Bengals’ Bates focused on winning, says ‘money part of it will come’

The scoreboard and seating area of Paul Brown Stadium are reflected in the visor of Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) as he warms up before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
The scoreboard and seating area of Paul Brown Stadium are reflected in the visor of Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) as he warms up before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: Aaron Doster

Credit: Aaron Doster

Safety is entering final year of his rookie contract

Free safety Jessie Bates has stepped into more of a leadership role with the Cincinnati Bengals, making him even more valuable to the defense.

He’s not doing it for a reward, but Bates is confident that will come in the form of his next contract or an extension from the Bengals simply because he’s earned it.

Bates, a second-round draft pick in 2018, is heading into the final season of his rookie deal and is a player the Bengals will be looking at extending. They typically do that kind of business before the start of the season.

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“Anytime it’s a new contract extension or anything, you get very excited, but like I said, I made a change with my agent last year for this reason,” Bates said when asked if he thinks there will be serious contract talks during training camp. “I think a lot of guys focus too much on it, but I feel very comfortable with the change that I made. He knows what he’s doing. It’s not his first time doing it.

“Obviously, I feel like I’m a core piece in Cincinnati. My family is three hours away, so I would love to be here. My main goal is to take that next level that I keep saying as a leader on this team. The money part of it will come. I just want to win. That’s all I care about is winning. The money part of it will come. Not just for me, but for everybody in this program.”

The Fort Wayne, Ind., native might not be focusing on that contract now, but he changed representation and hired David Mulugheta of Athletes First in March 2020 with his next deal in mind. He then proved his worth with an impressive season in which Pro Football Focus graded him as the top safety in the league.

Bates finished the season with three interceptions for a third straight year and 109 total tackles, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo looks forward to continued progress.

“Don’t take a step back, keep progressing, keep building his game as we move around even more and give him some more jobs to do, but keep forging ahead,” Anarumo said when asked what the next step for Bates is. “And, you know, he’s at a tough position and he’s done well at it, and he’s just got to keep progressing with everything.”

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Bates’ performance on the field his first three seasons already has earned him some added respect from the veterans and made him someone young players look up to, which enabled him to step into more of a leadership position.

Geno Atkins, who was released this offseason, tapped Bates as his replacement to be a player rep for the team and he’s taken to the role naturally.

“I was fortunate enough to get him still young in his career, and I think that with every player that’s made impacts, both on the field and in the locker room, it usually takes a little bit of time, but Jessie’s credibility has grown on the field, his peers see it, and that sometimes can lead to leadership type roles,” Anarumo said. “And Jessie’s done a good job with that. He’s had some success on the field, as we’ve all seen. He’s a really good worker. And that in turn has worked into his leadership role, and it’s good to see.”

Bates said it’s all about building relationships, but that doesn’t just help with leadership. It makes the defense better overall.”

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens is tackled as he carries the ball by free safety Jessie Bates #30 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 18, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens is tackled as he carries the ball by free safety Jessie Bates #30 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 18, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Credit: Rob Carr

Credit: Rob Carr

The Bengals have several new faces on the defensive side of the ball, including three new cornerbacks, and the offseason workout program just completed Tuesday especially was productive in terms of building connections with those guys.

“I think I’ve built the relationship, is the first part, with the guys that are new on the back end,” Bates said. “I think building a relationship is a very important part of leading people, so just being able to text those guys and have conversations not about football, it kind of translates when you get on the field. Me and Mike (Hilton) are starting to get chemistry about when he’s going to show when I’m able to step down in the slot and play man. It’s just stuff like that that you can’t do through Zoom. Just getting guys comfortable is the main part and communicating. I think we did a good job.”

Bates now looks forward to the six-week break to conclude the offseason before the Bengals report back to Paul Brown Stadium for training camp at the end of July. He plans to finish the break with a beach vacation, but will be working out in Fort Wayne and taking advantage of time with family.

“A lot of times we focus so much on football that you’re not even thinking about the family part of it,” Bates said. “So being able to go home and visit my grandmother every week is something that I value. That five weeks will look different for other guys. Some guys may be in Cabo every week, which is completely fine. That’s what this is for, that five weeks, just to get your mind off, turn it off a little bit.

“…My little brother is playing baseball. That’s the stuff that I value. So, I’m gonna go home and all be at all the flag football games and all the softball games, just everything. I think that’s my No. 1 priority when I go home.”