Bengals coach Zac Taylor: ‘No qualms’ with Bates missing voluntary workouts

Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates III (30) celebrates his interception against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

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Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates III (30) celebrates his interception against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Team’s veteran safety seeking a contract extension

Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates did not show up for the start of voluntary offseason workouts, but coach Zac Taylor said he has “no qualms” with anyone who decides not to participate.

The Bengals used the franchise tag on Bates in March to lock him down for the 2022 season while the parties have been unable to reach an agreement on an extension. They now have until July 15 to come to a long-term deal, otherwise Bates will be playing on a tag worth $13.54 million.

Bates was hoping to get a long-term deal done before or during training camp last year but still participated in the full offseason program. It’s not surprising he would stay away this time with the potential for injury impacting his future ability to negotiate the contract he seeks.

“We just take it day to day,” Taylor said Tuesday during the team’s weekly media availability as part of the offseason program. “It’s all voluntary. Some guys have workout bonuses, so they’re here on their own, and some guys aren’t.”

Last year, the Bengals had full participation in the offseason workout program as the team was trying to turn things around following a four-win 2020 season. With the addition of a 17th regular-season game and a run to the Super Bowl, Cincinnati’s offseason was much shorter this year, so Taylor is emphasizing the “voluntary” part a little more.

The Bengals are understanding of players wanting to spend more time at home.

Slot cornerback Mike Hilton said Bates’ teammates are understanding of his situation as well. Hilton has been a champion of Bates since last year, being vocal about how deserving he is of a big contract, and he continues to wish him the best.

“We’ve been talking all offseason,” Hilton said. “Everybody in that locker room wants Jessie to get what he deserves. We know as a team, he’s a cornerstone piece for this franchise. On my end, I’m going to do what I can do to keep pushing and keep putting it out there for him to sign long-term. If it happens, great. But also, everybody knows the business side of the NFL. And nobody would be upset or pissed at him if he didn’t show up or he ended up going somewhere else. It’s just part of the game. But he knows that everybody in this locker room wants him here.”

Hilton said he wasn’t surprised the Bengals tagged Bates, just to give themselves more time.

“Hopefully we get things done with him, because everybody wants him here and he’s a guy that we definitely need,” he said.

It’s unclear who all is participating in the offseason workout program at this point. The Bengals are in first phase of the offseason program during which activities for the first two weeks are limited to meetings, strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.

They are set to hold Organized Team Activities June 6-7, June 9 and June 14-16, and the rookies join the program after rookie minicamp takes place May 13.

“It’s good to see those guys,” Taylor said of having players back in the building. “We haven’t seen them for a couple months, a lot of them. Some of them have been kind of in and out, lifting and stuff. Good crew. Of course, it’s voluntary right now, so not everybody’s obligated to be here. But it’s been good energy so far.”

The Bengals normally would have already gotten two weeks of an offseason program in the books, but Taylor said the delay this year not only helped give the players more time off following a long 2021 season but also helped the coaches help prepare for the draft.

Cincinnati will have a seven-week program, instead of the nine weeks allowed, but Taylor wouldn’t be in favor of cutting the offseason workouts down for everyone.

“I’m very comfortable with the nine weeks,” Taylor said. “The only reason we shaved it is our Super Bowl routine that we hope to continue many, many more times just because the season has gotten so long. Our coaches, we wanted them focused on helping the scouts through the scouting process and not worry about our players in the building at the same time because our time had been cut a little short playing through mid-February. Hopefully it never happens, but if times your season is not as long then we would fully take advantage of the nine-week program given to us.”

Taylor said he’s gotten good vibes from the players so far and he looks forward to seeing how the new additions mesh together with returning players.

“I think the closeness of this team really stands out,” Taylor said. “A lot of the players are back. We have five new players in the building through free agency –- the three offensive linemen and the two tight ends. It’s a lot of the same guys, those that fit exactly what we’ve been talking about (with culture). They’ve been here for a number of weeks popping in and doing their workouts and things like that. It’s just a really exciting group to be around, and I can’t wait to get these rookies in the building here in two weeks, so a lot of those new faces as well, guys that we’re really high on. From the closeness standpoint it’s been really impressive. We’re only been a day-and-a-half now with the guys being around, but so far so good.”

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