Darqueze Dennard reads a book every training camp, but as he tucked away Change Your Words, Change Your Life this week on his way to lunch it seems like he'd written this story before. Like late in his junior year at Michigan State, when he told secondary coach Harlon Barnett and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi he was coming back to the Spartans instead of opting for the NFL Draft.
"I feel like I did my senior year in college," said Dennard, the Bengals' fifth-year cornerback as prepped to return to the slot. "We sat down and set my goals. Be positive and speak it into existence."
Dennard found his college phone about a month ago and saw those goals he punched out for 2013. Win the Jim Thorpe Award as the best DB in the nation. Make All-American. Get to the Rose Bowl. Dennard did it all, becoming the first Michigan State corner to be named first-team All-American since Cincinnati's Barnett 24 years before as the Spartans won their first Rose Bowl in 25 years.
Not long after he made the discovery in his old phone, he made a fortuitous stumble into a Barnes and Noble and the book by the Christian author Joyce Meyer. Right book, right camp. He's working on his option year so the contract question looms. But he says he's not thinking about it. That will take care of itself, which is part of the message of the book.
"It's understanding the power of every word you speak," Dennard said. "Elevate being positive. Getting everybody on the same level.
"First and foremost, if we handle everything as a team, the other stuff is going to accumulate for everybody. Once you win games, everybody gets that notoriety. First you have to be able to win to get that notoriety."
The goals five years later? Be a Pro Bowl player. Win the division. Make the playoffs. Win the Super Bowl. Also, Meyer writes about body language.
"No moping around," Dennard said. "Have other guys play to the highest level. Just make the team better. Positivity goes a long way. … You have to be in good spirits. Good things happen. Like the law of attraction."
So that means the next camp he could be reading a checkbook.
"That's going to take care of itself," Dennard said.
BOYD BALL: On Thursday Tyler Boyd continued to do what he's done since he caught the winner in Baltimore. Be their second best receiver and continually dominate practices. Maybe even more impressive is he's taken his game up a notch even though they've overhauled the playbook. That means the names of the routes have changed from words to certain numbers corresponding to certain numbers and Boyd hasn't blinked.
"Same concepts as last season. You just have to make sure you listen," said Boyd, who often doesn't have a number in the slot and he'll have to wait for the tag word coming after what is usually three numbers.
But Boyd wouldn't mind getting the number for an outside receiver. He doesn't see himself as solely a slot guy.
"I believe I can play anywhere on the field. I line up in the backfield sometimes," Boyd said. "There are definitely plays where I am on the outside. I run great routes. I might not be a blazer, but I know how to get open. I create separation so I'm a guy, I'm a player, I'm an athlete. Wherever they need me to play I'm going to right there."
After Baltimore, he also knows quarterback Andy Dalton has no problem finding him.
"It can't get no better than that. But I always knew Andy trusted me just based off my rookie year," said Boyd, who had the second biggest rookie year by a Bengals wide receiver in 32 years. "I always knew we had that connection. He had to throw (it). I was probably one of the only ones open at that time and he's a great quarterback so he's not going to miss that read ever. If (wide receiver Brandon) LaFell was in that situation he was going to throw it there. He did a great job. He let me make a great play."
EIFERT WORK: Things seem to be kind of normal when tight end Tyler Eifert (back) is working with rehab trainer Nick Cosgray and Cosgray is driving him so he can get back on the field. No one knows when that will be, but Cosgray is apparently stepping it up because Eifert reported that Cosgray put him through a "ridiculous workout," on Thursday.
"That was the goal, pushing me pretty hard," Eifert said. "I feel good, and I think the team just wants to feel good putting me back out there so I don't have any setbacks or anything. To push me as hard as we did and get through it alright, I feel pretty good."