Bates admitted he was maybe pressing too hard and thinking too much about his contract situation after he was unable to secure an extension with the Bengals during training camp when most of those deals typically get done.
Defensive end Sam Hubbard got a four-year, $40 million deal done before camp and it seemed the Bengals were wanting to reward Bates in similar fashion. Bates was ProFootballFocus.com’s top-graded safety in the league last year. He’s currently ranked 75th of 92 safeties in 2021 with a grade of 55.6.
Bates is in the final year of his rookie contract.
“I think it kinda goes into everything,” Bates said. “I feel like I’m at a better head space now than I was at the beginning of the season, so caught on proving the wrong people right and the main thing I should be focusing on is proving the right people right as far as my coaches, my teammates, my family and not worry about all of the other stuff. I know that’s gonna work out. I know what type of player I am, that stuff’s gonna work out regardless, but like I said I gotta be better for this team so I’m excited for it.”
Bates said he spoke with some former Wake Forest teammates about life, not just football, and they helped put into perspective there are worse situations to be in right now. He also had a chance to be inspired by other elite athletes like Steph Curry and LaMelo Ball while attending an NBA game between the Warriors and Hornets on Sunday in Charlotte. He had courtside seats, courtesy of teammate D.J. Reader, and flew back to Cincinnati that night feeling energized and ready to get back to work Monday.
The Bengals have eight games left, including at Las Vegas on Sunday, and Bates has typically played his best football during the second half of seasons.
“Obviously, you get better throughout the season, and I think that’s why I probably play better in the second half of the season because you kind of see the same things over and over,” Bates said. “It’s a copycat league. We’ve given up four posts for touchdowns and stuff like that, so we’ll see that. And hopefully not just me can play better in the second half of the season. Our whole team can. We have really smart guys, really intelligent guys. So I’m sure we’ll be fine in the second part of the season.”
Bengals at Raiders, 4:05 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7