Bengals’ coaches, players looking forward to time away from football

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor speaks to his players during NFL football practice, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor speaks to his players during NFL football practice, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Team wraps up nine-week offseason program

Cincinnati Bengals first-year coach Zac Taylor was pleased with the production he saw during the team’s nine-week offseason workout program.

Now, he wants them to enjoy a break and come back fresh in late July, ready to go for training camp.

The Bengals wrapped up minicamp Thursday and will have five weeks off before reporting back to Paul Brown Stadium on July 26. The first preseason game is set for Aug. 9 against Chicago.

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“Everyone needs time off,” Taylor said. “We want them to come back in shape healthy, focused. You can’t let that five-week lull occur where they don’t study the playbook and they come back and it takes them a few days to get started. We can’t afford to do that. I think the guys understand that and they’ll come back ready.”

Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo just expects players to take a little time each day studying, but right now he hopes they take some time where they completely get away from it.

“They will have their I-Pads available to them, but I think at the same time, they will get away from it for a week or so, kind of don’t worry about football and then jump back into it, like we’re all going to do,” Anarumo said. “Then, it’s just do a little each day, even if it’s just 15-20 minutes or a half hour, that stacks up. I want them to be mentally fresh when they come back too. We started this back in April. I want them to work, don’t get me wrong, but they’ve got to come back and be mentally sharp and ready to go.”

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Running back Joe Mixon said he is heading back to California and looks forward to running a camp for kids at his old high school. He doesn’t plan to take much time off from training.

“I’m going to bust my tail off and come back ready to go,” Mixon said.

Defensive lineman Jordan Willis said he will take about three or four days off and then get into his training regimen.

As for studying, he will focus on going back over some of the mistakes he made during offseason workouts and make sure he better understands what he should have done in those situations. Willis said players should come back with a better understanding of the playbook and schemes than they are leaving with, but just the chance to get away and not be stuck on a schedule set for them makes a big difference mentally.

“It’s a mental break because it’s just you and you don’t have anyone getting on you if you make a mistake or something like that,” Willis said. “You want to take this time to correct and learn. If you don’t understand something, you want to take this time to hone in and get all that stuff down so when camp rolls around and you are competing for a job, you don’t want a mistake you made to give them a reason not to start you or give you a job. You want to get all that down before you come back.”

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The coaches will use the time to assess what was accomplished over the last nine weeks and what needs improved come training camp. However, even they need a break.

Taylor will take time to visit family he doesn’t see often during the rest of the year.

“It’s always been a time for us to go see family,” Taylor said. “My wife and I have family scattered all over the country, and that’s really a good time to take time and go visit with them and turn your brain off for a little bit. I think there’s some pickleball courts set up in Norman, Oklahoma that my mom just texted me about (laughs). And we always do some good stuff with her family up in the Northeast. So, when that time comes we’ll look forward to it.”

Anarumo will spend time with his family back on Staten Island, eating as much pizza as he can, but that’s about as much as he has planned for now.

Taylor said he does his best when he’s away from the football stuff not to think about it, but it’s not always possible. Some coaches are better at “shutting it off” than others. For a good part of the next five weeks, he will try to get away from it so, like the players, he can come back fresh and energized for the season.

“I do my best — with four small children and a wife that does a lot — when I’m off to try and be ‘off,’” Taylor said. “I try not to take the work home. There are plenty of late nights and early mornings you spend here and are dialed in, and certainly there are some things as a head coach that get carried over to the house, but for the most part I do my best to turn it off and try to be present.”