Flowers trade youngs up special teams

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Josh Shaw: suddenly special teams vet and leading candidate for teams co-captaincy.

The young Bengals got even younger Tuesday when they put special teams co-captain Cedric Peerman on season-ending injured reserve and they shipped fourth-year linebacker Marquis Flowers to the Patriots for a seventh-round pick as they braced for WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict's appeal of a five-game suspension.

The Flowers deal gives them the six backers that played the best in the preseason: Burfict, middle man Kevin Minter, and SAM backer Nick Vigil as the starters and backups Vincent Rey, and rookies Carl Lawson and Jordan Evans as backups. If Burfict is suspended, they may be able to stick with five pending the length.

"In the end, we have to go off of who we feel are going to be the guys that we keep here," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "If somebody can have an opportunity somewhere else, then that's a good thing for the player. Obviously the Patriots felt that (Flowers) may not get to them through waivers, so they traded something significant for him."

Rey has been here before. He's started the first three games of last season when Burfict served a similar sentence. A veteran of 37 starts, Rey knows what is asked and in the 22 games Burfict has missed in the last three years Rey has helped the Bengals go 15-7.

 There is Thursday's pre-season finale (7 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), but Rey says the focus is the Sept. 10 opener against Baltimore.

"We've been in this position before," Rey said. "I'll be there. Maybe we'll be doing it by committee as linebackers. We'll know what do when we come up against (Joe) Flacco or whoever is going to be at quarterback (for the Ravens)."

 Flowers' athleticism and speed have been mainly contributors on special teams and that's where the Bengals have to replace him. Flowers, a sixth-round pick out of Arizona in 2014, played in 32 games with five tackles from scrimmage and nine special teams tackles, eight of those teams tackles coming last season that were good for fourth most on the club.

That means special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons is now replacing three of his top four teams tacklers from last season in Flowers, Rex Burkhead, and James Wright with safety Josh Shaw the only one left. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who broke into the league as a special teams coach, now has Flowers and Burkhead.

Combine that with the loss of Peerman, their 2015 Pro Bowl special teamer, and there is a seismic shift on teams. Rey, the other teams co-captain, just felt his role expand to lead a core that now has rookies like Evans, Lawson, defensive end Jordan Willis and second-year guys like Vigil, wide receiver Cody Core, and cornerback William Jackson.  

"Leaders lead and the young guys follow," Rey said, alluding to defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's message. "He'll ask the starters to stand and everyone stands up. Everybody has to be ready to play. Some have to play on defense and special teams. You know it's coming, but you don't know when it's coming."

It's Belichick's fourth trade with the Bengals in his 18 seasons with New England. He traded a second-round pick to Cincinnati on the eve of the 2004 draft for Bengals all-time leading rusher Corey Dillon and on the eve of training camp in 2011 he sent two late picks here for all-time leading receiver Chad Johnson. During the 2012 draft the Bengals traded down with the Pats in the first round for a third-round pick and emerged with right guard Kevin Zeitler and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson.

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