Carlos Dunlap knows what's official and what's not when it comes to sacks.
"Unofficial is before they started counting them," says Dunlap of those pre-1982 stats, a good seven years before he was born in South Carolina. "I've got the official sack record because that's when they counted them. But I don't want there to be questions. However you want to say it. I want to be the undeniable sack leader for the Bengals."
We're here before Saturday's Family Dey practice at Paul Brown Stadium and Dunlap knows that 11.5 sacks give him the Bengals' unofficial and official career sack records, eclipsing the 83.5 Eddie Edwards chiseled out for a decade from the late '70s to the 1988 AFC champs.
Dunlap also knows he holds the official club season sack record with 13.5 and if he replicates 2015 he knows what that means.
"If I get 13.5 sacks, that means we win the division and we're going to the playoffs," Dunlap said. "I think that correlates. That could mean the offense is lighting up and we have more opportunities to rush. Or it could mean the defense is lighting it up and we're getting after the quarterback. It could be both ways. It's not personal with the 13 sacks. It's obviously a team game and that means a lot of things are working," not just me."
A sack and a half behind Dunlap is teammate Geno Atkins, the perennial Pro Bowler headed to the Hall of Fame with the most interior sacks of the decade after he arrived two rounds later in 2010.
"In one-on-one, we know the odds are with Geno. In one-on-one, we know the odds are with me," Dunlap said. "We have to get in situations to make them respect us and (get those matchups)."
Those 72.5 sacks hold up nicely around the league. They're the seventh most sacks racked up by an NFL defensive end in this decade, which Dunlap began as the 40th pick in the 2010 draft. They are one more than those credited to in the Teens to Cam Jordan and 1.5 more than Jason Pierre-Paul. And 2.5 fewer than DeMarcus Ware.
But the name that would impress Dunlap the most is the guy running third behind Cameron Wake's 92.5 and J.J. Watt's 92. Julius Peppers at 78.5.
Now, Dunlap hates to call it "old school," tape because, after all, he says he was in school (probably middle) when Peppers was the best defensive end in the Carolinas at Southern Nash in North Carolina . He not only watches Peppers, but the late Reggie White as well as new school Hall-of-Famers Jason Taylor and Michael Strahan.
Check out some of Carlos Dunlap's best moments from the 2018 season.
But they were either taller or shorter than the 6-6, 280-pound Dunlap, or played in a 3-4 instead of a 4-3. The closest guy to him in scheme and size is the 6-7, 295-pound Peppers. And it works out because Dunlap grew up watching Peppers make the climb from Chapel Hill to Charlotte when he went from the University of North Carolina to the Panthers.
"I get the idea of their angles and moves and their timing, but I have to execute it differently," Dunlap says. "Peppers is a little bit bigger, but we're about the same length, same height. He was a physical player, he'd wear you down, but he was a technician as well."
Taylor make his list because "he was a relentless, tireless, fearless pass rusher," for more than a decade. Strahan is on there because Dunlap has famously made Strahan's single-season NFL record of 22.5 sacks in 2001 a goal. Which by the way, would give Dunlap the Bengals' unofficial single-season sack record, now held by the late Coy Bacon and his bicentennial 22 in 1976.
"Watching these guys, there's a way to play the game at a high level and a way to do it staying healthy," Dunlap says.
Dunlap doesn't just watch tape. He's watched the guys that have come through the locker room doors at PBS. He never forgot those two veteran wide receivers in his rookie year and how Chad Johnson took care of his mind and Terrell Owens took care of his body.
"I still use things I picked up from them," Dunlap says. "The way Chad Ochocinco approached the game and his mindset and how he practiced every day. How he practiced his craft. And how T.O., would invest in his body to take care of it … I do that now."
When James Harrison spent the 2013 season in Cincinnati, Dunlap also took note of how Harrison stayed so robust and healthy. He's why Dunlap does acupuncture now as well as using holistic medicines. Also around in 2010 was a fellow young defensive end that turned out to be a mentor.
"Michael Johnson challenged me to give back to the community," Dunlap says. "We knew what we wanted to do back home, but I saw what he was doing (in Cincinnati) and that inspired me to do the things that I'm doing here now."
Dunlap is keeping it simple for 2019. He's not looking to be anybody but him. But he'll take the best he sees.
"I try to use what I get from them and mold it into me," Dunlap says. "I want to make a name for myself, too."