Notes: Practice makes Burfict; Defense doesn't mind Freeney tread

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Practice makes Burfict as far as Tez sees it.

A red-zone drill in May with no pads or a game with January pay stubs and Bengals WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict is going to approach it the same way. And his teammates salute it.

During Tuesday's drill in the red zone, Burfict and the rest of the first-team defense watched quarterback Andy Dalton hit tight end C.J. Uzomah in the end zone before he found diving wide receiver Jake Kumerow for another touchdown and then heard the cheers of the offense.

That's when Burfict shot fellow first-team backer Vincent Rey a look.

"We don't want anybody scoring in the red zone," Burfict said. "And at first the threes were in against the ones and the ones were scoring and celebrating and I was yelling at Vinny, 'We can't let that happen against us."'

As if on cue, tight end Tyler Kroft caught a ball over the middle at about the five and as he went into score, Burfict ripped the ball from him. When Kroft went diving into the end zone to get the ball, Burfict went diving in as well to try and rip it away. If he hasn't already, he'll get a reprimand from head coach Marvin Lewis to stay on his feet.

Kroft got the ball, but Burfict made his point.

"It doesn't matter," Burfict said of the game or practice. "Just get better each day and compete and I think by me competing it brings a lot more of an edge to the young guys to see how we practice. You play good in practice and it shows in a game."

Kroft certainly noticed.

"He plays at a high level. There's a reason he's been as successful as he is because he goes out there and he competes," Kroft said.  "He comes out every day with a little bit of fire, so it's good to have."  .

This is how the Bengals defense set a franchise scoring record last year and finished second in the NFL. When it came to allowing red-zone touchdowns, the Bengals were fifth best in the league.

Which is why this was an intriguing drill as the offense tries to replace injured Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert. It also finished fifth in the league in the red zone.  

"When they get into the red zone, our mentality is not to let them into the end zone. Even on the check-down (pass)," Burfict said. "We're trying to strip it before they get into the end zone. He was about to score. I had my hand on the ball; I raked at it twice, and got it out. I was trying hard as hell to get the fumble."

Burfict loves to talk the talk during practice and his teammates love to give it back to him. On another red-zone snap, running back Giovani Bernard, who gives Burfict about four inches and 50 pounds, caught the ball on a slant at the four and got stood up right there by Burfict in whatever a pop you can get out of wearing shirts and shorts. And the two are still kidding each other about it.

"He wanted it. He swatted at it. I caught it. I won," Bernard said. "I had to show him who the big guy is around here."

"I just told him that I picked him up," Burfict said. "He said, 'No, I jumped.'"

Despite the back and forth, it can't hide the respect they have for each other even if they both claim victory.

"He's always on full go.  You have to have those guys on your team," Bernard said. "He's one of those guys you say to, 'You have to relax a little bit.' But we need that."

 AGE OF AGE:

Last week we got the version from the offensive side of the ball on the recruiting of 15-year defensive end Dwight Freeney when left tackle Andrew Whitworth let us in on the scene in the locker room during Freeney's recruiting visit. The young defensive lineman gathered around him as if he were a Hall-of-Fame exhibit, of which he is.

On Tuesday came the perspective of the defensive coordinator in Paul Guenther and the fellow veteran import in 13-year veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby.

"Karlos Dansby has been a great addition. A guy like that is a good example to follow," said Guenther, who spent 90 minutes showing Freeney how his style fits into the Bengals' rush scheme and makeup. "If you have a team that has a lot of good young talent like we have, if you sprinkle in some veteran players like (him) that has the experience he has (it helps). He wants to win . .. He's our kind of guy. Knowledgeable. He'll help the younger players."

There is no magic formula, but there is no question winners need a blend of experience and youth. But how much? According to footballoutsiders.com, there is no textbook answer.

The Bengals had the eighth oldest roster in the league when the web site computed "snap-weighted age," for the 2015 season. The Bengals averaged the same age as the 3-13 Browns at 27.0 years and were nearly the same as the Super Bowl champion Broncos at 27.1.

"Carolina (third) and Denver (seventh) ranked among the oldest teams in the league on their way to Super Bowl 50," the site says, "while the seven youngest teams in 2015 all failed to break .500."

Footballoutsiders.com said the Bengals' had the second oldest SWA defense at 28.1, but even though they no longer have 32-year-old safety Reggie Nelson and 32-year-old linebacker A.J. Hawk, Dansby turns 35 during the season and is going to keep the numbers up.

And that's just fine with Dansby, who shares Freeney's nutritionist and diet regimen.

"He'll add value to our team," Dansby said. "Without a doubt. He'll keep guys fresh. He'll come in with the production he has from last season and he's not going to have a drop off."

When it comes to defense, the web site shows there are also no age absolutes. The Bengals made the postseason and so did four other of the ten oldest defenses (Carolina, Minnesota, Kansas City and Washington). But, including No. 1 Indianapolis, three of the oldest finished 26th or lower in defense.

Freeney had eight sacks in Arizona last season and Dansby is sure that Freeney will keep it up because he knows him pretty well since they have kept in touch via their mutual desires to play as long as they can and have surrounded themselves with some of the same advisors.

"The way he takes care of his body is the same way I take care of mine," Dansby said. "We've got the same nutritionist. He's been doing it longer than me. He's taken it to a whole other level. I'm trying to get to his level. Then I'd be a monster."

SLANTS AND SCREENS:

Second-year right tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher didn't work Tuesday, so 11-year veteran Eric Winston got a lot of work. Ogbuehi and Fisher don't appear to have injuries that are going to impact training camp. Same with fullback Ryan Hewitt.  Also out for the second straight Tuesday was middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.

Cincinnati Bengals host OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium practice fields 5/31/2016

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