Bengals’ Ossai excited team added to defensive ‘weapons’ in draft

Credit: Adrian Kraus

Credit: Adrian Kraus

CINCINNATI — Joseph Ossai was glad to see the Cincinnati Bengals add to the pass rush by taking Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy in the first round of the draft.

Bengals coaches said they expect to include Murphy right into the rotation behind Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson, which means he could ultimately take away reps for backups like Ossai, but the third-year defensive end was genuinely excited by the pick.

“I think it is a great addition to this team,” Ossai said Monday. “I mean, it’s a premium position to get after the quarterback, you know what I mean? We’re looking for that. I think it’s a great addition. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun this year figuring out how to use all these pieces, all these weapons.”

The pick makes even more sense considering Ossai is coming off labrum surgery and a hyperextended knee suffered in the AFC Championship. The latter of those came on the same play he tackled Patrick Mahomes out of bounds for an unnecessary roughness penalty that set up Harrison Butker’s game-winning field goal to send the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.

Ossai, a third-round pick out of Texas in 2021, had missed all of his rookie season because of torn ligaments in his meniscus and wrist, both injuries suffered in the preseason, and last year, he played the full season despite tearing his labrum in the Dec. 11 game against Cleveland in Week 14.

The labrum was something he didn’t have to undergo surgery to repair, but it made sense to get it taken care of in the offseason, so he had the procedure Feb. 8 with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who also did Joe Burrow’s knee in 2020 and Logan Wilson’s shoulder last offseason. The hyperextended knee just required six weeks of rest, which coincided with the time off from shoulder surgery.

This is his second straight offseason rehabbing injuries. He had spread out his two surgeries in 2021, getting the knee fixed first and not having the wrist surgery until that December.

“For sure (it’s frustrating),” Ossai said. “And the thing is with the (labrum) surgery I could have waited. It wasn’t like I need to get it in right now surgery. It wasn’t anything pressing but long term if the shoulder kept popping out of place, that could obviously be detrimental to my performance. So it was a thing of when I get it done. We’re in the offseason, get it fixed now and never have to worry about it. So that’s what happened.”

Ossai said the recovery for his shoulder is expected to take four to five months, so while his offseason workout program might be impacted, he believes he will be ready for training camp or at least the start of the season.

Wilson’s surgery was the exact same procedure, and Ossai spoke to him about the process before making the decision to have it done. He said Wilson told him he was glad he made that decision, so it was a “no-brainer.” Wilson was limited early in camp but was ready for the opener.

“I should be back well before anything starts for sure,” Ossai said. “I’m gonna leave that up to up to those guys (the trainers). They’ll decide. If it was up to me, I’m ready to go.”

Ossai’s first season on the field was a productive one, although he finished it playing injured. He recorded 17 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries in 16 regular-season games, including a game-sealing sack against the Chiefs in their regular-season matchup in Cincinnati.

The 23-year-old hopes to build off that in 2023.

“Be more efficient, be more productive and most importantly win games,” Ossai said of his goals. “Nothing happens if you’re not winning the game. .... So just do my best to do whatever I can to contribute. I know obviously it’s not all on me but do my best to contribute to the wins.”

As for the defensive line, Ossai said the goal is just to affect the quarterback as much as possible. The Bengals wanted to get back on track with more sacks in 2023, which was a reason they went with Murphy in the first round, as a way to address that.

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo already is envisioning some third-down packages that could put Hubbard, Hendrickson, Murphy and Ossai on the field at the same time. Asked what he thinks that would look like, Ossai said “speed, fear for the quarterback.”

“It’s gonna be dope,” Ossai added. “It’s gonna be awesome. I’m interested to see how that all works out. It’s going to be amazing.”

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