After head coach Zac Taylor gives his post-game speech, he allows for a player to take the floor and on Sunday running back Giovani Bernard stepped forward at 0-6. As usual, he was impressive. Think stuff like that matters on the road behind the door of the ravenous media and below the baying jackals celebrating an AFC North win?
"Absolutely," said wide receiver Alex Erickson before Wednesday's practice. "Everyone knows the moment we're in, but just having a leader step up solidifies what we're trying to do and everyone digs deep and tries to do it for the guy on his left and the guy on his right … (Bernard is) a guy that does everything right. He's been playing at a high level for a long time. He's got those leadership qualities you're looking for in a team captain. I think that's why a lot of guys gravitate to him."
Bernard, who does wear a "C,' on his jersey, doesn't know why he picked that moment to speak. And he won't tell you what he said. But he believes it.
"It's not really what you're supposed to do or not do. It's just keeping up the morale," Bernard said. "That's the biggest thing. We know where we are now. At the end of the day it's what you want your film to look like. Just continue to give the most effort and let that speak for itself.
"Especially during the time with what's going on, true colors get revealed very quickly. Be who you are. Be yourself. Just help this team. We're just trying to better things. At the end of the day, coaches can only do so much. Sometimes it's better hearing from a player than a coach."
Bernard has been at the center of some buzz. He signed a contract extension the week before the opener, but he's been used sparingly. He had a season-high nine touches at Seattle, but has 28 since. Last Sunday they tried to get him involved early, but he ended up with just six touches, although one was a lead-by-example-all-out 14-yard catch-and-run-and-dive to the Ravens 4 with 1:37 left.
"Coach Taylor calls the plays. When my opportunity comes I have to take advantage of it. I don't really have much say in it," Bernard said. "So whenever my number is called I have to trust Coach Taylor that he's putting me in the right position at the right time"
And Bernard does trust his coaches. He signed up with them.
"One of the biggest parts is I have trust in Coach Taylor, the staff and what we're doing here with the type of players that he wants here and wants to bring here," Bernard said. "Obviously it takes some time, but even still the players we have here right now are great players. We're just one step, one play away."
But Bernard doesn't want to hear about timelines and overhauls.
"I don't believe in transition years or teams or whatever that crap is called," Bernard said. "It's just things happen that we have to fix and we'll continue to keep working it and go from there."
And speaking up after games if that's what he thinks it takes.
CARLOS' WEIRD WEEKEND: For the first time in seven years Bengals left end Carlos Dunlap didn't play a game when he didn't make the trip to Baltimore last weekend after he surfaced on the injury report with a knee issue following Thursday's practice.
"It was weird," Dunlap said. "I'm used to traveling on Saturdays, but Coach wanted me to stay behind and get treatment. It was just weird. It's something I don't think I'll get used to."
He may have to if the knee doesn't respond. Dunlap said he felt better than he did last week but he still didn't practice Wednesday. Taylor has him day-to-day and Dunlap's sense is it's not a long-term thing. Certainly not as long as his streak of 115 straight games, a skein he says was unaware had been stopped.
"I was trying to figure out what 115 games ago was," Dunlap said.
Try the 2012 Paul Brown Stadium opener, the last game he didn't play, in which the Bengals began the scoring with Adam Jones' 81-yard punt return for a touchdown the first time they touched it in a 34-27 victory over AFC rival Cleveland. Naturally, the first game he didn't play 115 games later they scored on the game's opening kickoff against AFC North rival Baltimore, courtesy of Brandon Wilson's TD return.
"I was not aware of the streak," Dunlap said. "I just did what I had to do to prepare week in and week out."
Before missing the first two games of the 2012 season, he missed four games each in his first two seasons.
"I started ramping things up. Taking care of the body. Investing in myself. Now I see how it paid off," Dunlap said. "Now I have to take care of my body once again. I think I can come back from it, for sure. It's just a matter of when."
YOUNG QBS: Young quarterbacks have been killing the Bengals. In the last five games they've lost to the 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo in his 12th NFL start, the Bills' Josh Allen in his 14th, the Steelers' Mason Rudolph in his second, the Cardinals' Kyler Murray in his fifth and the Ravens' Lamar Jackson in his 13th.
Of course, with Carolina undrafted first-year player Kyle Allen the fifth-ranked passer in the league, Rudolph ranked ninth, and Jaguars rookie Gardner Minshew II ranked ahead of Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers, it seems to be a league-wide thing. Throw in Steelers undrafted rookie Devin Hodges beating Rivers on the road Sunday night and it seems downright trendy.
The Bengals get Minshew this week in his sixth NFL start and the Jags' sixth-round pick joined Carolina's Allen as the only players in NFL history to throw for at least nine touchdowns with two or fewer interceptions in their first six career games.
"Historically, 10 years ago, college teams were in the (shotgun), and quarterbacks came into the NFL and they were immediately put under center," Taylor said. "That took some time to get used to. Now, that's not really the case. Teams run a lot more out of the gun. These college guys are comfortable going in right away. A lot of NFL teams are stealing (the run-pass option scheme) from college. These guys come in and they feel like they're in a good rhythm right away. I really can't speak to what other teams do to get them ready, but that probably has a little bit to do with it."