Dre Kirkpartrick's wing span can gobble up receivers.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, one of the more gregarious Bengals, has been running first team with the chatty Adam Jones in the first three noisy practices of this training camp on a very energetic corner. But he wants a lot more than that.
Like a Captain's jersey.
"When you think about the Ravens, everybody in their book is going to think about Ray Lewis,' said Kirkpatrick before Monday's practice. "When you think of the Patriots you think about Tom Brady. When you think about the Bengals I want you to think of Dre Kirkpatrick."
In his fourth season Kirkpatrick looks to be fulfilling the role carved out for him when they took him with the 17th pick in the 2012 first round out of Alabama, the first of the booty seized from the Raiders in the Carson Palmer Heist. His long arms and lean angles have made it tough on receivers so far and the completions against him have been few and far between.
But Kirkpatrick, now a seasoned 25, realizes he had to slow down his "life outside of football," to garner that kind of respect.
"Leadership doesn't stop walking through this (locker room) door. When people see you, they need to be able respect you. 'Hey, he's a leader on and off the field.' That's how you get your teammates to rally around you. That's some of the transition I'm trying to go through. It's really mental. Changing a lot of things that you do…Just being more consistent at your job. Football is a No. 1 priority."
Kirkpatrick is running with the ones while eight-year starter Leon Hall has been lining in the slot. Now with Terence Newman, the corner that Kirkpatrick modeled himself on, re-uniting with former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer in Minnesota and Hall in the last year of his deal…
"It's time,' said cornerbacks coach Vance Joseph. "He's watched great corners here. T. New, Leon. He's seen it done. He knows how it's done. Now he just wants to go do it…"
When Joseph arrived from Houston in Kirkpatrick's second season, he tapped into Kirkpatrick's personality burning with a perfectionist's passion, as well as his own coaching pride and Kirkpatrick began to blossom. At 6-2, 190 pounds, Joseph knows Kirkpatrick has special specifications when it comes to playing NFL corner.
"He's a first-round pick. He's got to play," Joseph said. "Most corners his size don't have those (quick) feet and the knee bend and the burst he has…He has to realize this is an imperfect game and an in imperfect position. If things go bad, relax and play. But I like the heart of players that want to be perfect. That's a good trait to have if you can control it and he will as he matures."
Darqueze Dennard, the corner that came in the first round two years later, has the polar opposite personality. He doesn't have Kirkpatrick's fire on the outside, but he's speedy and has the same "press,' mentality that Kirkpatrick has. He says he'll find himself going rah-rah sometimes when he hears Kirkpatrick getting it going.
"He's passionate about the game. He's very intense,' Dennard said. "I think guys can lean towards that. You have the Ray Lewises. On this team Vontaze Burfict. He's a big rah-rah guy. He can get people going. I see qualities like that in Dre."
Kirkpatrick had a tough transition that first year. He smiled Monday when admitted that this week he's been thinking about those rookie minicamp sessions as he coped with playing "off,' coverage for the first time in his life. He went back to his hotel after that first practice and ducked into the hallway to literally go step-by-step through Zimmer's instructions.
Cincinnati Bengals host training camp at Paul Brown Stadium practice fields 08/02/2015
"I feel like I can be a captain of this team. I'm not shying away from it," Kirkpatrick said. "Point blank period. I feel like I'm in that situation. I feel like I'm motivating guys by my play, not by what I'm saying. I'm giving it 110 percent every play. So when you correct somebody, they can't say, 'Why? You're not doing it.' I cross all my Ts and dot all my Is because if you're not doing it, how can you say something?"
Kirkpatrick looks at a pair of fifth-year guys he calls the leaders of the offense, A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, and he sees he's in his fourth year. So he says, why not?
"We're a young team,' he said. "We don't have a lot of 10th and 11tjh year guys."
But he also knows it's early. Three days.
"He's playing hard, he's playing smart,' Joseph said. "So far I give him a B-minus because it takes consistency and longevity to prove you're a starter in this league."
Kirkpatrick has been around. The guy who wants a C on his jersey has the P of a perfectionist everywhere else.
"Next week they may have Darqueze and Leon in there," he said. "I don't feel like anybody has a job…It's hard to tell right now."