Bengals rookie minicamp ‘a brief first step in the journey’

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor wasn’t worried about what the rookies showed in their first day on the field in a Bengals practice jersey. The team held its rookie minicamp Friday, and as has been the case the past couple of years, Cincinnati has used the one-hour light workout simply as an easing in opportunity for the new young players.

The Bengals’ rookie draft picks and undrafted college free agents — about 27 players in total — went through stretching and position group drills for the first time after an orientation Thursday.

They will continue spending time together this weekend before integrating in with the full team Monday when the veterans return for the continuation of the offseason workouts.

“It’s not about really learning much about them,” Taylor said. “It’s them just kind of getting the jitters out, putting the Bengals jersey on, get out there for an hour and then they get a chance to spend the weekend getting to know the other guys in their group and then Monday we’ll fully integrate them with the veterans. So this is just a brief first step in the journey. There’s not a lot you are going to gather, it’s just they get to hear kind of the personality of their coach, how the coach is going to communicate with them, get a chance to meet some of their fellow rookies and move on.”

The Bengals drafted 10 players and are in the process of finalizing paperwork with the 17 college free agents who are signing. Many teams use a full weekend for their rookie minicamps, but the Bengals have dialed theirs down to one short workout.

Taylor recalls what it’s like for a rookie coming into a new team full of veterans and emphasizes the need for building chemistry and getting to know teammates to help the settling in process as players adjust to life in the NFL.

“When you get a chance where you feel comfortable somewhere, you get a chance to kind of quickly reach your potential and so I think that’s the key,” Taylor said. “I’ve been through this as an undrafted rookie free agent in the hotel with my fellow rookies and you get the chance to create some bonds there and then they grow from there. Then you meet the guys in your position room, and then you meet the guys in the unit. And, you know, and I advise these guys, hey, look over the roster and get to know who these veterans are because these guys have made a lot of plays for us, and they have earned your respect even if you don’t know who they are yet. So that’s kind of their homework for the weekend.”

The majority of the rookies were able to participate in the on-field workout Friday, but Fairfield High School graduate and former Iowa and Michigan tight end Erick All Jr. was one who was limited to watching. All, who the Bengals drafted in the fourth round, is coming back from ACL surgery, which limited him to seven games with the Hawkeyes in the fall, and although he is able to run and lift weights, he hasn’t been cleared for football activities yet.

All said he will be able to do some change of direction work soon, but he’s still figuring out what his workouts and physical therapy will look like now that he’s with the Bengals.

“It sucks because I want to be out there so bad,” All said. “I’m just trying my best to just sit still and do the smart thing and not do too much out there on the sidelines like planting and doing stuff. It’s hard watching everyone playing and me just sitting out. I’m eager to get out there.”

In the meantime, All plans to use his time on the sidelines to study what the other tight ends are doing and diving into the playbook. He said the first thing he noticed about the playbook is how “every little thing has a name,” so getting down the verbiage and different identifying points is something he is focused on right now.

First-round draft pick Amarius Mims, a 6-foot-8, 340-pound right tackle out of Georgia, said he’s been in the playbook since the day after the Bengals selected him at No. 18 overall. He visited Paycor Stadium the next day, immediately started looking over his team-issued iPad and even got into the film room with offensive line coach Frank Pollack to get a jumpstart on understanding the system.

“It is a lot,” Mims said of the playbook. “You’ve got to categorize it by what play it is, run, pass, but once we get a grasp of that, I can get in with the center, (seventh-round draft pick) Matt Lee, and stuff. We’ll be fine.”

Both All and Mims said they look forward to meeting the veterans next week, but getting a chance to bond with their fellow rookies this weekend will make the transition easier.

Mims said the rookies have been in a group chat, texting one another since the draft, and it’s been good these past two days meeting them and getting a brief workout in together.

“Just getting comfortable, getting to see all the guys you came in with, getting to put a name to a face and all that good stuff, breaking a sweat with the guys you are going to be around for however long you are going to be here,” Mims said. “It was good to get out there.”

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