Ja'Marr Chase and Trey Hendrickson each claimed their third straight Pro Bowl selection Wednesday night to put themselves in the rarified air of Bengaldom.
Chase joins the Bengals' royal line of wide receivers with his third Pro Bowl berth in his third season to match Isaac Curtis, Cris Collinsworth, and A.J. Green. Hendrickson, who set a new career high with 17 sacks this year, is now on the list with franchise icons Geno Atkins, Lemar Parrish, and David Fulcher as defenders who have been named to at least three straight Pro Bowls.
"It's a good and a bad at the end of the day. It's bad I'm going because it means I'm not going to the Super Bowl. But it's a good thing to have," Chase said. "When I heard I got three, I looked up A.J. to see how many he had. Seven. I just kept that with me as motivation. It's something to attack, but it's not the goal at the end of the day."
Green is the only NFL receiver since the 1970 merger to start his career with seven consecutive Pro Bowls and the only Bengal at any position to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons.
Since signing the most lucrative free-agent deal in Bengals history before the 2021 season, Hendrickson has gone to every Pro Bowl while racking up 39 sacks, already 10th most in Bengals history. During that 47-game span, he has the fifth most sacks in the league and only T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett have more than his 52.5 in the 2020s.
He enters Sunday's finale at Paycor Stadium against the Browns (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) tied for the NFL sack lead with Watt.
"I've never chased stats. What would make this year is ending on a win," said Hendrickson, who was on a division winner in his six previous seasons. "Sacks are a team stat, an individual opportunity. Sacks are a process, too.
"How I go about the discipline of each week, the recovery, the approach that goes in week in and week out. Approaching it the same and not chasing a statistic. If you chase something, you're never going to catch it. If you do the technique and the fundamentals week in and week out, that's how consistency is made."
Watt and Michael Strahan hold the NFL single-season sack record with 22.5. Hilton says he and his mates are hoping Hendrickson "goes crazy" Sunday and breaks the record.
"He doesn't get the respect he deserves. When you mention guys like T.J. Watt, Micah Parsons, you have to throw Trey Hendrickson in there. Turn on the film and watch how much impact he has."
Hendrickson likes it that way. He doesn't court the media. A devout Christian, he deflects praise and on Wednesday he primarily pointed "to my Lord and Savior without whom I am nothing."
On Wednesday, Hendrickson also thanked Hilton for the endorsement, as well as his wife for "the peace at home when I cross that threshold."
Also on Wednesday, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor showed his appreciation again to Chase for playing last Sunday's elimination game in Kansas City at 70% with a sprained shoulder.
"That was a physical game. They're going to put their hands on you. They're going to have two guys in your vicinity quite a bit. And we're going to run the ball," Taylor said. "We really challenged our guys in that regard. And it was cold. It's not fun to be in pain when you're cold. It was cold. There are just so many things that went into that. He knows how I feel about it. When your best players are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, that's what we're looking for with our players."
Chase indicated the same thing Wednesday. If he can play, he will. He wants to win and he's just four catches from 100 balls, a goal of his and it would make him the first 100-catch receiver for the Bengals since T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2007. He also mentioned he's got his eye on a 100-yard game. He's already got five this season. A sixth would tie the Bengals season record with Green in 2013.
It won't be so easy for the Browns to find him since the Bengals have spent the season expanding his roles at so many different spots.
"His attention to detail and his craft have really grown. His flexibility in the offense has expanded to where you can line him up anywhere and he knows what to do, how to run the route," said offensive coordinator Brian Callahan before practice. "His route tree obviously over the last two seasons has really grown as far as what we asked him to do where he's running routes from the style of routes he's running. Those things have all really grown.
"I think he's probably as complete of a wide receiver that you can find in football in terms of his versatility. He can run every style of route from every spot in the formation and I think that's really impressive both mentally and physically and he can carry the ball in his hands on the perimeter and can run it as well as any other runner."