* No. 20 is now a Pro Bowler.*
For weeks now his teammates have been pushing Reggie Nelson for the Pro Bowl and when he became the first Bengals safety to go to Hawaii in 25 years, the spare-speaking Nelson had the words to fit the occasion.
"It's been nine years, so I'm very excited about it. I finally got one," Nelson said before Wednesday's practice. "Obviously it's a great honor for the organization and for our defense for me to be nominated Pro Bowl. But I didn't do it by myself."
Nelson's selection is a textbook case of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis willing to take a chance on a talented player who hasn't been able to realize it during various stops around the league. And of coaching-personnel team work. On cut down day to end the 2010 preseason, the Bengals got Nelson for a little more than a song from the Jaguars. Try an aria. Backup cornerback David Jones and a conditional low draft pick.
A long fall for a 2007 first-round pick. But the coaches and personnel people recalled how they coveted Nelson in that draft. They took cornerback Leon Hall with the 18th pick and Nelson 21 to the Jags.
But the most valuable thing that came in the deal was the advice of Jaguars general manager Gene Smith and Jags executive James Harris, a former Lewis colleague in Baltimore.
Play him in one spot. Don't move him to corner, or the slot, and maybe play him more at free than strong.
Voila. The Hall-Nelson combo proved the draft board right.
Try 75 starts for a defense that has been ranked in the top ten four times in five straight post-season runs. He's got 23 interceptions as a Bengal, sixth on the club's all-time list, and he currently leads the league with eight.
"I just think he's doing a better job in the middle of the field reading the quarterback," said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. "When you have that many interceptions some of them go to you and some of them you make a play on. He's just done a better job of tracking the ball. Deep throws, he's made a lot of good catches back there. He probably should have a couple more. That really was his emphasis going into the spring so it's been paying off for him."
Nelson has repaid the Bengals offer of a second chance countless times over.
"The coaching staff here," said Nelson of what made it click in Cincy. "Just given that second chance to revive your career and everything. You really don't want to be labeled as a bust. That's definitely what I didn't want to be labeled as. Just to fit in to the defensive scheme. I came in and studied. Zim (former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer) got me rolling and it's just been up from there."
Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick can now set aside two hours for the next few days to study Brock Osweiler instead of Peyton Manning. With that word via ProFootballTalk.com and the sense that Manning won't even be active Monday night to back up, that sets up Osweiler in his sixth NFL start vs. AJ McCarron in his second NFL start in the game to decide the seeding of the AFC playoffs.
But even before the announcement, for Kirkpatrick and cornerback Adam Jones it has become more of a question of scheme when it comes to preparation.
"I'm not preparing for the quarterback. I'm preparing for the offense," Jones said. "I'm going to study and be prepared and who ever plays I'll be prepared . . .
Kirkpatrick, who has been taking a day off lately with a knee issue, was in sweats Wednesday. So was starting safety George Iloka (groin), who missed all of last week after re-aggravating the injury in the Steelers game. Slot cornerback Leon Hall, who usually gets Wednesday off, wasn't on the field . . .
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Starting tight end Tyler Eifert is still in concussion protocol and won't practice Wednesday but the hope is he'll be back Thursday . . . backup rookie tackle Jake Fisher, who missed the last two games with a concussion, said he's back . . .
Safety Reggie Nelson showed up to work as the sentimental favorite of the five Pro Bowlers.
"It was exciting. I didn't do it by myself," Nelson said. "It's been nine years. Finally I got one. I know how hard we work around here and we always say just do our job and everything will take care of itself and I think we did a good job of that." . . .
For the first time in his 13 seasons, special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons had a non-kicker and non-returner win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week when left end Carlos Dunlap got it for blocking his second field goal in three weeks in San Francisco. Simmons says he's counting him for four block in the recent seasons . . .
Simmons also had his first cover player, running back Cedric Peerman, be named as high as a first alternate Pro Bowler: "I think he should have got in." . . .
Cincinnati Bengals travel to take on the San Francisco 49ers in week 15 of the regular season.