Best of the Bengals Zoom news conferences Monday ahead of Super Bowl LVI Feb. 13 in Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium:
'COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS'
Running back Joe Mixon: "That's the greatest show in sports and probably the greatest show out there in general. It's the biggest game of them all. Growing up and when I got to the pros, I was never was one of those guys that (said), 'You know what? I'm going to go to the Super Bowl just to go and experience the experience.' I always said, 'I'm just going to sit here and wait my time.' That's what I did. Everybody has their time in life and sports. … For me to just basically wait out and go through the tough times around here and the hardships that we had being in the program.
"You have to reap the benefits and to see the glory that (we're) able to play in a Super Bowl. … Words really can't describe this feeling. It just really feels like I'm living the dream man. … Just to really realize how blessed you are.
"You had greats that played many, many years hoping that they could just get to an AFC championship or NFC championship, let alone a Super Bowl. To be in this position and for my team to be in this position, you can never take this moment for granted and you've always got to count your blessings."
Tight end C.J. Uzomah: "It's the absolute best feeling. … (I) used to play against my dad in Madden until I got way too good. He was like, 'Alright, I'm done doing this.' But we made a fake Super Bowl trophy in the house. He used a little pool noodle as the ball. We shaped it into the football. I forget what, like a vase or something, and we wrapped it and spray painted it and it was the Lombardi trophy. Then we played for it in Madden.
"It's incredible thinking of and about the hard work that I've put in. The time that I put in. The summers that I've missed. The sleepovers that I missed. The hangout sessions that I missed because I was out throwing the football. Out at football camps. In high school, we had seven on sevens. We had team camp. We had three-a-days. … That's what we did and that's what it took and that's what it takes to get to the level that we're at. Just looking back on it's surreal.
"All that hard work just is there. Holding that trophy. Not holding the fake one that my dad made, that I loved so much as a kid. It's going to be the real one. … that's the pinnacle."
The Bengals are scheduled to wear black jerseys, white pants (orange stripes) and orange socks in Super Bowl LVI against the L.A. Rams. Check out the players' media day shoot for Super bowl LVI. Presented by Fifth Third Bank.
THE RIGHT MENTALITY
Defensive end Trey Hendrickson described the identity of the Bengals defense.
Hendrickson: "We're not really worried about where we're ranked or anything like that. I think the most important thing about football is winning the game. Eliminating their main players and the explosive plays. Collectively doing our job and our 1/11th on our defense and doing it for the guy beside us and the guys coaching. … We have guys on the sidelines telling us what keys to pick up on and what things to do. … We got guys on the sidelines helping pick up the guys on the field and how we can all improve to win. I'm blessed to be a part of this defense."
Good things come to those who wait, and the wait is almost over for Bengals fans.
Uzomah: "When I do go out everyone's like, 'Hey man, congratulations. Like I don't want to take up too much time. We've been lifelong Cincinnati fans. This is my favorite season that I've gotten to witness.'
"That means a lot. They're so heartfelt and they have our back. They've been with us through the ups and downs, and I'm glad that the city is getting to witness a season like this. They deserve it. Job's not done. We still have one more game to bring back a little something for them. It means a lot, knowing that they have our backs as much as they do."
BEST IN THE LEAGUE
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is an A-lister on the Rams and should be a matchup to watch for against the Bengals triple threat wideouts.
Wide receiver Tyler Boyd: "He's definitely probably the best cornerback in the NFL. He does a great job of watching film. He's just so rangy. He's a big guy, he's bigger than the average corner so that's what helps him a lot because he can cover a lot of range and he could get to a lot of spots sooner than other corners.
"I think we've just got to go out there and play our game. If we just go out there and play our game and make him play his best, that's what we need. We love to compete, no matter wherever he's at we're going to take chances and throw the ball to our guys, you know. But, he's a great player and he understands his assignment."
Uzomah was carted off in the AFC championship game in Kansas City with a knee injury. He would return to the sideline on crutches later and celebrate the 27-24 win. Uzomah has yet to practice but has been on the sidelines with chief of rehab Nick Cosgray. At the Monday night Paul Brown Stadium rally, he ripped off his knee brace to the delight of the crowd.
Uzomah: "I've spent a lot of time with Nick and the staff rehabbing the Achilles injury that I had last year. I kind of knew what I was getting into and what I was going to get out of hanging out with Nick and (Roberto Cardona) and that staff, but it's been a grind. It's been a lot of early mornings, late nights of just rehabbing. … But, I feel really good. I feel really good."
On Jan. 26, rookie kicker Evan McPherson said on The Pat McAfee Show that he would like to break Adam Vinatieri's postseason record of 14 field goals. He sits at 12.
McPherson: "Adam's definitely a guy that I've looked up to and watched a lot of videos on growing up as a kid and still today. I love to watch his run with the Patriots when he's kicking game-winners in the Super Bowl. I think that's every kid's dream is to kick the game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl. He's definitely meant a lot to me in my career.
"I've never gotten to meet him or talk to him on the phone, but I'm sure I will one day. When I do, I'll just (tell him I) appreciate him for everything he's done for our position and everything he's accomplished. … Just to see somebody else make those kicks kind of gives you the confidence to make them. It's super weird. … I just love watching him go out there and hit the only walk-off game-winning field goal in Super Bowl history."
"If we get the opportunity to do that I hope we come through with it."
'X' FACTOR & BEAST MODE
Many players idolize other players in their youth. For quarterback Joe Burrow, it is former Saints quarterback Drew Brees and for McPherson it is Vinatieri.
Wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase: "The main person I was watching was Dez Bryant. Once I got to high school, that's when I started watching Stefon Diggs, Tyler Boyd. Just watching a whole bunch of highlights on YouTube. Just checking people out, but Dez Bryant was the main person."
Mixon: "I grew up watching a lot of … big-time NFL players that thrived in Super Bowl moments. I was fortunate enough to be around a guy named Marshawn Lynch. He is a big role model to all the guys in the Bay area growing up. For me, I've been dreaming about this moment since the first time I played football (when) I was 10 years old."
SACKS > TD'S
Hendrickson's 14 sacks set the single-season franchise record but. But he wasn't always the sultan of the sack as a high school tight end.
Hendrickson: "It was one those things that, I love playing football. I do love playing tight end, but there's nothing like sacking the quarterback. Everybody will say touchdowns are the greatest thing, but I've scored touchdowns. I've sacked quarterbacks and there's nothing close to a sack."
A GRIDDY PROMISE
McPherson said he would do the Griddy if the Bengals won the Super Bowl and the Griddy grandmaster approved.
Chase: "I'm pretty sure Evan did the Griddy before in practice if I'm not mistaken. If not, (then) in the locker room. So, he (is) always seeing us have our little Griddy sessions in our locker room when we're dancing. So I'm pretty sure he's ready."
SUNDAY NIGHT FEVER
Adding six points to the scoreboard is only half the fun of scoring a touchdown.
Mixon: "Go in there in the end zone and dance. Touchdowns are hard to come by in this league. A lot of people don't know that. … It's infectious obviously. … As soon as (you see) somebody dance, you (want to) coordinate with one of your teammates. It's great for the players and it's definitely great for the fans. So, definitely happy that we've got guys like Chase, Tee (Higgins) and Tyler (Boyd), and also C.J. Uzomah that come out here and dance.
"Even Joe Burrow does as well. … (Chase) obviously is the best one on the team (at the Griddy)."
A QUALITY QB1
He may never say it himself but, fans, coaches and players all know how special Burrow is.
Mixon: "I know he got hurt last year but, even last year he was a warrior. He fought through a lot of things. The first day (he) took the huddle with us in 2020, we just knew he would be something special, know he'd be a leader. This year compared to last year is just night and day. I'm very excited for him and how his career took off and how he's thriving under bright lights. He's going to be one of these great quarterbacks, especially young quarterbacks, in the league for a (long) period of time. Hopefully 15 plus years."
Uzomah: "How many nicknames does the guy have this year? Like (Joe) Shiesty, (Joey) Franchise. He's got ice in his veins. The utmost confidence, right? Like we've got him in the huddle we have his mind and his ability to analyze defenses and just be a leader. Just a presence of an ice-cold-blooded killer out there dissecting (defenses). … That's why I call him 'Franchise.' He's a franchise player. He is someone who can turn an organization around."
"He is a vital part in why we are where we are. He's the man, dude. I love Joe. He's sick. I'm glad he's on my team."
Hendrickson: "It's important to have a quarterback with a lot of confidence. It's important that you have a quarterback that's truly himself in this league and does what he wants to do. Those are defining characteristics of great quarterbacks in the NFL. I'm happy for him. It's my job to get him the ball back and it's exciting knowing that a guy like that is going to have the ball when we're on the sidelines."
Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones hit the Griddy when ran for a touchdown in the Pro Bowl on Sunday. Unfortunately, the play was nullified by a whistle.
Chase: "His Griddy wasn't too bad. I give him a 6.5, almost seven."
Mixon: "Everybody loved it. I loved it just for a quarterback like him. You wouldn't even think that he had even tried to do something like that. … I'm sure it was a great thing for him."