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Bengals Pro Bowl Special Teams Hopeful Tycen Anderson Seeks To Rule With Lofty Tackles Goal


While rehabbing his torn ACL, Tycen Anderson, the Bengals' burgeoning Pro Bowl special teams player, is on target for the first day of training camp with a heady goal for a new rule.

"If you reach for the stars, you end up on the moon," says Anderson for all mankind who dares think about 20-plus tackles in a season with the NFL's new kickoff.

He has finished Tuesday's session with Bengals athletic trainer Nick Cosgray, the club's regent of rehab, and is allowing himself what could be a pro career both seasons have been marred by injury.

"Once I get a heathy year, we'll see what those statistics look like," says Anderson, reflecting on last season's curtailed excellence during what amounted to his rookie year. "I loved how I started. Next year, it's about starting strong and staying strong."

A 4.3 40 safety who sends the GPS fluttering, Anderson got hurt doing what he does in the Bengals' seventh game of last season. The first man scalded downfield to cover a punt in the third quarter of the Bengals' Oct. 29 win in San Francisco when he forced another fair catch as he planted his left foot into heartbreak.

He took the handful of teams' snaps remaining that day, but his season was done. Still, he led the Bengals with eight tackles in the kicking game.

Just double the math and the last Bengal to get 16 special teams tackles in a season went to the Pro Bowl with running back Cedric Peerman's 17 in 2015. Anderson, who counts Michael Thomas as a mentor, knows what a Pro Bowl looks like because before Thomas came to Cincinnati, he left elite tape in Miami and a Pro Bowl season with the Giants.

"Very productive. He made a position switch and excelled when he went to gunner," says Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons of the first man down on punts. "When he missed his rookie year (hamstring), he used it to his advantage to learn the game. He's got the mental side. Now he's got to keep working on the physical end of it."

Call Anderson third generation because at Thomas' behest he's also watched recently retired cover man Matthew Slater, who went to the first of his ten Pro Bowls when Anderson was a Toledo third grader.

"Mike Thomas has so much respect for his game, I would be stupid if I didn't throw on some tape and check him out," Anderson says.

But there is no tape for what awaits Anderson and the rest of the NFL when it comes to negotiating the new kickoff that now features the return team and the kicking team five yards apart to go with near-elimination of touchbacks. Well, there is, and Anderson has watched some of those XFL kickoffs, so he knows his speed isn't going to carry him.

If he didn't know it, Simmons let him in on it.

"Like playing tag in a phone booth," Simmons told him. "Whatever you're bench pressing, do two more sets."

As Simmons says, "There's going to be more in-line fighting. More strength to shed."

At 6-2, 210 pounds, it's not like Anderson is a shrinking violet. The man had 237 tackles in 55 college games at Toledo. But …

"I don't know how I feel about it. I've got to really experience it to know how I'll feel. It looks like it's going to be fun," Anderson says. "We've got a five-yard box to make stuff happen and get guys down. It's going to be a lot safer just because those collisions are not going to be as impactful, I guess. We'll see.

"It's new for everybody, so everybody is going to be trying to figure certain things out. I think I'm a smart dude and figures stuff out quickly … I don't have that same space to build up to that speed. I'm a 21-mile-per-hour guy. I'm not going to be able to run my fastest or up to the speed I'm usually defeating blocks. Now I've got to use my quickness and use my strength to get off blocks and make plays at the point of contact."

Simmons thinks Anderson's athleticism and movement are going to make him a factor on kick cover, but his speed still reigns supreme on punts. And Anderson believes a play is a play no matter the rules.

"There are going to be more return plays to be made. That means more production for good special teamers out there," Anderson says. "There are going to be a lot more guys in that 15-20 tackles range in a season. My goal? It has to be 20-plus. I had eight playing half the season."

Anderson is confident he's on the verge of playing his first full season since the Bengals targeted him in the 2022 fifth round and traded up to get him. He knows this upcoming Monday marks the fifth-month anniversary of his surgery and that the usual timeline is six-to-nine months. After talking to his patients Joe Burrow and Joe Bachie, Anderson opted for famed knee surgeon Neal ElAttrache and he's extremely confident about being ready for late July after only the ACL and not the MCL or PCL had to be worked on.

"It feels great. He did a great job. No soreness," Anderson says.

No setbacks. Only a comeback.

"Speed, speed, quickness and just find ways to defeat blocks," Anderson says. "And get to the ball."