With the Bengals back at Paul Brown Stadium this week for the first time since the Super Bowl, the buzz words are chemistry, camaraderie, character and how they propelled The Run.
Or, in other words, Bengals special teams ace Stanley Morgan, Jr., and their new rookie cornerback he mentored when they were at the University of Nebraska.
"He helped me in so many ways that he probably didn't even know how much," says Cam Taylor-Britt. "Just carrying himself the way he did. I watched every step of it while I was a freshman and that's when I really needed it.
"They say real recognizes real and he took on that role. I was 14 hours from home. He was that big brother to me. So I was hanging out with guys like him, (cornerback) Lamar Jackson and everybody else when I was a freshman just trying to get a teammate bond with those guys … Man, he really took me under his wing."
Taylor-Britt, the Bengals' second-round pick with innumerable intangibles, and the rest of the Bengals draft picks as well as undrafted free agents arrive next week for rookie minicamp. When the Bengals leaped last week in their earliest draft trade in this century to grab Taylor-Britt with the 60th pick, Morgan found himself screaming at the screen, "Go Big Red! Go Big Red!"
"I called him 'The Energizer Bunny,'" Morgan says. "He's a hard worker. He's always been that way … We'll get an energetic humble beast."
Forget the Nebraska connection Morgan has with Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. Morgan is the Cornhuskers' all-time leading receiver and Taylor is the school's all-time leader for single-season touchdown passes. But Morgan is here because Taylor covets his team-first approach, practice-field energy and dedication to special teams.
When Taylor talks about filling a roster with "a Bengal," Stanley Steamer is just the kind of guy he has in mind.
"He just wants to do well," says Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. "He wants to be there for his teammates. He doesn't want to let those guys down. He plays with a great deal of emotion and energy I think our guys gravitate towards. Because it means so much to him."
If there are more of these chemistry guys around here now, Simmons would know. He just completed his 20th draft running the Bengals' kicking game, an event, by the way, that pleased him because the Bengals filled needs with productive college players that can fly. He's been in there from every draft pick from Carson Palmer to Jeffrey Gunter, this year's seventh-rounder.
"I think it's up there very high," says Simmons, comparing the current character reading in the locker room. "It's not that character has never been part of the evaluation. Maybe it's just a higher degree of that. When you have players who have high ability and high character and you pull a bunch of those guys together, you've really got something and that's kind of what we've got here."
What you've got here is the undrafted, unheralded Morgan bringing the same kind of impeccable football demeanor brought by stars like Joe Burrow on offense and Vonn Bell on defense.
"Just seeing him grind every day made me better," Taylor-Britt says. "And also guarding him. He was one of the best receivers in the Big Ten and that gave me confidence as time went by."
When the Bengals went looking to add to the vat, they noticed Taylor-Britt sure practiced like one of Taylor's Bengals in Lincoln.
When they asked Morgan about him, he couldn't have agreed more. Taylor-Britt already had the rep. Captain with a quarterback's swagger. Heavily involved in the community. Friend to rescue dogs everywhere. Morgan confirmed it all.
(This is the kind of guy Morgan is. He says Taylor-Britt is so good is he's one of the few players that could have played for Nebraska back in the golden '90s. What Morgan didn't say is he could have, too.)
"Cam's a good listener," Morgan says. "Very athletic. A very, very good player. But when he's around older players, he wants to learn. That's the best part about him. He was asking me about the league (before the draft). Just different plays. Any way he can get better.
"He's not afraid to fail. He's not afraid to throw himself around. And just giving his all for the team. I love that about him."
If you want to know the kind of personality Taylor-Britt is bringing into The Paul, Morgan has a guy in mind. They've already got an "Energizer Bunny," on offense in running back Joe Mixon.
"He'll remind you of Mixon," Morgan says. "Outgoing. Always upbeat. Everybody likes Joe. He's a lot like that."
Taylor-Britt says the energy comes from playing quarterback (he generated 30 touchdowns as a high school senior) and growing up in the furnace of Montgomery, Ala.
"I feel a lot of guys from there have that same tenacity and fight in them. That's just how I was raised. That's how I've aways been," Taylor-Britt says. "I was an aggressive quarterback that tried to run people over and not slide. That just helped me in my game as a defensive back, brining that physicality that I actually use now."
Naturally, Mixon is one of the guys that reached out to Taylor-Britt when he got drafted. Just as naturally in this locker room, so was vet cornerback Chidobe Awuzie even though he plays the same position. No. 9 texted in, too.
"Let's see," Taylor-Britt says as he went back to check his messages. "He said, 'Congrats to you and your family. Exciting time…Excited to have you on the squad. Get ready to compete."
Those guys better get ready to answer some questions. Even before the draft, Taylor-Britt says Morgan advised him to get with the vets and learn as much as he can.
"I told him I'm planning to get under my coach and other players and it may be annoying to them just how much I want to learn," Taylor-Britt says. "I know one thing. Once I figure it out, the next man better be on top of his stuff because I'm ready to take that spot."
He's never stopped watching Morgan. Taylor-Britt saw the same qualities turn Morgan into a self-made contributor. He can see them teaming up on teams.
"He really started from the bottom and he made his name as a guy that's going to come in and work every day regardless of what position you see him in. Especially special teams and I take pride in that. I believe we're going to be the ones running down trying to beat the other to the tackle."
All of which has to make a special teams coordinator smile. If there's one thing that fuels the faceless kicking game, it's character.
"There are guys with high talent and maybe less character vs. someone with a little less ability with super high character," Simmons says. "What flavor do you want?"
At the moment, the Bengals are savoring the taste of smooth chemistry that just got a little tangier.
"I felt like one of these days I would re-unite with one of my teammates that I was close with," Taylor-Britt says. "Of all the guys I ended up with, Stanley Morgan, that's the one."