Even if running back Joe Mixon doesn't play Sunday against the Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), he'll be one of their most active guys even if he never comes off the sideline.
Of course, everyone saw him come off the sideline last Sunday in Atlanta when A.J. Green scored the winning touchdown with seven seconds left. He was closer to Green than the poor cornerback who didn't drop deep enough in Cover 2, rookie Isaiah Oliver, and leaped all over Green just two weeks off arthroscopic knee surgery. Post pass interference.
And what they saw is the straight-laced, straight-faced Green-Dalton offense that has been marked by the flat-line personalities of the star quarterback and receiver get a jolt of juice. The 22-year-old Mixon's almost coltish emotions seem to be a nice mix with the eight-year veteran cool.
"You have to learn how to channel it in different areas," Mixon said Wednesday before his first practice back in three weeks. "At the same time with the fire I try to play with bring them guys coming along, especially the linemen, they feed off of it a lot. It takes it a long way. They play to a different level. They are firing off the ball. Definitely do a great job up front with the run game and trying to keep Andy free and off the ground. The skill position guys we definitely talk before every play in the huddle. Let's go, we got to do this, get into the details and everybody is going to get their turn."
Mixon flashed his bubbly enthusiasm in his last outing against the Ravens Sept. 13, when he gutted out most of the game with a torn meniscus in his knee. Any time a defender took what he thought were liberties with Dalton, he let them know.
And then there was the Green TD. He had no fears of re-injuring the knee with his flying tackle.
"I wasn't worried about none of that. A.J. just scored a touchdown to win the game. I went over there excited," Mixon said. "We always play off our emotion. It's how you control your emotion. End of the day, me going over there definitely being excited for A.J. and the pass that Andy threw. What people are not understanding is the pass Andy threw, it was crazy. He threw a dart. I feel like he is not getting enough credit of the pass he threw, they are just talking about the catch."
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis seems to find this all refreshing. But then, Lewis saw what kind of teammate is when he went back to Oklahoma's pro day and helped ex-mates get through like quarterback Baker Mayfield. Truth be told, Mixon may have been the first assistant trainer to get drafted in 2017.
"Joe has had that exuberance ever since he has been here," Lewis said this week. "He had that this spring at Oklahoma when Orlando Brown, Baker Mayfield, and Mark Andrews were all working out (at the pro day). He had the towel and the water bottle. That was what he was doing and that's Joe. I encourage him to never lose that quality. If you want to ascend to the type of player you can be in the NFL you want to keep that exuberance and comradery with your teammates. Its big, winning is important to him."
If you looked closely, he was doing that Sunday for guys that were gassed, like wide receiver Tyler Boyd and rookie running back Mark Walton.
"They go to work, got to do what they do. I'm there with whatever they need," Mixon said. "Say for instance like this past weekend, Mark came on the sideline, I'm like, let's get some water for him. Or Tyler Boyd needed some water, I'm right there to go get it for them. I'll always be my teammates' biggest fans. Try to cheer them on as much as possible. It definitely goes a long way and shows I'm going to do whatever I can to continue to be that part. Whether on or off the field."
Now he just wants to bring more than the emotion. Everything would say he's ready to go Sunday. From Lewis' "sunny," forecast," to Mixon going limited in practice Wednesday to the Green Jump-on. The emotion is bubbling.
"Once they clear me. Hopefully they clear me this week. If not, I'll be out there next week for sure," Mixon said.
But the fire will not be inactive if he is.
"I'm sure. If it's not from me I guarantee I will on the sideline," he said.