoil somebody's playoff hopes. Like, 'Ah, ha.' That's the goal, of course," Lawson said. "When you go through heartbreak … Because we put so much into this. I know fans hate seeing us lose, too. But to get a win, man, it just meant the world. I didn't care about anything other than that. Because I'm just like, why are you even doing it if you don't get the end result? And then when you finally hit gold, it's like '(On) Monday Night Football, what?!' Ah, man. That felt good. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it. We've been through a lot so we really want to get a win."
But when it comes to 2021, Lawson's not feeling it. Goosebumps or anything else.
"And that doesn't mean I don't like you as people," Lawson said. "I just don't want to jinx it. I'm having some things go good my way. I'm going to stop you there."
INJURY UPDATE: They just got a little more nervous in Baltimore, a town that needs to win Sunday to make the playoffs without relying on the Browns or the Jags. Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd went limited in Wednesday's practice after he missed Sunday's game in Houston six days following a concussion.
So it looks like Boyd is on track, conjuring up the Bengals' last offensive snap of the 2017 season in Baltimore. The Ravens needed a stop on fourth-and-12 to end the game and make the playoffs, but Boyd stunned them with his 49-yard touchdown catch that won it with 44 seconds left and left Baltimore home.
Also limited was wide receiver Tee Higgins (hamstring) and linebacker Jordan Evans (hamstring). While the concussion most likely cost Boyd his third straight 1,000-yard season, Higgins is 92 yards from becoming the third Bengals rookie wide receiver to have a 1,000-yard season.
And Boyd could do it, but he needs 160. And the Ravens don't allow big games. They've allowed just three receivers to get 92 yards this season: Washington's Terry McLaurin (118), Tennessee's Corey Davis (113) and Houston Brandin Cooks (95). And McLaurin and Cooks did it in the first three weeks of the season.
Cornerback William Jackson III, who suffered a concussion late in the first half in Houston Sunday, didn't practice Wednesday. Neither did rookie linebacker Logan Wilson (ankle) after missing the last two games.
OPTION GAME: Lamar Jackson is 4-0 against the Bengals and until Oct. 11 owned them on the ground. He came into that game averaging 114 rushing yards per in his three games against them, but he only had three yards against them earlier this season in Baltimore's 27-3 win.
Lawson is a little leery about all that because Jackson was coming off a bout with COVID-19. He admits the Ravens' running attack is a challenge for his pass-rushing. And Jackson's option game is conundrum for NFL defenders.
"I just like to go, hit stuff and run. Run and hit. Even in the run game, it's a little bit harder when you've got to sit there and try to be a little less aggressive," Lawson said.
"It's really assignment football, and those games can be fun, too. I remember I think we played Centennial in high school and they had this little wishbone triple option. You just go hit one guy and that's your guy. It's a little bit different in the NFL because of better athletes. It's pretty fun. Minimize it, do your job."
SAMPLING A THRILL: Tight end Drew Sample caught a wide-open eight-yard swing pass from Brandon Allen for his first NFL touchdown catch in Houston last Sunday and it turned out the hardest thing about the play was getting the ball back after he spiked it.
"I almost forgot about it, too. I was caught up in the moment trying to enjoy it," Sample said. "Then I was on for (the PAT) and I was, 'Oh, I should probably get that ball before they throw it away.' I think someone grabbed it for me thankfully. And I have it now. It was almost a moment of panic. 'I need that.' So, I was able to get it and it all worked out.
"It wasn't a great spike. I need to work on that. Hopefully there'll be more opportunities."