CINCINNATI — Tee Higgins expects to be ready for the start of the season, and that’s all he is concerned about, whether that means missing some of training camp or not.
The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver tore his labrum in a Week 2 game at the Chicago Bears last year. He returned to finish the game but missed the next two games. He then elected to delay surgery until after the season. Higgins had the procedure shortly after the Super Bowl loss to the L.A. Rams and has been doing rehab during the team’s offseason workout program.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Tuesday the goal is for Higgins to be ready for training camp at the end of July but Higgins just wants to make sure he is 100 percent for the season.
“It feels good,” Higgins said. “I’ve got all my range of motion. Now I’m strengthening it and just being patient and just waiting for the season to come around. I’m not rushing anything. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be back before the season starts.”
Despite playing through injury, Higgins, a 2020 second-round draft pick, reached his goal of 1,000 yards after coming up just short his rookie season when he finished with 908 yards. His 67 catches in 2020 tied Cris Collinsworth’s rookie receptions record — a mark that has stood since 1981 — but an injury in the finale prevented him from breaking it.
Higgins said shortcomings all around motivated him to take his game to the next level in Year 2.
“I was 92 yards short of 1,000 — that really motivated me,” Higgins said. “And you know, just the losing record. Nobody likes to lose, and that was my first time losing a lot because before then, I lost what, three games in three years throughout my college career. Coming in and losing 12 right away, I didn’t like that. And so that also motivated me just to come back and work more.”
The Bengals improved from 4-11-1 in 2020 to an AFC North title and AFC championship in 2021.
Higgins’ biggest takeaway from his rookie season was the need for more consistency on his part. He had some drops early on, and immediately following his second 100-yard performance, he caught just three of 10 passes sent his way the next game.
“My rookie year, I had a few games where I played really well and the next game I wouldn’t play up to my standard,” Higgins said. “So going into my second year, I knew I had to be consistent, and I was able to do that. And that’s one thing I want to keep doing throughout my career is being consistent.”
Higgins and the Bengals were helped last year by the addition of deep threat Ja’Marr Chase, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 draft.
Chase and Higgins both topped 1,000 yards, with Chase recording 1,455 yards and Higgins 1,091, while Tyler Boyd added 828 yards receiving. Joe Mixon also had 1,205 yards rushing.
“When we drafted Ja’Marr, me and T.B. were like, ‘Oh, we got we got us a dog,’” Higgins said. “That is exactly what he was when he came in. He came in and he did what he did, made it easier for me and T.B. Obviously, he was drawing a lot of double teams, and me and T.B. had a lot of one-on-one coverages. We just tried to take advantage of that. He helped us out in the long run, but wehelped each other out. When one of us had a big game, obviously, the team is going to focus on one or two guys, and the other guy is going to do what he do.”
Going into his third year, Higgins isn’t ready to think about individual goals. He is focused on getting his body back to 100 percent so he can help his team perform on Sundays. Once training camp rolls around, he will start making his list of goals.
As for the expectations for his team and the offense, Higgins said the Bengals are staying hungry.
“We were just hungry, and we still are,” Higgins said. “That’s who we are as a team. We’re going to play hungry at all times, and that’s just how we go about things. The sky’s the limit for us. We just got to keep being us and we’ll reach that next level for sure.”