With his players back at Paul Brown Stadium for voluntary workouts, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor set the tone for how he wants to defend the AFC Championship in Monday's team meeting.
When you have a locker room stocked with savvy veterans like cornerback Mike Hilton, you know they'll do the rest.
After his workout Tuesday, Hilton says he's expecting the Bengals to get a full a slate of primetime games when the NFL releases this season's schedule next week. The league can schedule a maximum of five for each team and flex them into two others.
"Everybody wants to see us now, man," Hilton said. "Like I said, everybody thinks it's a fluke. Now we can go put it on primetime and really show the nation that we're for real."
You can almost see that post-Super Bowl chip sprouting from Hilton's shoulder.
"Now, with this group of guys that we have and the coaches that we have," Hilton said, "we're really turning this organization around. And we're just trying to get the respect we deserve."
Hilton, spurned by the Steelers last year, personified the edginess of a team that played with something to prove. He assures they still will.
"It didn't go nowhere. It definitely didn't go nowhere," Hilton said. "Like I said, we got guys that are hungry. Last year's Super Bowl loss was definitely a great experience for a lot of people, just getting there. But now that we got that taste in our mouth, we know what it takes it to get there and we know next time we have to finish the job.
_It is the most famous flag in the history of the state of Wyoming and one of the most notorious in the history of Bengaldom.
But on Tuesday, when linebacker Logan Wilson talked about an offseason living with The Call, he gave a classy nod to the refs.
"You have to put yourself in the referees' shoes," Wilson said. "It's not that easy. They're making a split-second decision in the biggest game on the world stage. It's tough either way."
The Bengals were just 1:44 from winning the Super Bowl, 20-16, when it appeared that they had forced the Rams into one final fourth-and-goal play from the Bengals 8 on Wilson's wondrous play on third down against Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
On a play Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo plans to show linebackers on how to cover wide receivers over the middle, Wilson put his hands on Kupp within the allowable five yards to get in the proper position and batted the ball away in textbook fashion.
In a game of hardly any penalties, the yellow flag for holding flew out of the blue and gave the Rams a first down on the 4. From there they went on to win the Super Bowl and Kupp won MVP
"When I was back home (in Wyoming), little kids would come up to me and like, 'Why didn't you challenge that play?'' Wilson said. "It's like, 'Well buddy, I wish I could have challenged it. It doesn't work like that.'
"I guess the only other thing I could have done is not touch him. But it's also a physical game and you have to be able to put your hands on people within that five-yard zone."
Wilson hasn't watched the game. He's caught snippets of it on social media and that's the play he's probably seen the most because there are those who say the Rams false started on the same play.
"We don't have our iPads during the offseason. You just see what you see on social media I guess in terms of those plays," Wilson said. "The season was over and the season was so long, too. There's a balance of time. I was more focused on getting my shoulder fixed, honestly, at that point."
Wilson is one of the best of the NFL's new wave linebackers, but he showed his old-school toughness in the post season. He had surgery on his labrum as well as a ligament in front of his shoulder to fix the Dec. 5 injury. He missed four of the next five games, but in that one he played every snap in the AFC North-clinching win over the Chiefs and then didn't miss a snap in the postseason in one of the more remarkable efforts in club annals.
"Sometimes it felt fine and then there were times a certain hit would not make it feel so good," Wilson said. "It just depended on the specific play, honestly. I don't know the extent of it. I never take a look at the MRI nor do I know how to read an MRI, but I know the tear was getting bigger as the season progressed. I didn't necessarily need to get it fixed. It was just way smarter to get it fixed long-term."
Wilson won't be on the field in the spring, but says he'll be back for the first day of training camp …
_The Bengals talked about drafting a punter and when they didn't, long-time incumbent Kevin Huber signed his contract Monday. But on Tuesday, special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons reiterated there'll be a training camp punting competition, a first for Huber in his 14th season. The foe is Drue Chrisman, last year's undrafted free agent from Ohio State whose rookie year never get off the ground when he broke his hand before training camp.
Huber, 37 in July and the club's all-time punter in virtually every category, tailed off last season after a big 2020. Simmons says Huber "has a leg up," particularly when it comes to holding for kicker Evan McPherson.
"These guys have to split equal reps with different snappers. I also think the holding part is a significant part of it, too," Simmons said. "I used to think a punter's job, 60 percent of it was punting and probably 40 percent was holding. I think (with) the advent of more analytics …. the punting and the holding part has probably shifted.
"Obviously having a weapon that we have in Evan and being able to back our field goal attempts up a bit, certainly opens the field up for those guys offensively, too. And so now I think it's probably like 55-45 or probably damn close to 50-50 punting and holding." …
There's also going to a first competitive camp for 14-year long snapper Clark Harris. Reports have the Bengals signing in rookie free agency the lone snapper who worked at the NFL scouting combine in Cal Adomitis out of Pittsburgh.
"I have a great amount of respect for both (Huber and Harris)," Simmons said. "But with everything, you're trying to put the best 53 guys, the best 46 guys or 47 guys or whatever it is now, out there on the field. Clark has seen every rush known to man over his career here in the league, through video. Do I need to see a ton for him at what he can do? Yeah, I need to see it more later on for the same reason is that he still has it and how does that compare to what maybe this other guy Cal can bring." …