Bengals’ coach satisfied with offseason work, cancels last two days of minicamp

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor didn’t want to tell players what to do in terms of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, but he did try to make sure they were educated about the pros and cons, especially when it comes to NFL protocols.

He also provided a little incentive to encourage players to get vaccinated if they just hadn’t done it yet or were on the fence about it, and the Bengals apparently had a large enough percentage follow through that Taylor rewarded them by ending three-day minicamp after one day.

Taylor said he had decided Monday to give them the last two days off but waited until after practice Tuesday to inform them they were done for the offseason.

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“First and foremost guys have really shown up and done everything we asked them to do; we’ve had tremendous attendance throughout and got a lot accomplished,” Taylor said after Tuesday’s final offseason workout. “We could have gone another day or two, but I really felt good about the health of our team and where we’re at right now.

“Secondly, one of the things that is really going to help us in training camp is the more guys that we can get vaccinated, so we’ve offered several opportunities for our players to get it done here in the stadium. We had a fair number of our players (on Monday) who said they would get it (Wednesday). I said, ‘Hey, we’re well on our way to making life pretty easy for ourselves in training camp in terms of scheduling and all the protocols.’ That combined with the work we’ve gotten done we decided to move on until training camp.”

Taylor declined to say what percentage of the team has been vaccinated, but noted the Bengals are “making really good progress” and putting themselves in a good position “to make life easier from a scheduling standpoint and a protocol standpoint in training camp.”

The NFL is requiring teams to have 85 percent vaccinated before they are able to have in-person meetings, and safety Jessie Bates, who also serves as a player rep, indicated the Bengals are “very close” to that.

“That’s why we got the reward of going home a little early, so I think we’re on the right path, with that, with the right numbers,” Bates said.

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Bates said it was a productive offseason and he was glad to be able to have workouts together with his teammates for the nine Organized Team Activities sessions and one day of minicamp.

The defense especially has a lot of new faces, and being able to build relationships and develop some chemistry on the field was an important step before training camp, which begins at the end of July. Now players will be off on their own to prepare for that, but Bates is hopeful this training camp is much more like his first two in 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic impacted things last year.

“When you’re on Zoom, it’s very easy to just kind of listen to coach and not having notes down and stuff like that, so that’s why it was important that we got our guys vaccinated because once we get back for training camp, we’ll be able to have in-person meetings,” Bates said. “We’ll be able to communicate and look at each other’s notes like, ‘Hey, put this down.’ So, just stuff that we talked about near a bye weekend last year, we’re hashing that stuff out now with OTAs.”

Taylor said he knew it was a touchy subject to bring up vaccinations, but it’s one the league has been aggressive about with how they are setting protocols. The more players that are vaccinated, the fewer restrictions the team faces in the future.

“The last thing you want to do is tell somebody what to do with their body, so part of the process is just educating guys and first of all, just letting them know what the protocols are going to be, so the pros and cons of doing it or not doing it just from the NFL protocol standpoint and making sure they have all that information,” Taylor said. “It’s a very personal decision for a lot of guys, so I just want to be a resource, the trainers will be a resource, (director of player relations) Eric Ball will be a resource, just let them know where they can gather information. ”

Bates said Taylor made players feel comfortable in making their decision whether to get vaccinated or not just by giving them options and providing as much information as possible. It was nice to get the reward of an early break, especially after getting full attendance for the voluntary OTAs and mandatory minicamp.

Three players – center Trey Hopkins and defensive tackles Renell Wren and D.J. Reader – were unable to fully participate but continued doing work on the side as they continued their rehab process in their recovery from 2020 injuries. Offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji was not there Tuesday, as he underwent surgery on his pectoral last week, an injury that Taylor said will sideline him for quite a while.

Everyone else was able to practice, including Joe Burrow, who only had minor limitations.