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Quick Hits: Ja'Marr Seeks Offseason Getting 'My Body Right,' To Pay Off; Joe Mixon Returns To 'Forever Home'

WR Ja'Marr Chase celebrates during the Vikings-Bengals game in Week 15 of the 2023 season on December 16 at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
WR Ja'Marr Chase celebrates during the Vikings-Bengals game in Week 15 of the 2023 season on December 16 at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

All you needed for Sunday's Bengals Love Fest at Sycamore High School was a dance.

They got it when Ja'Marr Chase (who else?) showed upat the CareSource Joe Mixon Football ProCamp with Mixon himself driving his old teammate on the field in a cart. It looked as if all 550 campers, grades one through eight, and some of their parents immediately broke into "The Griddy."

Even Chase, wearing a shirt emblazoned with his signature "Uno," had to smile when he saw six-year-olds saluting his touchdown jig complete with fingers circling their wide eyes.

"It's just love. Lots of love from Cincinnati," Chase said. "They show it every time we have something supporting the city. The kids love "The Griddy." They know no other dance but "The Griddy."

"I never got a chance to be in this position like Mixon and myself to be around a bunch of kids in the city where I was growing up. I just want to give back to kids who don't have the opportunity like I did. See the smiles on their faces, bring the parents out. Small things like that make the heart better, especially for us because we go through a lot. But they don't see that. When we put smiles on faces it helps us, too."

Chase, the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, has been doing that a lot lately. He put on his first camp here a few weeks ago. And he had to really grind to get to this one because on Saturday he was with Bengals running back Chase Brown at a camp in Brown's hometown of Toronto and got delayed going through customs Sunday morning.

But he hung with it and just as the camp was supposed to break up, Chase rode in and proceeded to go through one-on-ones with a bunch of campers. Mostly as a defensive back trying to defend throws from Mixon at the request of the kids.

Chase drew more smiles when Mixon thanked him "even though he was ten hours late."

Chase is really going to see some smiles when he shows for the first time this spring at Paycor Stadium for the Bengals' June 11-13 mandatory.

Because he says he feels "100 percent." He's devoted his offseason to two major items: Staying in shape with his heavy running regimen and making sure "my body is right," after a season he played through a sore back and a shoulder injury but only missed one game. That came after a season he missed four games with a hip injury.

If it sounds a lot like quarterback Joe Burrow listening to his body more, it is.

"The only thing I'm telling (Burrow) is know how to dial off, like he's been telling me," Chase said. "You're a pro now. If you're feeling tweaks in your hand, you have to know how to relax yourself some time. It's like me and my hip. (Head coach) Zac (Taylor) told me to let him know what I'm feeling in my hip and he let me do what I had to for the games."

Chase got a sneak preview of Burrow as his passer comes back from surgery on his passing wrist. Before Burrow left California for Cincinnati back in April, Chase says he got in a session with him. And he agrees with everyone else. Burrow looks good.

"We felt comfortable about it," Chase said. "I already know Joe. He's a strong person, strong heart. He's a working person at that. He's going to give his all with everything he does."

That's how Chase approaches it and that includes this offseason he's spent in Miami and Dallas. Agility drills. Some lifting. He said the only thing he's changed in his regimen is jacking the repetitions of everything because he's working by himself. More catches off throws from one of his friends serving as his quarterback, as well as more releases coming off the line of scrimmage.

"Working on the stuff I want to work on so I know what I want to do when I get back," Chase said. "I try to run at least five routes and just play catch. Just get a feel for the ball, getting used to hitting it in my hands, getting comfortable."

JOE STILL IN THE MIX: Even as a Houston Texan, the charismatic man-of-the-people Mixon remains enormously popular in Cincinnati. The Saturday and Sunday camp confirmed what we knew after the March trade.

He'll always be a Bengal.

"This is a forever place I can call home," Mixon said. "No doubt. That's just what it is. They drafted me when I was 20. I was fortunate enough to get seven years in.

I feel like it was a great run."

The run encompassed more 1,000-yard seasons (four) than anybody in Bengals history but all-time leading rusher Corey Dillon. A Super Bowl touchdown pass. A franchise-record five touchdowns in a game. A 100-yard playoff game. One of three 6,000-yard rushers in the 56 seasons of the club.

Best moment: "Besides getting drafted, I would say going to the Super Bowl, whether it was win or lose."

But Sunday was pretty sweet, too, where the endlessly energetic Mixon didn't disappoint, always feeding off his people, whether it is the fourth quarter of a Wild Card game or a June camp for kids.

On Sunday you couldn't tell who was the kid and who was the 1,000-yard rusher as Mixon doled out high fives, picked up the littlest ones, and challenged the biggest and fastest to a 40-yard dash.

"For somebody to be on a team and all of a sudden go to another city and play, it could have been easy for parents to say, 'You know what? Let's not show up this year," Mixon said. "To have a better turnout than last year, and I thought last year was a hell of a turnout. To have more and a lot more fans and parents in the stands, that means everything to me. There are a lot of great relationships in the city that I will continue to have."

Mixon told the kids he'll be back. He's never thought if he'd come back in the Bengals Ring of Honor, but now that you mention it …

"You don't really pay attention to that stuff as a player until it's time to look back and reflect. But I do feel like everything that has been in store with me as a Bengals player and to Bengals fans, I definitely hope to see myself in there," Mixon said. "I was just fortunate to be with some great players and be one of those guys to be able to move the needle for Cincinnati.

"I came across a lot of great people whether it was inside the building or outside the building. As I look back, I hope to one day be there and, obviously, if the cards fall the way they're supposed to, I will. I've got a lot of unfinished business and a lot of goals to reach. Individual and as a collective teammate."

He doesn't turn 28 until next month. But he's already got forever taken care of.

"It's a hell of a place," said Mixon as the kids called for more.