Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has bottled his playoff chemistry with a cork of connectivity.
Whether it's between coaches and players, offense and defense, veterans and rookies, Taylor has emphasized knocking down walls and the Bengals are literally doing that this offseason as Paycor Stadium's training room undergoes a massive facelift bringing everybody even closer.
Matt Summers, ending his first season as the Bengals director of sports medicine and head athletic trainer, is watching the roomy $3 million project create a recovery wing in the training room as well as expanding the rehab and treatment areas while keeping the trainers in the heart of the locker room.
The blueprints have been in the making since Summers was hired back in April when he replaced the only head athletic trainer the Bengals have had in the 23 seasons at Paycor after former NFL Athletic Trainer of the Year Paul Sparling stepped back following 44 years in the Bengals training room.
"We're always looking for ways to be more efficient with our players," Summers says. "I think it's a combination of me coming in and the organization having the vision to see a room in the building that could be adjusted."
Thanks to a few walls coming down and expanding into some storage space, the players' lounge with its massage chairs and compression units becomes part of the recovery ward with an expanded hydrotherapy room. Hydrotherapy was cutting edge when Sparling helped open the building in 2000. Now plans call for new and bigger hot and cold tubs, a cryo (cold) chamber, a hyperbaric (oxygen) chamber, float beds and red-light beds.
Not exactly the old metal whirlpools.
The float beds are designed to sharpen the mind through relaxation while the red-light beds aren't far off of tanning beds but without the ultraviolet rays.
"It provides light to the body, which helps the cells' ability to function at a higher level," Summers says. "The thing about medicine is that it's constantly changing. 'Recovery,' is a buzz word right now. It's really popular and it's a little bit of an arms race as far as that goes because there are so many options out there.
"It's a matter of evaluating the options and potentially upgrading our options to make it as practical as possible for our players to have some of these things from a recovery standpoint."
It's all about location, too. The plan is for a new glass doorway off the player space's main hallway to lead into this new recovery wing. On the left, just before they walk through the main entrance of the locker room. They're also looking at that doorway when they come down the stairs from the coaches' floor, as if to underscore just how important recovery is nowadays.
"For a guy feeling good and fresh," Summers says, "they practice better and perform better."
Next to the recovery ward is the rest of the training room, now gutted. In the middle are going to be five new offices for the trainers and they'll be staring at the renovated and more spacious treatment area.
Adjacent to the treatment tables is the new rehab wing created out of existing space that used to house offices and supplies. It basically brings in elements of the weight room into the training room to contain the rehab process.
"Right now, there's a lot of back and forth between the training room and the weight room," Summers says. "So we looked at what values the player best. We expanded the room to do as much rehab as we can in that area."
So that's where they'll put such items as the anti-gravity treadmill, a squat rack, bikes and an area for drills such as ladder footwork and walking lunges. There may not be as much up and back, but there is still going be synergy between the two rooms.
Summers, 42, who served the previous four years in the same job at the University of Louisville, often finds himself in the weight room with head strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese and his coaches. And the cafeteria staff.
"We're all working together at keeping our players at the center of everything we're trying to do," Summer says, "and taking what I would consider a little more of a collaborative approach in all those areas that are so important to the health and well-being of our players."
The timeline for the new training room is a few months, in time for the start of training camp, just as everyone starts connecting again.