Mixon called his mom Tuesday night to celebrate while eating Chick-Fil-A.
“I’m still kind of, like, don’t know how to really take it in all the way,” Mixon said. “I was definitely emotional about it when I got the call.”
For Mixon, the money was about getting what he felt he deserved, not trying to outdo anyone else. Running backs largely are “undervalued” in the NFL, he said, and Mixon’s contract reaffirms how much the Bengals respect him and what he brings to the team.
The Panthers set the bar this offseason when they signed Christian McCaffrey to a four-year $64 million contract extension to make him the highest running back in the league.
“I just try to go about it as ‘this is what you deserve,’” Mixon said. “For us, it’s a tough situation because people always try to devalue the running back position. But we touch the ball 20-25 times a game. We take a pounding and we take a load. If you’re able and blessed to stay healthy and don’t get hurt and put these numbers up, it’s only right for you to get that compensation. So I think the running back market will definitely jump up and more guys will start getting paid.
“I’m not here to prove anybody wrong. I’m just trying to prove (the Bengals) right for why they paid me.”
Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the organization factored in everything Mixon brings to the table, from the energy he carries on the field and in the locker room to the production he gives the offense. Mixon is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, despite a slow start to the 2019 campaign when 813 of his 1,137 yards came over the final eight games.
Mixon also is an important piece for rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, as the Bengals seek to take as much pressure of him as possible with a strong running game.
“You factor it all in, his history here in terms of the production, how he fit into this system last year, you know, really hit his stride in the second half of the season, when we started to get things sorted out a little bit better,” Taylor said. “He’s been a great teammate in the locker room. He’s fun for the coaches to be around. So anyway, he’s just a big part of what we’re building here.”
Taylor said the timing just happened to work out so the deal got done before the regular-season, but it was good for everyone to be able to take that off their plate.
Mixon had been dealing with migraines and missed almost a week of practices before rejoining the group Tuesday for the first time as a participant. That caused speculation Mixon was just holding out for his deal; however, he was emphatic the two were unrelated. Mixon said he had never had migraines before but he had been dealing with them for two or three weeks and finally got it sorted out with team doctors.
Now he can focus on the season ahead. The Bengals open Sept. 13 against the Chargers, and Mixon said no one will be celebrating touchdowns like him this season.
“I want to prove going in I want to be the best me and the best guy on the field day in and day out,” Mixon said. “Just basically have to shoot for the goals that I haven’t achieved yet – Pro Bowl (and) being MVP. Doing those high-level type things and reaping those rewards. I work hard for it. Everybody else is getting paid also to do things to defend me or block me or whatever the case maybe, but I definitely feel like I’m that type of caliber player and I’m definitely gonna produce like it. Those are things I look forward to and helping the team win.”