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'Old' Guys Like Uzomah Are Here In June Because They're Young Enough To Dream About February

C.J. Uzomah: Dreams of February.
C.J. Uzomah: Dreams of February.

C.J. Uzomah, now the oldest starting skills player on the Bengals offense at age 28, broke into the NFL on that 2015 edition that became the first AFC North team to start a season 8-0.

Uzomah, as every Cincinnati school kid knows, is the tight end who caught Andy Dalton's last Bengals touchdown pass and Joe Burrow's first. He's also the last offensive or defensive player left from that group and he's got some sweet memories for a team looking to make its way with six new veteran starters on defense and an offense with six projected Opening Day starters drafted in the first or second rounds in the last five drafts.

But Uzomah said after Tuesday's practice these Bengals have something better than those Bengals. He has seen it in the four voluntary workouts where, for instance, he has been chattering with safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III after certain routes. Or cornerback Trae Waynes. Or anybody, really.

"The communication we have right now is something that I haven't really seen in a long time in my football playing career in general," Uzomah said. "And the communication between the coaching staff and us right now and how transparent we are with everything, where the coaches are telling us exactly what we're going to do and we're like all right, nice. If we're going to do that, we're going to do it all out. Give them everything we've got. Because they're taking it somewhat easy on us."

The reason the Bengals have opted for these suddenly very voluntary practices is because they want to get to know each other on the field before 2021 starts so they can avoid the pitfalls of a 2020 season they didn't get on the field like this until August.

It looked like the Bengals did it again Tuesday with all their offensive and defensive players showing up, just like they did for last week's first practice.

"Where some teams are like, 'We don't want to do anything at all,' we're like, 'We're not having the year that we had last year,''' Uzomah said. "We all know that. So in the locker room, that's something that we're building on, and we want to get better at. If I'm doing something and Trae tells me 'that's not going to work,' then I'm going to tell him 'that's not going to work,' like vice versa. Just the open dialogue, the communication, the camaraderie…

"It's just something that togetherness and the way that we're wanting to go about this season and show that last year was last year, the year prior was the year prior, and this is a new team, I think is really showing even as early as these OTAs."

The major reasons for this kind of a big spring attendance are leaders like Uzomah, knocking on wood with his Achilles feeling as good as new after tearing it in last season's second game.

"I don't want to jinx or anything, but I don't really feel it," he said.

He's the kind of guy easy to get along with even though he's got a brutal locker room needle. One of those guys a room absolutely needs. As Burrow found out in February and March when they were sharing the Paul Brown Stadium training room during their rehab.

"You just say some stuff. Shoot the (breeze) a little bit," Uzomah said. "The good things I can say is we have been talking crap about chess right now. We haven't played yet but he thinks he's good at chess. He probably watched Queen's Gambit. I have been playing chess for longer than that. I think I've probably got him on that. He knows I like traveling a lot and he will hit me with, so where we going? You going somewhere and going to get another dumb tattoo? I say yes the majority of the time."

Uzomah hopes it helped Burrow because he says it sure as heck helped him get through.

"I hope it helped him mentally," Uzomah said. "Having someone else in there and you are going through, not the same injury, but you are going through the rehab process together that definitely helped me. Nice, I have to make sure I get right and I can run routes for him when he's ready and stay here and things like that. He's got a dry sense of humor that I got to finally see. I don't know how much of it you guys get to see, but he actually is pretty funny. He throws some subtle jabs out there that make you be like, all right, here he is."

And, ready or not, here is Uzomah.

He's charismatic, personable, funny. Here's another reason he's great for a room. Uzomah may be Burrow's oldest receiver, but he's young enough to dream for his buddy and all his mates. This latest dream was inspired by his beloved Chelsea soccer club that just won the European crown.

"Right after the Super Bowl, I want a bottle of champagne and just bust it open and just start spraying every one with it," Uzomah said. "That's something you dream of as a little kid, and it's something I still aspire to and that's what we're working for."

He remembers Tom Brady throwing the Lombardi Trophy from his boat to another when he tried to target one of his tight ends, Cam Brate, during the Buccaneers' Super Bowl celebration back in February. Uzomah sees another image and he's throwing the Lombardi to Burrow.

"Yeah. Why not? Are you kidding me? I'll throw it to him," Uzomah said. "Like hey, give your arm a rest. You've been throwing too many touchdowns. Just rest it right now. I got you. I'll start tossing it."

That's why old guys are here in June. They're young enough to dream about February.

Check out some of the best photos from Week 2 of the Bengals Organized Team Activities.