Bengals rookies get chance to settle in together at minicamp

CINCINNATI -- Dax Hill says he is ready to “earn his stripes” with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The team’s first-round draft pick should get plenty of opportunities for playing time this year as a versatile safety out of Michigan and a player the Bengals had been eying for months leading into their No. 31 overall pick.

However, on his first official day on the field with the Bengals during rookie minicamp Friday, Hill was grateful for a chance to ease into things before preparing to step up into competition with the veterans next week.

“Really I’m just trying to earn my stripes right now, showing the coaches and prove to them and myself that I can hang with the veterans in the NFL,” Hill said Friday, the first day the Bengals locker room has been open since the 2020 pandemic changed protocols. “I’m just trying to learn the playbook and do everything I can to get on the field.”

It’s a task he says he is prepared for, but a day with the other rookies was beneficial for a bit of settling in first -- even though the practice session was light, featuring only individual position drills and lasting only an hour. There were plenty of teachable moments even in that short time period.

The Bengals opted for a one-day rookie minicamp, rather than taking the three days allowed, and the group included five of the team’s six draft picks and 16 college undrafted free agents. Second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt was absent because of illness, coach Zac Taylor said afterward, noting he is in town but stayed back at the team hotel after letting the staff know he was feeling under the weather.

“It’s just getting them adjusted to life out here with new coaches, hearing the way that we communicate,” Taylor said of what he hoped to have accomplished Friday. “They’re right into it on Monday with the veterans. We don’t do the three-day rookie minicamp transition period that some people do. We just keep it brief out here for the workout, and then they’ll jump into the fold on Monday. And you know, it’s not right into OTAs. It’s Phase 2, which was a lot of individual work, so I think it’s a good way to do it for three weeks. You get a chance to see how they kind of stack up.”

Fifth-round pick Tycen Anderson, another versatile defensive back out of Toledo, said he arrived Thursday and it felt “surreal” to be at Paul Brown Stadium to begin his professional career.

He said the first two days were helpful to get acclimated to the schedule, routine and environment as much as getting to know the coaches’ teaching methods and expectations.

“Then just touring the building, it’s like a maze in here, super big, so much bigger than all our college facilities,” Anderson said. “So getting here a day early, you’re getting kind of integrated in the system. That’s helpful.

“It’s gonna be fun to meet the dudes like Joe Burrow, Jessie Bates, Vonn Bell, Sam Hubbard next week. I’ve been watching these guys my whole life, watched them in college, watched them in pros, and so it’s pretty sweet to be one of them now and I just got to prove why I’m here now.”

The Bengals coaching staff knows what Anderson can bring, but he said he wants to earn the respect of the veterans, too, and prove the organization right in selecting him.

Offensive lineman Cordell Volson, who the Bengals drafted in the fourth round, said he wants to show he is “someone that is not afraid to throw his face in there, not afraid to compete.” The Bengals need players like that in the mix for backup roles and in the competition for the open starting right guard spot.

Hill said he thinks it will be a relatively smooth transition into the system and playbook but the physicality and speed of play will be a big difference. He looks forward to really getting into it next week with the veterans.

“I watched some film, and the playbook, there’s not too much of a difference really for me, just terminology and whatnot,” Hill said. “So, it’s just honing in on the different ones because last year, I kind of came from the same defense, so I’m excited.”

About the Author