Andy Dalton, seen here last season, visited the Senior Bowl on Wednesday.
MOBILE, Ala. - One of the highlights of the Senior Bowl if you're with the Bengals is you get to chat on site with The Mayor (AJ McCarron) and The CEO (Wallace Gilberry), two of the more popular personalities to come out of the Gulf Coast.
Gilberry, the defensive end from neighboring Minette, Ala., who has spent parts of the last five seasons with the Bengals, hosted his annual cookout Wednesday night for various friends and colleagues from the NFL gathered for Saturday's game (2:30 p.m.-NFL Network) between college all-stars from the North and South.
McCarron, the two-time national championship quarterback for Alabama who hails from Mobile and played high school ball at nearby St. Paul's High School, made his annual pilgrimage Wednesday to watch one Senior Bowl practice.
"I grew up watching this game. I love it here. I love watching practice. Especially when I know all the coaches," he said.
McCarron, the Bengals backup quarterback, scrounged this game for autographs before he grew up and his family opted to tailgate all game. His family and friends that accompanied him Wednesday recalled a story from one Senior Bowl week when he was little and he got blown off for an autograph and he vowed he'd always sign.
The little McCarron never could have envisioned the 21st century celebrity culture beckoning the 26-year-old McCarron. But at the end of the South practice when he saw the mother of a high school teammate calling his name by an end zone fence, he ran to her pen.
"Her son played corner. Omar Johnson. No. nine. That was Mrs. Johnson," McCarron said ."I know everybody here."
And it's hard to argue. He also knew Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and his quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor and he waited to visit with them after practice.
Not to mention the man running the practice, the South head coach, Cleveland's Hue Jackson, his offensive coordinator when he made his four NFL starts in place of the injured Andy Dalton at the end of the 2015 season. Together they came within 1:23 of shocking the world when he engineered a 16-point fourth quarter in a Wild Card loss to the Steelers. He was this closetobecoming the first quarterback in 36 years to win a post-season game with so few starts.
And, no, McCarron isn't headed to Cleveland in a trade. Yes, Jackson said this week they're still fleshing out their QB situation. But they only had time to hug and say hi on the sidelines when Jackson bumped into him after a snap. McCarron thinks Jackson is going to make it in Cleveland.
"I love Hue. He's an awesome guy," McCarron said. "He's fiery, he's passionate about the game, he cares a lot. He wants to be great," McCarron said. "That's enough right there. He's a winner and he's got a ton of heart." …
-Long-time NFL agent Pat Dye Jr., the representative for Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, has traded e-mails with Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn and the two have agreed to touch base regarding a deal for Whitworth next week when Dye gets back from watching five of his clients at the Pro Bowl.
Whitworth is one of them and Dye said after Wednesday's South practice that he can only reiterate what his client told the media as he went into free agency after the season.
"He's played his whole career there and it would be cool to finish his career there. We'll see," Dye said. "There's a lot of ground to cover between now and March the ninth when free agency begins."
Dye, the of son of old Auburn coach Pat Dye, is upbeat about talking to the Bengals. Down through the years he's negotiated long-term deals with the club for Gilberry (also headed to free agency), Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, left guard Clint Boling, former defensive end Robert Geathers, and former offensive lineman Dennis Roland.
"We've got a lot of history with the organization," Dye said. "We get along well with the Brown family and Blackburn family. There's a little bit of a kindred spirt since we're both with football families." …
_Kentucky guard-center Jon Toth, playing for the South, got the nickname "Juggernaut," from Ray "Rock," Oliver, a Kentucky athletic department official and former assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Bengals.
"I think he liked how hard I worked in the weight room and the toughness I showed," Toth said. "He had a nickname for everyone. I had one of the more fortunate ones." ....
According to The Cincinnati Enquirer via ProFootballTalk.com, head coach Marvin Lewis said here Wednesday he thinks a contract extension for the 2018 season, "puts ...everybody's mind at ease going forward for their futures." Lewis is still waiting, but he's received a one-year extension in each of the last three years ...