Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the offense's de facto captain, surfaced Monday during his first appearance at the offseason conditioning program that began last week. With his return delayed by the birth of his third child, Whitworth got his first feel of the 2012 locker room and likes it.
He spent last year talking about how good the chemistry was and with the free-agent additions of two veteran guards whose lockers are on either side of him (Jacob Bell and Travelle Wharton), as well as running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a fellow Louisianan, Whitworth thinks it's headed the same way.
"I think we have guys that are good players, great people and got respect from the guys they play with. The best thing you can have in a locker room are guys that want to play, play well, and they respect everybody in it, " Whitworth said. "I think that's what we have. We have a lot of guys that respect the game, respect the players that play it. Great guys inside the locker room and outside and good players. I think we've continued to do that, to build through the locker room. Having the kind of character guys that want to have success."
NOT SO BOUNT-FUL: Whitworth, the Bengals player rep to the NFL Players Association, continues to question the stiff fines NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed out to the Saints and their coaching staff in Bountygate. He's keeping a watchful eye on the discipline he expects some players to receive.
"They should serve some kind of penalty. We've now declared it is an infraction," said Whitworth, but he's not wild about it. "I still think that the penalty needs to dictate what they did and the penalties to the coaches and players do not. Once again, if you are still saying guys who commit felonies who go to jail serve less suspension time than someone that supposedly ran a program that encouraged guys to hit guys … ."
Whitworth wonders if he's working under a bounty system, since he gets paid according to how well he pushes guys around.
"I get paid money not to hug Terrell Suggs and give him a kiss on the cheek," Whitworth said of the Ravens Pro Bowl sack artist. "I get paid money to move him from Point A to Point B, so technically do I have a paid bounty on who I play every week? Technically I do. I either get to make the team next time based on how I play. I promise you it's not for hugs and kisses. Every football player goes out with the intention to dominate the guy they're playing. If they get hurt in the process then that is a hazard of the occupation. "
Whitworth has stuck by his position since the suspensions were levied last month.
"I'm not necessarily taking a side on what bounties are, but I feel like you are trying to define something that is pretty hard to define," Whitworth said. "I think we're trying to nitpick and find a way to penalize guys. Honestly, how can you police that? If me and the O-linemen put up some money to see who can pin or pancake so and so the most times, how are you going to police that? I feel like it has always been part of the game."
HILL WORK: Wide receiver A.J. Green, who many saw as the best player on the board when the Bengals picked him fourth last year, worked out in Atlanta this offseason for five weeks with Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill, a guy that has two camps when it comes to the first round. One sees him as a project because he ran very few NFL routes and he would need at least a year to get acclimated, and teams can't give up a year of development for a first-round pick. The other camp says the only way you can get a 6-4 wide receiver that runs 4.3 is the first round.
"I think he'll be able to translate on the field fast," Green said. "He's a pretty solid guy. He's young and he works hard."
By the way, how fast is 4.3? Green says he ran a 4.48 at the combine and he's not a plodder. But Green knows what it comes down to.
"I play fast," he said and he thinks Hill can, too.
With Jerome Simpson a free agent and lacking consistency (after he had 152 yards against the Ravens on Nov. 20 he had 163 yards in the last six games), there is a fear Green is going to get lost in double teams. So if there is one thing the Bengals need to get in this week's draft it is a No. 2 receiver candidate.
"It would be nice to get somebody else in here. If we don't, then we've got some guys here who can really step up," Green said. "Whatever the team needs."
And the team could use another No. 2 receiver in the mix. With Green's 15 games, the only wideout on the roster that has played more NFL games is the fourth-year Brandon Tate with 34 and he has no catches as a Bengal.
The Bengals are supposedly looking at cornerbacks in the draft and Green has played against two of the better ones in South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore and North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins.
"(Gilmore) is a good corner with size (6-1) and speed. Jenkins is a smaller guy (5-10), but smart," he said.
Green's wish list to improve is headed by getting more yards after catch and getting more comfortable in the slot. The fact that he was able to move around from his original spot at Z receiver late in the season to the slot as well as some X shows what a great job he did as a young player grasping the offense. He says that's one of the things that surprised him about his rookie success.
"Picking up the playbook so fast," Green said. "Being able to come in and make the big plays when your number is called."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» The Bengals released the following statement Monday afternoon:
Former Bengals WR Isaac Curtis, one of the team's all-time most popular and respected players, is among a group of selected NFL alumni who will announce their teams' Friday draft selections from podium at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Scheduled on Friday, beginning at 6 p.m., are the draft's second and third rounds. The Bengals currently hold the 21st selection in each round.
Curtis was a Bengals 1973 first-round draft choice out of San Diego State. Upon completing a 12-year Cincinnati career in 1984, he was the team's all-time leader in receptions (416) and receiving yards (7101). His yardage total still ranks second, his reception total ranks fifth, and his average yards per catch (17.1) remains the team's career record. He ranks fifth all-time on the Bengals in touchdowns (53), and he had four career Pro Bowl selections.
A native of Santa Ana, Calif., Curtis has made Cincinnati his home and has pursued a successful business career in the area.
"Isaac was a tremendously exciting player for us, and no player has done better in representing the Bengals off the field," said Bengals president Mike Brown. "We are happy to see him receive this honor, and I know our fans will enjoy seeing him on the draft telecast Friday night."
» Green on the couple of days in New York City before the draft: "It was hectic ... it was a waiting game. It was tough, but exciting."
» With the installation of the synthetic turf inside Paul Brown Stadium finished on Monday, the players started running around on it and it will be their only place to romp for the next month. The practice fields are set to be transformed from bluegrass to Bermuda and that should be done by June 1 with the plan for the Bengals to use it in their June 4-7 voluntary workouts and June 12-14 mandatory minicamp.