"It's a pretty cool story," said one of the newest Bengals before Monday's practice as cornerback C.J. Goodwin motioned you to his fourth different NFL locker since May 1. "I'm glad to be anywhere in the NFL."
Goodwin arrived Saturday as he always seems to do, walking on, four years after he made a Hall of Fame red carpet entrance in the NFL. This time it was off the waiver wire with three others in a flurry of moves designed to get the Bengals through Thursday's pre-season opener against the Bears (7 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) at Paul Brown Stadium at positions that have been hit by injury. Here's a 28-year-old guy that didn't play football in college until his senior year at Fairmont State and four years later he was playing for the Falcons in the Super Bowl breaking up passes from Tom Brady himself when Atlanta moved into its dime package.
"They'll tell you I had one pass breakup, but I really had two," Goodwin said of the game the Falcons famously didn't win after leading by so much for so long.
The 6-3, 190-pound Goodwin had always been an athlete growing up in Wheeling, W. Va., where he played basketball, football and track before going to Bethany College in-state as a point guard. He transferred down the road as a junior to Fairmont State with plans to walk-on. That all changed in an intramural basketball game he dunked on one of the football coaches.
"From that point he pretty much kept after me to try out," Goodwin said. "I figured I'd never be able to play (football) again."
They made him a wide receiver for his senior year and he did well enough to be offered a scholarship for the next season. When the head coach got fired and went to California of Pennsylvania as the defensive coordinator, Goodwin followed and didn't have to sit out a year because he graduated from Fairmont. He played sparingly, but he had a big card to play since Steelers Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount had been working with him and when the Steelers worked out Goodwin as a favor to Blount it turned into a year-long stint on the 2014 practice squad.
When Goodwin got cut, he sat out all of 2015 before the Falcons changed his life at the end of the season and not only signed him, but moved him to corner and he learned the position during the offseason. He ended up playing 116 snaps at corner and more than double that on special teams in 14 games and then worked in sub packages in all three post-season games.
"The only position that's harder is quarterback. These guys are the best athletes on the team," Goodwin said. "It's so tough because you don't know the route they're running and you have to react to everything that they do."
Goodwin played 12 more games last season before the Falcons released him late in the year ("They didn't have as much time to work with me") and the Cardinals picked him up off waivers before they cut him May 1 to spur this magical mystery tour that has since been to the Giants and 49ers and now here. He's not quite sure where he'll line up Monday.
"First day," said Goodwin, who is used to them in a very cool story.
LAKOTA's ROSS FINDS A SEAT: It wasn't exactly your routine walk-through for rookie wide receiver Kayaune Ross before his first practice as a Bengal. Since this is his third NFL stint since he came out of Kentucky undrafted, he's used to them. But never in the stadium where he watched his hometown Bengals knock off the Patriots, 13-6, five years ago during his first year out of Lakota West High School in suburban Cincinnati.
"The last game I went to, we beat the Patriots. It rained like that last 30 seconds," Ross said of the monsoon that blew into Paul Brown Stadium just as Kevin Huber punted the ball to Brady in the final two minutes. "I remember God being on our side. We just had a nice drive, and as soon as we gave them the ball it started raining. Like as soon as they got on offense it started raining. Literally. That stuck out to me."
On Monday, Ross snuck a look at those seats.
"If I had to go to it, I could go to it," he said. "It's just amazing right now. It's just a blessing right now. I'm still in shock kind of one … It means everything. All my family, friends, that stuff plays a major part. I've been watching the Bengals since I can remember. It's just like, 'Wow, you're playing in here.' Just practicing with these guys is amazing to me right now."
Ross hasn't exactly been a face in the crowd. At 6-6, he's physically an NFL player looking to match the production with the body. Even though he didn't have big numbers in Lexington (21 catches for 296 yards and a TD in the last two seasons), the Bengals have been talking to him even as the Colts and then Seattle signed him. When the Seahawks cut him last week with Josh Malone nursing a hamstring issue, the two sides made a dream come true.
"A.J.'s (Green) always been one of my favorite receivers, if not my favorite. But now I'm in the room with him, it's just amazing. I'm just excited to learn from these guys and just take it a day at a time," said Ross, whose first meeting with head coach Marvin Lewis came a decade ago. "I told Coach Lewis I met him when I was young. I met him when I was like 12 years old when I was playing basketball and he was watching his nephew play and he's Coach Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals. I went up to meet him and just say, 'What's up?" and years later here I am."
It hasn't been easy. Grades forced him to junior college, where he played just four games in his two years at Phoenix College. His first catch at Kentucky was a nine-yard TD pass, but he missed the last five games of that junior season with injury.
"Tough is all I know," Ross said. "I know my work ethic off the field just when I'm by myself and how I train and how I look at myself and I hold myself accountable for big things. I just know I've got to stay ready when my number is called. All that I went through with Kentucky and Lakota West and JUCO just prepared me for here. I know a lot of things that I didn't before. I'll use that to my advantage."
TEZ RETURNS: WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict, looking to play his most games in five years, is expected to take the field Monday for the first time this training camp after being cleared for what was believed to be a hamstring issue.
With just two practices before the Bears, the earliest Burfict would make his 2018 debut is next week in Dallas.
He can't play in the regular season until the fifth game after serving a suspension for violating the NFL's performance enhancing substances policy. By that time Burfict, 27, would have missed nearly half the 68 games since he made the 2013 Pro Bowl playing all 16. The most he's played since then is 11 in 2016.