Both of you guys made it important to finish your careers together with the same organization. You could have around 100 sacks each. That's 200 sacks from two guys from the same organization — that would be crazy wouldn't it?
Dunlap: "That would be unbelievable for sure. I'll let Geno (Atkins) tell that story. Coming in (as rookies in) 2010, you would have never thought that, but here we are. We get an opportunity to finish here where we started with our teammates, this coaching staff, and this city. The city of Cincinnati, which I would have never been able to find on a map before draft day, but here we are now and this is my second home."
Geno, 100 sacks out of a three-technique DT — that would be getting it done …
Atkins: "Yeah that would be pretty impressive."
Is it important to you to be a guy who makes it to 100 career sacks?
Atkins: "What's important to me is to have a good season, get to the playoffs and try to win the Super Bowl."
Did you guys both know that you were coming to an agreement around the same time?
Atkins: "I didn't really know. Obviously both sides were talking, but I didn't know it would happen at the same time. It's a pretty cool surprise."
Dunlap: "Yeah, it was a pretty unbelievable experience for me. I woke up knowing that there were rumors that Geno's (contract extension) was really close to being done, but I didn't know we were going to be able to get mine done the same day. I knew they were going to shift the focus and try to get mine done. It worked out that we got them done the same day. Here we are. Now we get to just focus on football, on 'building it better,' like coach (Marvin Lewis) says, on trying to get that first playoff win, and on trying to get to the Super Bowl. These are all things that the city and us all want together."
Geno, how much of this offseason did you think about wanting to get this done and to be able to just think about football? Was that something that was on your mind at all, to try and put this in the rearview mirror for you?
Atkins: "Not really on my mind. Honestly, I did want to get something done, though. I want to finish my career here. But obviously it was business as usual."
You two were drafted the same year, and have had two contract extensions done around the same time. What has it meant for you to have each other during this process throughout the last eight years?
Dunlap: "For me, it's been an unbelievable experience. I can't name too many top-end rushers that have a dominant inside presence like Geno. He doesn't say a lot, as you know, but he plays big. He lets that speak for himself."
You guys are good examples in today's football when it comes to taking care of your body. It seems like it takes a village to keep your body right. When did both of you realize how important that was in order to prolong your career?
Atkins: "Just by going to the Pro Bowl and talking to some of the older guys about being able to do it at a consistent level. (I would) pick their brain on eating habits, workouts, sleeping habits and things like that, and then try to apply it to my regimen."
Don't you do some of those things together?
Dunlap: "Some of us do a variety of different things. Everybody has their own regimen. Mine wasn't at the Pro Bowl my first year (laughs). Mine was actually in the locker room, talking to the veterans who had ten years, or close to ten years (of experience). I took bits and pieces from them, communicating and talking to them about what they do. They recommended I start early on in my career. Coincidentally, those are the exact same things that Geno just mentioned."
Geno, how do you approach taking plays or series off now, compared to earlier in your career? Is that something you are more open to, in order to extend yourself further into your career?
Atkins: "It's been pretty much the same since college. I believe in a firm rotation. I go in and play four, five, six snaps hard, then have the next guy come in, and I come back in fresh. So that's how I approach it."
Has that been a thing where you are particularly loving all the young guys in your room right now, whether you are talking about DT Ryan Glasgow, DE Sam Hubbard or DE Jordan Willis? How have you embraced those guys coming up and helping you out in that way?
Atkins: "I embrace them. Like I said yesterday, it's kind of like a full circle moment. I used to be one of those young guys coming in and having veterans like Domata Peko, Robert Geathers and Tank Johnson to help me along the way. Now it's come full circle. Now I am doing the same thing by helping them. Like I said, if I get them better, it's going to help the team in the long run. If everybody gets better, the team wins."
Have you ever thought about making the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Atkins: "Not really. I take it year by year and do my job. I look forward to doing my job this season. Then when 2019 happens, I'll look forward to that."
Have you ever looked at where your numbers currently stack up? Has anyone ever showed that to you?
Atkins: "I've seen it, but I don't pay much attention because all you can do is control today. I just try to do my job and do it well."
What would your Hall of Fame speech sound like?
Atkins: "I haven't thought about that yet (laughs)."
Would you give a speech?
Atkins: "Only time will tell."
In today's football, 30 years old is nothing. Back in the day, 30 was like a line of demarcation. Now you have a 41-year old quarterback in the Super Bowl who is making the Pro Bowl every year. When you guys look at the span of your career, do you consider age?
Atkins: "I don't really consider age honestly. With today's sports science, advancements of how to take care of your body, and all of the knowledge that goes into what we do now with modalities. The training staff helps to try to keep us fresh for game day with their cold tubs, hot tubs, NormaTec and stem. I think age isn't even a factor any more. Guys can now continue their career, barring any injuries, until their mid-thirties."
Geno, have you reached out to any of the younger players around the league? Have they reached out to you?
Atkins: "Larry (Ogunjobi) from the Cleveland Browns came up and worked out with me a little bit. Some of the guys I work with at the Chip Smith (Performance) at CS Sports, they say, 'Hey, I see you on Instagram.' They see the clips on Instagram and they want to come down to work out with me a little bit."
You talked about ending your career in Cincinnati. Why is that so important to you, as opposed to testing the market as one of the top guys at your position?
Atkins: "They are the team that drafted me. I love this city and the organization. It's something to submit my legacy here. I think it's important to finish where I started. We have unfinished business here. Carlos (Dunlap) and I want to bring a Super Bowl to Cincinnati."
When you bull rush a guy like you did to Bills G Vladimir Ducasse. You 'posterize' a ton of guards just by that bull rush move. Do they ever say anything? Do you ever hear any weird sounds from them?
Atkins: "(Laughs) The only thing I kind of hear is, 'Why are you bulling,' or, 'No, not the bull again'. That's my No. 1 thing."
That's your signature move?
Do you ever feel bad when you do that to someone?
Atkins: "I don't feel bad because I am trying to do my job. It is what it is."
Carlos, did you guys pass each other in the hall when you went upstairs to sign your contract extension?
"Dunlap: "No. I actually saw it on social media and through text messages that Geno signed. We were up there meeting with my agent right after that. It just happened to play out (that way)."
What's your signature move, Carlos? What's your move that you can go to when you have to make a big play?
Dunlap: "I feel like that would be giving away the whole tool box (laughs). I like to beat (linemen) with the speed on the outside. There's a variety of ways I do that. That would particularly be my go-to. I have a bull rush, but it's not as impactful as my big fella right next to me (laughs). Just having that variety and full tool set you can use is good. As you know, different tackles set differently in the league, so different moves work better against them. I like to study what's effective against them or what I do effectively. If it's third down and the game is on the line, I know what to go to."
I saw you do it to Connor Williams, rookie G from Texas, the first snap vs Dallas. When you're thinking about your individual game plan, do you study tape or is it just spontaneous?
Atkins: "A little bit of both. It can be game-planned things, where I watch film and say, 'OK, he doesn't have a strong anchor, so I'm going to start with the bull rush'. He might stop my first move, so I come back with the bull. It all depends."
What sort of ripple effect might yesterday's news have on potential free agents in the future considering Cincinnati as a place to come play?
Dunlap: "I think with this news coming out, and them securing guys long-term who they drafted and were up for their second deals, is a true testament to the family organization and the type of locker room we have here. For both of us to stay here despite the past two seasons, shows we feel encouraged about getting back to the top-notch we had (from 2011-2015) and improving on that. Getting to the Super Bowl is our goal. We have the business side done. Now we just focus on football and play the game we love, the game we've played since we were kids."
What does it say to other free agents who may be holding out right now? It seems like you guys just came in, went to work, and a deal is done. What does that say to other players on other teams around the league about both parties?
Atkins: "(The Bengals) take care of their own. You do it the right way — show up, go to OTAs and training camp and don't make it a big deal of it and talk to the media. Honestly, they take care of their own."
Dunlap: "If you keep it out of the media and don't go back and forth with the team and media, you won't burn any bridges and you keep it in a positive light. We were both able to do that. Geno was the silent assassin the whole time. There was no debate about getting Geno a deal. We've all seen what he has done. Fortunately for me, I get to play with him and A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Carl Lawson, Tyler Eifert, Vontaze Burfict and the rest of players we have on this team as we continue to build it better. Everybody is here for a while. We have a good team and a lot of young talent that is secure. As you've seen in this preseason, they're all showing flashes. Let's go get it done."
How far do you think the defensive line can go this year?
Dunlap: "For me, seeing the rotation and hearing Geno talk about being fresh late in the games, late in the playoffs and late in the season, that is going to be a true testament. If you have guys like us who are experienced, have that time to get to the quarterback and feel like it's Day 1... If you look at the Super Bowl and what the Philadelphia Eagles were able to do, they had a strong rotation with guys who were constantly getting after the quarterback. They pretty much wrecked the game as a defensive line. We feel like we have that same ability with what we have here. There's a mixed combination of the older guys here — Michael Johnson, Geno Atkins, (Andrew) Billings and myself — plus the newer guys — the local hero Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis and Ryan Glasgow. You can just keep on going."
When did you guys realize in your careers that you could be dominant? Did you realize it yourselves or did you hear it from other people? When did you say, 'Man if I work my tail off, I could be really good'?
Dunlap: "I can't say there was one…"
There was no epiphany?
Dunlap: "There was no breaking point for me, personally. I'm not going to speak for (Atkins). I just had these goals and was constantly working on them. My goals were typically the furthest ones away, because if I reached and tried to work for those, all of the other ones will fall in line along the way. As you know, getting that career sack record here was one of them, along with getting the NFL sack record and NFL career sack record. As you said, it would take more than 100 (sacks) for us to move up that list. Geno and I are on the list, but we have a lot of people to surpass before we can get into that top 10."
What about you, Geno? Did you know right away how good you could be?
Atkins: "It was more of a process. Honestly, I want to say after my first year. My first year, I didn't think I'd be able to play the run, and I worked on that in my second year. I got my shot my second year to be a starter. I played the first game and felt like I could be a three down guy."
Is there any other player you watch on tape that plays the three-technique DT position like you?
Atkins: "I watch a lot of guys to see what they are doing, Mike Daniels, Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald and Kawann Short — various guys like that, to see what they are doing and see what moves they are using if they are going against somebody I might be playing. And to see what moves they did that work and apply it to my game."
Do you have a favorite?
Atkins: "No favorite. I'm a fan of everybody, honestly. I like to see a big man work and win."
Supposedly, you're a small man in your position. You and Aaron Donald…
Atkins: "I think the trend now is more guys that are 6-1 or 6-2."
Why is that?
Atkins: "Leverage. Short, stocky, strong guys — we have the leverage, strength and power. Me, Aaron Donald and Grady Jarrett."
Some say you made Aaron Donald a first round pick back in 2014...
Atkins: "If you look at his (University of) Pittsburgh film, he was an amazing talent from the get go."
Did you look at film of some of the older guys?
Atkins: "When (former Bengals defensive line coach) Jay Hayes was here, he would show us clips of older guys back from his generation."
You're a husband now and going to be a dad. Does that make this contract different from the first extension? Does it make you look at life differently?
Atkins: "It's a blessing to secure this contract. It's icing on the cake. The blessing was my wife being pregnant. Now, signing the contact, that's icing on the cake, and being blessed to have a boy or a girl. It's amazing."
Are you going to find out the sex of the baby soon, or wait until it's born?
Atkins: "We will find out sometime in the next couple of weeks."
What did your dad think about your contract extension?
Atkins: "He's happy for me. He played 10 years in the league. He said it's a blessing and said, 'Keep doing your thing.'"
Are you guys able to wrap your brain around $110 million on your combined contracts? Is that even a number that makes sense?
Atkins: "We've got to get there first."
Dunlap: "It is a yearly renewal in the NFL, as we all know. We don't look at the total number, we look at the business being done so we can focus on football. Winning that Super Bowl for this city and organization, everybody will win. Winning again is our main focus. To cut the chains off of this (contract extension), that was something that may be dragging me. I tried not to think about it, because it's there at the end of the day, and you don't know — it's a question mark. Focus simply on football and finding a way to do something better, like helping a young guy to get better, so we can put it all together. That's what it's going to take for us to win. We have that opportunity here because the talent on the roster is here, we just have to put it together the right way. You see the coaches are committed to doing so with the changes and with what's going on with this organization. And how young guys and everybody are responding. We are going to get after it. It's going to be a special season."
Do these contract extensions increase your responsibly for the team and organization, from a leadership standpoint?
Atkins: "Me, Carlos and Mike (Michael Johnson), have done a good job with the D-Line. We have shown them the ropes and are teaching them. You see it out there on the field with Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, Sam Hubbard Ryan Glasgow and Josh Tupou. I think we are doing a good job leading the D-Line and are trying to get everyone on all cylinders going."
What do these contracts mean to you guys beyond the money?
Dunlap: "For me, to have a goal, to have a daily plan, team goals and personal goals. All those things, and putting them all in line. By having the rookie sack record, the team single-season record, career record, all these goals make everything fall in line. The market value is what it is. The NFL is going to be an international sport, and the salary cap keeps going up because of it. Everyone talks about soccer taking over the world, but I think America's game will soon be an international game, once they have a better understanding of it. Even though we all enjoy watching a good futbol (soccer) game too (laughs)."
Was there ever a doubt in your mind about signing new contracts with Cincinnati?
Atkins: "I don't think there was any doubt. Both sides wanted to get the deal done. It was more of being patient. I didn't have any doubt and thought we would get a deal done."
Was there any friendly competition to see who got the deal done first?
Dunlap: "No, we both wanted to be here. We both wanted to do whatever it took to stay here and continue to do what we do. Our competition is on the field, and it's better for everyone. We are competing to get back there to the quarterback."
Atkins: "No. We aren't competing. You're a D-end and I'm a D-tackle."
Dunlap: "Carl Lawson, Mike Johnson or whomever it is wants to get back there and pressure that quarterback for our team."
Are you surprised the Bengals kept you both?
Atkins: "No. Four years ago they signed us both, so not really."
Does the thought of $110 million cross your mind, with other players on the roster like A.J. Green and Andy Dalton?
Dunlap: "We've got the pieces that we need, and Cincinnati believes in us being a part of that core. They kept us here for years to come, and we are thankful for that opportunity."
Andrew Billings has had a productive training camp and preseason. What do you think about how he has played?
Atkins: "I think he's coming along great. He's understanding the game a lot better, and the speed is slowing down (for him). (Defensive line coach) Jacob Burney is doing a great job of developing him as a good run-stopper as well as a pass-rusher. That's going to help the defense a lot by having a big man get there and cause pressure along with me, Carlos, Mike or whoever, and having four guys that can consistently get after the passer and stop the run."
Do you look at this contract extension as a form of respect shown to you?
Atkins: "I already have the respect. I go out there and play. I think a lot of guys respect me and the work that I put out there. I think the contact was just a bonus."
Can you guys as a unit reach the golden number of a 50-sack season?
Dunlap: "Absolutely. We have the talent on the roster. For years to come, it will be an amazing race on every third down and every (pass-rushing) opportunity. You see how those young guys set the tempo fast and early for what they want to do with their personal goals as well as our team goals. I think everyone is in line with that team goal, and that's winning the Super Bowl."
Geno, do you have any goals, like 100 sacks or the reaching the Hall of Fame?
Atkins: "Win the Super Bowl. The one goal right now is to win the Super Bowl and do my job to the best of my ability."
Do you guys have any goals regarding how much longer you want to play?
Dunlap: "My goal is the Super Bowl, and we will take it from there. However long it takes to win that, and however long I continue to play at a high level. We invest in ourselves and take care of our body to extend our career, because when I first came into the league, I was aware the average (NFL career) was three to five years. I was trying to figure out how to extend that and set myself up for generational wealth. For Geno, he was fortunate enough to have his father and guys at the Pro Bowl give him tips and make it his own trade. We both have been fortunate enough to stay healthy here for our careers, and we want to keep it that way (knocks on table) and do whatever it takes to help this team get that big thing, and that's the Super Bowl."
Former NFL LB James Harrison invested a lot of money to take care of his body. Is it a big investment to take care of your body?
Dunlap: "It can be, but the Bengals have made a lot of changes here and added it into their regimen at the stadium. They have improved a lot of things here for us, like the new kitchen, new weight room, all the modalities we do before the game, and the new equipment they have in the training room — the hot tub, cold tub and all the stuff you see me use and post on social media. Those are real regimens that aren't real expensive, because the Bengals have provided them for everyone. You can do what James does on the high end and spend that much money — typically because you're flying everybody in, because there are guys at your training facility that you enjoy working with or have a relationship with — but there is a full store of things the Bengals have here that can extend your career and you can use them for free."
Geno, how would you describe the way you play the game?
Atkins: "I try to be fundamentally sound, is how I would describe it. I try to do everything (sound), like the right footsteps, hand placement, be in my pass rush lanes and stay in my gap. That's from my coaches at Georgia, when Mike Zimmer was here, Paul Gunther and now Teryl Austin. I do my job and do it to the best of my ability."
So, it's technique just as much as anything else?
Atkins: "Technique and having the drive to go out there and be the best you can be."
Your signature move is the bull rush. Is there anyone you watched or talked to that helped you perfect that move?
Atkins: "The bull rush is really my will against your will."
But you have other pass rush moves, right?
Atkins: "Yeah, I do other stuff. But the bull helps solidify and get them (the opponent) thinking a little bit. 'Am I going to hit them with another power or speed?' It gets them guessing a little bit."
Do you think you have freakish strength?
Atkins: "I think I'm pretty strong. I don't think I'm the strongest guy out there. But with my speed, quickness and strength all combined, I can get a lot of guys moving."
Was there ever a time in your careers you had to fight and keep that drive to be successful?
Atkins: "For me, no. I go out there on Sundays and you have the next guy trying to kick your (butt). I have to bring my 'A-game,' because if I go out there half-stepping, that's a knock for someone to say, 'I just got the best of Geno Atkins.' So, you go out there perform your best. You're not going to win every time, but I try to go out there and do my best."
Do you guys feel like you always have to bring it because other guys are trying to put a notch in their belt by beating you?
Atkins: "We are competing. They want to do their job to the best of their ability, and I want to do my job. When you see a team like the Eagles, everyone circles them because everyone is trying to beat the Super Bowl champs. When you go up against a good Quarterback, you want to sack him. You want to be like, 'I sacked Tom Brady, Peyton Manning.' So every guy tries to circle somebody and wants to beat that guy."
Geno, do you have any goals this year, as far as talking to the media?
Atkins: "Today is a good day (laughs). One and done (laughs)."
Dunlap: "I think getting him up here was a big step for himself. What he did today and said today will give you enough for the season. He did an amazing job (laughs)."
What is the reason you don't speak to the media?
Atkins: "We have 66 other guys that have interesting stories that you don't even talk to, so explore that. Plus, I'm not that interesting to talk to."