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Best hanging with the best


Carlos Dunlap (second from right) and Seattle's Michael Bennett chat with service members on a transport Wednesday.

HONOLULU - The Pro Bowl is like this:

One minute you see the cream of the NFL's defensive line play going through hilarious pantomime as they imitate one of its own. Who just happens to be Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

Or, the next minute you might see Kyle Long, the Bears' massive jack-of-all-trades offensive lineman, sidle up to Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth and renew a friendship that began with a golf swing in the Bengals training room.

And there is always family around, but not quite like this, where cousins Adam Jones of the Bengals and Reshad Jones of the Dolphins are lining up in the same defensive backfield for the first time ever.

"Our grandmothers are sisters," said Adam, who at 32 is five years older.

"How many guys can say they have blood on the same (Pro Bowl) team?" wondered Reshad.

And it turns out blood is just as thick as Wednesday's NFL fantasy draft, where Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert and future brother-in-law, Cowboys left guard Zack Martin, are starting on the same offensive line picked by Michael Irvin.

"I introduced them," said Eifert of his sister and Martin, his roommate at Notre Dame.

Irvin certainly didn't have to be introduced to the Bengals. With the help of his defensive guru, former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, he chose six of the seven with only special teamer Cedric Peerman going to the team headed by Jerry Rice in the game set for Sunday (7 p.m.-ESPN) at Aloha Stadium.

"We see the talent and athleticism that (the Bengals) have and it's fitting in this type of game. That's what you want," Woodson said.

"After we chose Julio (Jones), I was shocked they didn't take A.J. Green. They went Jarvis Landry so we grabbed A.J.," Woodson said of the receivers. "We figured Julio would be fired up since he was overlooked for being a captain."

But that's not quite how it goes over here. There isn't a lot of resentment when you get the best with the best.  

 "Nah, we're all having good years," said Green, when asked if he's mad Jones went ahead of him.

Atkins went before just about everybody when he was named an Irvin team co-captain, so he was pushing guys like Green and his fellow defensive lineman, Carlos Dunlap. But the night before the draft after a team meeting, Atkins was taking some good-natured heat from his peers.

Dunlap, the Bengals left end and sack leader, was there. And so were two of the game's other superb pass-rushing tackles in Seattle's Michael Bennett and Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy. They were all imitating how Atkins looks so unorthodox but is so effective. And everyone was breaking up.

Whitworth also had to throw in his two cents when he heard the commotion.

"Most of the guys over here are the best players on their team, so they probably get a lot of praise during the year," Whitworth said. "So when we come over here we kind of give each other a hard time."

Bennett looked like he might be lifting a couch in slow motion as he simulated Atkins making a move on a defender. Whitworth explained:

"Geno's feet are always turned out. Kind of a duck foot. It just doesn't look like he's going to dominate people. But he's just so powerful. A little guy so strong like that. You only see that in maybe a guy like James Harrison. Just raw power. Hard to stop."

The next day, Bennett was still shaking his head.

"Anything Geno does on the field is always amazing," Bennett said. "I'm always watching him and try and mimic him. He's such a great player. We weren't saying anything bad. He's one of the best players in the NFL and we just want to know how he does it. How he makes it look effortless. How he picks up a grown man so easily … He's got to be the strongest guy in the league."

Even the good games get some grief. The group got on Dunlap for his three sacks in Denver because the Broncos just never seemed to give him the attention needed.

"Hey," Dunlap said without a bit of regret. "We all love matchups like that."


Andrew Whitworth is an elder statesman at the Pro Bowl, too.

And Bennett had to admit, "I'm glad Carlos is here. He's one of the top rushers in the league. The last couple of years he's played at a high level."

This is the way it is over here. It's like left tackle Joe Thomas of the Browns said:  "You get your best buddies from the NFL, rent out a whole hotel and just hang out."

So you know shop is also going to be talked as well as chops busted. Even though this is just Whitworth's second Pro Bowl, his standing in the game as well as his age of 34 ("Older than everybody but the kickers") makes him a go-to-guy for the offensive linemen. Even before they got to The Island, Thomas had consulted him about Cleveland hiring Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson as head coach.

"After we signed Hue or whatever we did, we talked and (Whitworth) had so many good things to say about him," Thomas said. "As far as a leader, as far as an offensive mind. He's a guy who has been in the league and has a lot of connections in building a new staff. That's one of the most underrated things. Getting a staff through connections in the league."

Whitworth and Thomas were both NFL Players Association reps for their teams a few years ago and traded phone numbers, but that's not always a given around the league.

"You like to share some secrets when you come to this. You don't have numbers for these guys, so it's a great place to talk to them," Thomas said.

Long has a long-range plan. He's going to have fun, but he's also going to watch. He's been to two Pro Bowls as a guard. This is his first as a tackle.

"It's going to be a tremendous opportunity to be around a lot of these elite tackles and studying these guys," Long said. "It's time to progress and focus on what the great players are doing."

He counts Whitworth among them even though he's not the oldest guy here, a feat reserved for retiring Raiders safety Charles Woodson.

"It's really, really cool to seem him out here," Long said. "He's a guy that I think deserves to be out here every year. He probably doesn't get as much credit as he deserves."

Whitworth and Long have been friends since the day they met, the day the Bengals brought in Long for a visit before the 2013 draft.

"I went into the training room to do some paperwork and there's this giant in the corner with a wedge," said Long, making the wooshing noise of plastic golf balls before they hit the wall. "He was so nice to me. Come to find out it was Andrew Whitworth and we're hanging out."

At the Pro Bowl, that means pricking egos as well as picking brains.

"I'll get him as the week goes on," Long said of a tackle seminar. "I gave him a break Night One."

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