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2021 Off-season OTA/Mini-Camp Stuff

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So that's basically a wrap until July 27. Hopefully this thread only gets updated w/ musings about the team until then and the team has a safe and otherwise uneventful six weeks off. 

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The Dehner OTA wrap-up piece:

https://theathletic.com/2654381/2021/06/15/why-zac-taylor-called-bengals-camp-early-and-the-advantages-it-could-create/

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How many NFL head coaches would trade two minicamp practices in order to receive all the benefits of in-person meetings during the season?\

If your answer is anything other than 32, you are wrong.

That essentially was the trade Zac Taylor and the Bengals pulled off Tuesday when he ended minicamp after one day. The decision goes deeper than just that, of course, but make no mistake this was about incentivizing what could become a major advantage for the club come training camp and into the season.

Safety Jessie Bates III, a member of the players’ leadership group and NFLPA rep, confirmed as much after the final practice of the offseason program Tuesday. Taylor agreed to send everybody off on summer vacation two days early if the Bengals could get the team’s vaccination percentage to a certain number.

“He did an awesome job getting the information we needed, and I don’t know whether that was the decision-maker between guys getting vaccinated to leave early or not, but it’s a good deal,” Bates said, his tone suggesting it as absolutely a decider for some.

Once a team hits the 85 percent threshold, it is allowed to go all in-person and back to normal operation. That means moving meetings from Zoom rooms to actual rooms. That also means free rein throughout the weight rooms. For now, they need to schedule four time periods for player groups to lift since there is a maximum number allowed at a time.

That makes for inconvenient schedules for players and a nightmare trying to plan it all around practices for the coaches.

“One of the things that is really going to help us in training camp is the more guys that we can get vaccinated, so we’ve offered several opportunities for our players to get it done here in the stadium,” Taylor said. “We had a fair number of our players (on Monday) who said they would get it (Wednesday). I said, hey, we’re well on our way to making life pretty easy for ourselves in training camp in terms of scheduling and all the protocols. That combined with the work we’ve gotten done, we decided to move on until training camp.”

Reports of vaccination rates across the NFL show the league average to be around 50 percent, nowhere near the 85 percent necessary to clear the way to get rid of video conferencing entirely. And for anyone in the American workforce over the last year, they are well aware of how much getting rid of those can improve the quality of life.

What the Bengals have done is in addition to the intense incentivization the league has already set forth for players to get the shot. The NFL recognizes it’s the key to the league returning to normal instead of half-measures that could end up in place. That includes unvaccinated players living by last year’s protocols during the season, which include not being able to leave the hotel on the road, forced to quarantine and missing games after close contacts, wearing masks around the facility, no use of the cafeteria and the list goes on and on.

Despite the league making clear what it would like to see, nobody can cross the line into a mandate. Some people remain resistant. That makes it a touchy topic to broach considering the advantages a team can gain from personal buy-in.

“The last thing you want to do is tell somebody what to do with their body, so part of the process is just educating guys and first of all, just letting them know what the protocols are going to be, so the pros and cons of doing it or not doing it just from the NFL protocol standpoint and making sure they have all that information,” Taylor said. “It’s a very personal decision for a lot of guys, so I just want to be a resource, the trainers will be a resource, (director of player relations) Eric Ball will be a resource, just let them know where they can gather information. I think we’ve had a lot of really productive conversations and I’m certainly sensitive to a lot of the things the guys go through, but ultimately, I think our team is in a pretty good place right now with where we are headed.”

From a competitive standpoint, the Bengals are headed back to normal. Bates looks at the in-person meetings alone as a key component to finding an edge against a contingent of teams in the league that aren’t able to do the same.

“When you’re on Zoom, it is very easy to kind of listen to Coach and not have notes down and stuff like that,” Bates said. “That’s why it was important that we got our guys vaccinated because once we get back for training camp, we’ll be able to have in-person meetings, we’ll be able to communicate and look at each other’s notes and be like, ‘Hey, put this down.’ Just stuff that we talked about dang near bye weekend last year.”

There’s also an understandable crowd shaking a fist at any coach giving away practice time, particularly one leading a team that has gone 6-25-1 over the last two seasons and preached the need to get work in this offseason. But this becomes about more than three total hours of work. There’s a bigger picture for what this offseason has been for the Bengals that offers an important perspective.

Nobody else in the league was turning out 100 percent attendance at their nine available OTA practices in the weeks leading up to minicamp. The Bengals were. The players were happy to show up and all sides were comfortable with the workload put in front of them to create the chemistry and buy-in they hope will pay off when the season starts.

Joe Burrow came through looking as healthy as could have possibly been expected. Outside of a pectoral injury sustained by backup tackle Hakeem Adeniji, the team was fully healthy. While the rest of the league dealt with holdouts and distractions and half-attendance, the Bengals put in their work. So, come time for Tuesday, this was no different than any of the other nine sessions already in the books.

The work has been done, and offering a reward for the amount of buy-in and effort shown during the process concludes an offseason program as close to ideal as possible for the Bengals. For years, Marvin Lewis would use one of the final OTA sessions for bowling or sand volleyball or a series of events at the stadium. These months are about laying a foundation and creating a sense of chemistry and momentum.

Only so much work can be done in the T-shirt-and-shorts setting. They’d checked the major boxes and done so emphatically. So the idea of trading these two days at the end of the offseason program for goodwill and a more efficient, effective workforce and potential competitive advantage during the season?

Yeah, this isn’t that tough a call.

Taylor knew Monday he’d seen enough numbers on the vaccination front that he would call it quits, but he waited until Tuesday to tell his team. See you in July.

“Coach Taylor has done just an awesome job communicating and letting guys know ahead of time before making that type of decision,” Bates said. “Giving guys options. Making guys feel comfortable. Enough to make a decision to get vaccinated or not. … We’re riding on a high note right now leaving mandatory minicamp.”

 

 

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Gotta admit, I haven't really appreciated just how rare the Bengals having 100% at the previous three weeks of voluntaries was as compared to the rest of the teams in the league. Won't guarantee anything in the fall, of course, but it sure isn't a bad sign either.

And in person meetings and being able to move normally around the facility starting in July at camp would be really, really helpful, for certain. I agree with Bates, there may be some competitive advantage gained from that - especially if some of your opponents are not at that point.

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A few thoughts rattling around my head with the off-season done and the six week wait until training camp here:

---I want them to sign a vet T now w/ Adeniji hurt. Probably won't get my way. Rick Wagner would make a ton of sense if Okung and Moses don't want a back-up/swing tackle role. But they really could use another vet at T in my opinion.
---The team being able to have in-person meetings in July at the start of camp and carrying forward, and move about the facility as normal because they hit vax thresholds is potentially a really excellent competitive advantage.
---Them having 100% attendance for three weeks of voluntaries and the one practice this week is simply fantastic news - clearly a buy-in - and apparently the only team in the NFL to do so. Excellent.
---Still giddy about the situation in the WR room. Feels like a powder-keg of potential.
---Apparently, per Dehner in his weekly segment w/ Mo Egger yesterday, after being goaded to talk about it, said McPherson was 4 of 4 during the session - making from 33 to 53 yards. Seibert 3 of 4 (he missed from 53). Happy that this coaching staff won't be repeating the Marvin mistake from four years ago and that they will roll with McPherson come September.
---The thing at camp I am quietly curious about? Reports on Chris Evans when the pads come on. I am low-key fired up about his potential in this offense as a change-of-pace back what with his skills catching passes out of the backfield.
---I still can't believe that Burrow made it back to participate as much as he did for OTAs. Absolutely awesome development for him and the team on so many levels. He's just such an obvious leader, having him there was probably catalyst for the 100% attendance. That he got to get throws in with Chase, Higgins, Boyd et al over three weeks is potentially huge.
---This is as excited as I have been for a season in awhile. Weird, since they are 6-25-1 in their last two years, but, nothing seems impossible to me anymore with Burrow in place and the offensive weapons at his disposal. I don't know at all what the season might hold, but I have no reason to put any limits on what might unfold. Allowing some optimism into my Bengals rooting life feels okay, for a change.

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How much of a benefit will it be to get to the vax threshold? This just out:

 

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I havent found any comfort going into this season yet due to all the questions surrounding both  lines

The DLine is all new, ie I dont see Hubbard starting.  left to right: a rookie, a 2021 FA, a 2020 FA, and another 2021 FA.  A collection of talented individuals that needs to gel as a group

the OLine remains a player or two short of being decent, imo, and Im expecting Burrow to get getting hit again more or less like he was in 2020.  Signing Moses would make a huge difference.

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