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Quick Hits: Finally Healthy, Sam Hubbard Is Dean Of Bengals; Ted Karras Likes The Vibe In Bid For Fast Start; NFL's Biggest Bookends On Same Page

DE Sam Hubbard before kickoff of the Colts-Bengals game in Week 14 of the 2023 season on Sunday, December 10 at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
DE Sam Hubbard before kickoff of the Colts-Bengals game in Week 14 of the 2023 season on Sunday, December 10 at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"The Cincinnati Kid," is now also the "Provost of Paycor."

When the first wave of free agency swept through the roster, it left defensive captain Sam Hubbard as the longest-tenured Bengal heading into next month's offseason workouts.

But Hubbard is already in the building and has been working out here since the ankle he had surgically repaired after the season allowed him. He's a spry 28, bouncing through the stations in the Kettering Health and Performance Center like he was playing for Jim Lippincott at Moeller High School with a little old school Bog Seger graveling through some "Night Moves," pounding through the workout.

"I'm feeling really good. Really glad I got it fixed. Been bugging me for a long time," said Hubbard, who gutted out the last seven games because they needed them all to make the playoffs. "I'm excited to be out there and trying to move like I want to move and play like I know I can play. That's the most important thing right now. That's the only thing I'm thinking about."

So he's not thinking about passing another Cincinnati icon on the Bengals' all-time sack list last season when his 36.5 career sacks nudged past Tim Krumrie's 34.5 into 11th on the list. Or that he's 7.5 sacks from passing 2001 first-round pick Justin Smith and getting into the top ten, behind only Carlos Dunlap (82.5), Geno Atkins (75,5), and Trey Hendrickson (39.5 and counting) for most Bengals sacks in this century.

And Hubbard isn't worried about playing in ten more games to make it an even 100 in a Bengals uniform and becoming just the sixth defensive lineman to hit that number since 2000 and the birth of Paycor Stadium.

Not to mention, he's the last player to play for both Marvin Lewis and Zac Taylor.

"I want to continue that streak for as long as I can," said Hubbard, who turns 29 in June.

TED TAKE: Ted Karras’ new Cincy Hat tattoo is the birthmark of the 2024 Bengals. The Bengals captain came back from Florida last week to host his St. Tatty's Day event and he's also been working out at Paycor. As have Hendrickson and linebacker Logan Wilson, among others, as Joe Burrow continues to also show up for rehab.

And Karras likes the vibes.

"I love the energy in the building so far and we have a month to go before the offseason," Karras said of the voluntary workouts. "I know the front office is re-doing the locker room and they're signing a bunch of great players. We'll be back in contention, but we have a lot of work and ball ahead of us to get there."

Karras wasn't thrilled last year when he heard a lot of talk in the locker room during the offseason and preseason about going to the Super Bowl. Karras likes what he's hearing now.

Which is nothing.

"We're not talking about it, but it is our overarching goal," Karras said. "I think last year was a humbling experience for a lot of us and something we don't want to let ever happen again. That was a disappointing year. I think everyone has internalized that."

Karras, who has started 0-2 in each of his two seasons with the Bengals, isn't thinking about February.

"August, September," Karras said. "Let's start fast. Let's not dig out of a hole."

BOOKENDS: Bengals left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., is one of the most approachable and gregarious NFL players you'll ever meet, so there's no surprise he knows something about every guy that comes into the locker room.

Just look at the newest class of free agents. He crossed paths with safety Geno Stone during Stone's rookie year in Baltimore and he got to know right tackle Trent Brown during a Pro Bowl and the two have kept in touch.

The endorsement of Orlando Brown Jr., as well as two Patriots teammates now Bengals (Karras and tight end Mike Gesicki), help sell them on signing Trent Brown.

Orlando Brown watched plenty of tape to back up his assessment. Both men are 6-8 and, if possible, Trent at 380 pounds, makes Orlando, at 340, look like not the biggest being in the room.

(According to ESPN, the pair will be the NFL's biggest tandem on the field together in 15 years.)

"I did a deep dive into his game after we met at the (2019) Pro Bowl. He's a big tackle. I'm a big tackle. I would watch him and try to add some of the things he did to my game," Orlando said. "His footwork in the run game and angles he would take on his down blocks. I've got a ton of respect for his game and what he does fits right in with what we do. I always liked his approach to the really good ends, like Von Miller and, at that point, Khalil Mack."

When he was in his second season in 2019, Trent was in his fifth season and playing his second game with the Raiders when one of Orlando's coaches called him over and told him to watch the opening play of the game against the Chiefs when Raiders running back Josh Jacobs shot behind right tackle for seven yards.

"Trent and the guard (Denzelle Good) just destroyed Chris Jones," said Orlando of the Chiefs' All-Pro lineman. "Me as a young player, it was a coaching point on how he just got off the ball and can move people."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: One guy who Orlando Brown Jr., doesn't know is Vonn Bell, the safety the Bengals re-signed last week. But he's heard all about him as a captain of the all-culture team.

"My favorite pickup is Vonn Bell and I haven't even been around him," Brown said. "When you bring in a guy like Vonn Bell, it makes things easier for a young guy like (safety) Jordan Battle as he's learning to be a pro." …

Aaron Donald is always going to be the ultimate Bengals villain as the man who swung Burrow to the turf on the last play of a Super Bowl, a few months before he swung a Bengals helmet in anger to end a Bengals-Rams joint practice.

There were some good lines when the future Hall-of-Famer retired last week, one of them by Karras, one of the guys asked to block him. After his eulogy for a few minutes where he called him a great player, Karras finally offered, "Good to see him go." The helmet swing? "That still rubs me the wrong way how all that went down."

Sheldon Rankins, the Bengals' new three technique, had the view from the same position: "I always joked that any time you watch Aaron Donald on tape, you were watching it for the entertainment because there's only one of him. If I ever need a break from my own film study, I'll just throw on two or three Aaron Donald games." …

If Rankins sounds like a great quote, he is. If you ever want to take a break from work, punch up his intro news conference with the Cincinnati media earlier this week.

This may have been the most important thing he said:

While others saw a Bengals defense that late last season had trouble finding its solid footing over the past few seasons, Rankins saw something else. To this football junkie, there were many things to like.

"It just looks like guys play free and they play for each other. Everybody is on the same page. They play with that passion. They play with that fiery intensity," Rankins said. "When you watch it, there's this adage in the football world where how loud can the silent tape be where you're watching the 'All 22' where there is no sound, no commentators, but can your presence on that tape be loud?

"When you watch this defense and you watch those guys fly around and you watch how they play football it's loud. Being able to insert myself into that and understanding what I feel like I bring, I feel like it's a match made in heaven." …

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