Super speech


Mike Zimmer

On Tuesday the talk in NFL circles was Arctic with news the Jersey Shore had thawed out like a TV dinner in time for a Super Bowl in February of 2014.

But in the circle of the Bengals defense there is talk about going to one a little sooner than that, thanks to coordinator Mike Zimmer's recent speech about how he soaked in the last title with son Adam. Back in the days when they held the Super Bowl at a warm weather site.

"He hadn't been back in something like 15 years. It's one of the stories we needed to hear," cornerback Johnathan Joseph said Tuesday. "The guys we have on this team and building off of last year, I think we've got a team that thinks we have a legitimate chance of winning the Super Bowl. It makes it even more legitimate for him to even give that speech because it shows he believes in us."

The last shred of confetti probably hadn't hit the grass in Miami back on Feb. 7 when Zimmer began crafting The Speech. Maybe the New Orleans Saints had been Super Bowl champions for about half an hour.

Maybe.

It wasn't long after that Super Bowl night that Zimmer began talking about the speech he wanted to give his players at some point this spring.

How he sat in the stands with his two daughters watching their brother Adam help coach the Saints linebackers from the sidelines.

How with the Saints leading, 24-17, and the Colts driving with less than four minutes left they wondered if they should head down to the field to join what could be a canceled victory party.

How New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter made up their minds by intercepting Peyton Manning and going 74 yards for the clinching touchdown.

How they had to fight through the confetti and media and players and coaches to find Adam and hug him as commissioner Roger Goodell gave the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Saints head coach Sean Payton. Payton, the Zimmers' close friend from their days in Dallas, has two children that have been babysat by Zimmer's wife and daughters.

"Last year we couldn't really talk about it," said tackle Domata Peko. "We were 4-11 and just thinking about getting to the playoffs. Now after the way we played and seeing what kind of team we've got and picking up these guys in the offseason, he said we have a chance. We have a special team and we can make it all the way."

It turned out that Zimmer made the speech a few weeks ago, the first day the Bengals took the field. A cross-section of the defense canvassed Tuesday still felt the impact. He didn't have to tell them the rest of the story. That it was the first time Zimmer and his kids been together since the October funeral of Vikki, their wife and mother.

But if they didn't realize he had a Super Bowl ring from the 1995 season as the Cowboys secondary coach, they know now.

"He hadn't been back in awhile and he said you forget the feeling of how sweet it is," said WILL linebacker Keith Rivers. "I was with Reggie (Bush) in New York last week and he talked about the feeling he had winning it this year and just hearing about it makes you want to have the feeling of being a world champion. (Zimmer said) let's put the work in. We can win it."

Left end Robert Geathers had grown up with Super Bowl stories from Uncle Jumpy, but he appreciated the words from Zimmer.

"It set a good tone," he said. "I mean, how many guys on defense do we have that have been there? Not many."

Recently acquired safety Gibril Wilson got a ring with the Giants and made sure of it when he knocked down Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's fourth-and-20 bomb at the end. Tackle Tank Johnson (the Bears) and middle linebacker Dhani Jones (the Eagles) started in Super Bowl losses. But that's about it. If Zimmer's words sounded aimed more at the kids, they were also headed to Johnson, Jones and Wilson because he was telling them he needed to be reminded how it once felt. 

"The whole experience this year brought him back to when he won it the last time," said second-year cornerback Morgan Trent. "He wants to take us there. He thinks we can get there. That's important because we want to live up to Zim's standards."

Joseph certainly got the hard-edged message.

"A lot of guys watch it on TV or go there, but they're (not) actually around the game itself and around everything," said Joseph of Zimmer's postgame swirl. "You've got to experience it. If not, you're always going to hear about it."

Zimmer wanted to make sure his guys heard about how good it can be.

"I think it was effective," Peko said. "It got guys really thinking. He said we have the type of players that can do it. It got me thinking, so I think it was working its way down."

It's what Zimmer seemed to be telling them.

"Now," Peko said, "we can talk about it."

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