Chris Crocker, who went from the waiver wire to one of the most significant careers in Bengals history, joined the team this week as a coach in the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Internship Program. But whether it portends a spring mini-reunion of the 2009 secondary that fueled a division sweep and the second of head coach Marvin Lewis' four AFC North titles remains to be seen.
The Bengals are apparently still talking to cornerback Leon Hall about the possibility of a deal. Hall, the co-MVP of that '09 team with fellow cornerback Johnathan Joseph, became a free agent this season at age 31.
With reports that Hall is coming off back surgery and has visited other teams, the Bengals have been getting a very good spring out of backup Chris Lewis-Harris taking a ton of first-team snaps with starter Dre Kirkpatrick and slot man Darqueze Dennard sitting out while nursing injuries so they'll be ready for training camp.
It will be recalled that Crocker joined the Bengals 10 days after getting cut by Miami in 2008 and went on to start 56 games and play in 71 during the last six years of his career he made the postseason four times. His coach-like expertise in the defense was so valued that he came off the couch in the last week of September in both 2012 and 2013 to bolster play-off runs.
And after Tuesday's practice, Crocker lobbied for the Bengals and Hall to re-unite. If you're looking for a guy who can be a Crocker-type and play slot corner and safety in the nickel, Crocker says it is Hall.
"Leon can do a lot. Maybe Leon will be back. I definitely see a spot for him," Crocker said. "This system isn't easy . . . We do multiple things."
Crocker still has a lot of balls in the air before he decides on coaching. He's also interested in officiating and plans to return for a second year of working games in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) . . .
The Bengals announced the other two internship coaches on Tuesday. Norfolk State co defensive coordinator Cornell Brown played seven NFL seasons as a linebacker for Baltimore and earned a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens when Lewis was his defensive coordinator. Kenny Ray, the assistant head coach/offensive line coach at Gardner-Webb University, played center in college at Southern Mississippi with Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre . . .
The word has been passed. New defensive line coach Jacob Burney is emphasizing a seven-man rotation even though he's got two Pro Bowlers and an 80-percent play time right end. It's going to be a bit of a change in these parts. But he thinks not only will his players embrace it, he thinks they should.
"In today's game, to stick four out there for 85 plays and play NFL-winning football, that's not happening," Burney said after practice. "You have to get seven ready to play and you can't be afraid to put them in there . . . It's not tough (to sub) for me. (The starter) may be out there, but he's taking his rest on that one play you need him because he's been out there for a while." . . .
Word on the street is that four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins looks better than he ever has, which has got to be a little scary.
Not so for Burney, who has seen it all in 21 years in the NFL. And he hasn't seen anybody like Atkins.
"How does he look? Come on now," said Burney, allowing a guffaw when asked. "The guy has unique talent. These guys don't come around like that very often. I've been doing it a long time. All (the greats) are unique among themselves."
Burney says Atkins' uniqueness lies not only in his explosive first step, but in his ability to do it without a textbook.
"It has nothing to do with coaching, he just showed up with it," Burney said of Atkins' quickness off the ball. "He just showed up with it. That's his deal. You let him do what he does.
"All those fundamental physical things," Burney said. "You say, 'OK, your feet have to be turned this way to get the most out of our body,' and that stuff. He kind of defies those things."
Burney isn't touching him.
"I'm not here to break down Geno and re-build Geno," Burney said. "Not hardly."