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Quick Hits: Ted Karras On How Bengals' Spring Mentality Has Improved; Joe Burrow's Timing Impresses; Zac Taylor Likes Looks Of Ja'Marr Chase

C Ted Karras and QB Joe Burrow during practice at the IEL Practice Facility on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
C Ted Karras and QB Joe Burrow during practice at the IEL Practice Facility on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

After putting one more year on his contract Thursday to make him a Bengal through 2025, center Ted Karras says he likes how his mates are approaching this season.

As they packed up for the 40-day summer break following the last practice of mandatory minicamp, Karras was reminded that he was wary last spring of how freely the term "Super Bowl,' was dropped.

"That's always the goal, so it's not bad to talk about it. But I think the way we were talking about it is that it was a given we were going to be in the Final Four," Karras said. "I think a lot of us have taken what happened last year to heart. I think we just have a really driven, focused team. And having a good spring was the first step and we did."

During Karras' first season in Cincinnati in 2022, the Bengals were one of four teams to make the conference championships. That was the year after he watched them make the Super Bowl. But he senses the urgency from everyone for a better start. He's been 0-2 each year in Cincinnati.

"Now it's on to, 'Hey, taking care of ourselves, getting in condition and getting ready to go to camp. Let's start strong this year, huh?" Karras said. "We had been in the Final Four two years in a row and (expecting it) can happen. It's not a negative, but I like the way we came to work this spring. It was a great nine weeks."

JOE AT REST: Quarterback Joe Burow had a scheduled day off Thursday after working Tuesday and Wednesday and head coach Zac Taylor is pleased with how he's bouncing back from wrist surgery.

Burrow didn't exactly bomb it those days, but that's not what Taylor wanted to see.

"It's just his timing and getting through progressions is so impressive. That's really what separates him in one way from a lot of people in this league and that continues to show up just even as we do limited work here in the offseason," Taylor said in his spring wrap-up news conference. Just getting through a progression and throwing that accuracy to a guy who's fourth or fifth in the progression on time is really remarkable and it's something that he works really hard at, but it looks effortless as you sit there and watch it from behind."

All eyes are going to be on Burrow more than usual this training camp. Either because of illness or injury, he hasn't had one in the last two years. Taylor says the next six weeks are the same for everybody.

"It is these guys just maintaining what they built up to this point and he understands that," Taylor said. "It's making sure everybody understands that because guys fall on different ends of the spectrum there, but he certainly knows what he's got to do to be ready for training camp. "

CHASE I: With three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase eligible for a contract extension, he showed up for the meetings this week and worked with Joey Boese's strength and conditioning staff but didn't participate in on-field drills. After seeing him for the first time this week, Taylor thought he looked to have a fit offseason.

"It was good to get him back in here. He's in great shape," Taylor said. "When someone's not been here, you don't want to rush him into things, but he clearly has done a great job this offseason. Really happy to get him back in the building. He was in all the meetings, did all the walkthroughs and all that stuff, and then did a great job mentoring some of the other players as he was out there during practice. So I thought we got what we needed out of him and was appreciative of him even though it is mandatory. You see there are still guys that aren't always there and he showed up and did everything that we talked about him doing."

CHASE II: Look out for sophomore running back Chase Brown, drawing the raves of Burrow and Taylor, particularly for how he's catching the ball.

"That's exciting to see a guy that you can just make a small comment to and four months later it comes back and you can tell he's really emphasized it," Taylor said. "I think that's everything we knew about Chase. That's everything we thought we had with Chase. A guy that's going to continue to grow and understand what that role entails as a running back in this league and the more downs you can put yourself on the field, the better. And he's really worked hard to do that. It's noticeable and that's a real positive."

THAT START: With his team not playing into the Final Four's last week in January for the first time in two years, Taylor had his longest spring. But he didn't allude to the need for a fast start as the reason.

"It is just a product of when our season ended and the work that I thought would be necessary to get some of the new players integrated and some of the young players integrated because we are a younger team now," Taylor said. "You've got a lot of young guys that need that work."

TED FANS: Even as Karras met the media Thursday wearing an odd ensemble, left guard Cordell Volson snapped a photo and promptly texted it to him. Right guard Alex Cappa was more up-front as he got in a question among the microphones.

"What went into the decision to wear a button-up shirt and football pants?" Cappa wondered.

"I had my shirt off. I didn't want to go shirt off on the news. This is what I wore to work today. Like I said earlier this is my Tim Allen shirt," Karras told him.

Karras and Cappa have been literally joined at the hip. In their first moves after reaching the Super Bowl, the Bengals signed both on the first day of 2022 free agency. A month later they drafted Volson. They've each started all 33 games since.

"I'm just glad I can continue to learn from him and develop our friendship. We've become really close," Volson said. "He's been really important in my development as a football player and really important in my development in this league. He's taught me how to be a pro's pro. From the way I live outside the facility to the way you carry yourself on the practice field, in the meeting room. He's a pro's pro."

So is Cappa, another guy Volson has followed.

"For one, he's good at blocking people," Cappa said of what makes Karras such a reliable center. "That's the most important thing. He's got a good mind for the game and he's got a good way to communicate with guys around him."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Taylor called on Jason Payne to speak to his team and the first black head coach for the East Coast Hockey League's Cincinnati Cyclones delivered.

"Knocked it out of the park," is how Taylor put it.

"He's earned every opportunity and his time as a young hockey player growing up in Canada and his path through professional hockey and his path to being a head coach, there's a lot of wisdom with things," Taylor said. "He's a former player and has played professionally and now coaches professionally. I think that he understands what our guys go through and he's a big football fan as well, which is what you notice about a lot of pro athletes in different sports. It is almost like at times football seems like their first love." …

Taylor has a well-deserved rep for being able to read his locker room and he literally did that this spring with the actual locker room undergoing a massive renovation that has split the vets into two smaller auxiliary locker rooms while putting the rookies in another two locker rooms.. He's not sure when the room is going to be ready to go, but he's had a plan.

"A comment was made to me early in the offseason program from veterans that I trust," Taylor said. "The chemistry is a little more difficult with some of the new guys. You don't really see them as much as maybe it's perceived because you're not all in that one locker room. It's a little disjointed, so maybe we do a couple more team meetings that involve everybody.

"I thought that was great feedback because I didn't really have that perspective, not in the locker room. I'm not walking all the way down there to deal with those. And so that's just an example of something maybe you didn't think through and now we've got the leadership in place on the team to bring something up." …