Tee Higgins tries not to think about contract: ‘Just here to get my work in.’

Credit: Aaron Doster

Credit: Aaron Doster

CINCINNATI — Tee Higgins didn’t have to show up for the Cincinnati Bengals’ voluntary offseason workouts, especially while his agent continues trying to negotiate a contract extension for him.

Many players in his situation wouldn’t be interested in risking injury without a long-term deal in place, but Higgins decided it was important to attend. He participated Tuesday during the first practice open to media as the team entered Phase 2 of the offseason program.

Higgins was among a nearly full squad participating, as only La’el Collins, Jonah Williams and Tyler Boyd were absent among offensive players. Collins and Williams are both coming off knee surgeries, but Collins has been in and out of the facility this offseason.

“To be honest with you I’m here to get work in,” Higgins said. “At the end of the day I love the game. Whatever happens with my contract happens. I’m not worried that right now. Hopefully we can get something done soon. Right now, I’m just here to work.”

Last year, safety Jessie Bates did not participate in the offseason program and he skipped the first half of training camp as well, citing a desire to limit his injury risk while having to play on a franchise tag. He signed with Atlanta this offseason on a four-year deal worth $16 million in average annual salary.

Higgins said he lives in Cincinnati now and he needed to work out anyway so he figured he might as well be with his team. His agent told him to do whatever he felt comfortable with, and it was Higgins’ decision to participate, but there’s not necessarily any special message he’s sending by attending.

“People can put it that way,” Higgins said. “At the end of the day, I’m here for me. I want to get my body in the best shape to play at the highest level come game time.”

Higgins said he tries not to “worry about contract stuff” so he can just focus on getting ready for the season.

For the most part that hasn’t been difficult, but he did receive a bunch of texts and calls after a Bengals fan and social media influencer started a rumor his contract extension was done. A post on Twitter went viral, and Higgins’ mom chimed in with an eyeballs emoji response that fans seemed to think meant she was confirming the news, until she replied again saying it was news to her.

“I had a lot of people texting me, but I didn’t text them back,” Higgins said. “I knew there wasn’t nothing there. My mom texted me and was like, ‘You got a deal done, son?’ I was like, ‘Mom, if I had a deal done you would be the first to know.’ She was like, ‘I thought so.’ It was just rumors.”

Higgins, a self-described “quiet guy,” said he doesn’t let that stuff get to him, and that was the case as well when speculation swirled around the NFL Combine that the Bengals might be looking to trade him.

He said he saw reports suggesting that but “wasn’t trippin” because he knew he wasn’t going anywhere. Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin immediately shot down that talk when he spoke to local media at the Combine, and that made Higgins feel good about his place within the organization.

“That was cool to see,” Higgins said. “That made me feel more wanted here, feel good.”

Higgins is hopeful his extension can get done, even while Bengals front office personnel have said Burrow’s deal is a priority. Burrow on Tuesday made clear he is willing to leave some money on the table to keep the core of the offense together with Higgins also negotiating and Chase due for an extension next year.

Having a leader like Burrow looking out for other players “means a lot” to Higgins.

“Obviously we talk about staying together for the long run,” Higgins said. “Hopefully we can do that and get something negotiated to where they can keep all three of us.”

Making money and being a part of a winning team are still considerations for Higgins, but in the end, he just wants to play football.

“For me, at the end of the day, I’m just here to get my work in, conversate with the guys,” Higgins said. “Conversate with the new guys, rookies. Try to be a leader on the team. The money is God’s timing, man. I’m blessed to be in this position I’m in to play this game I love and get paid for it. I’m not going to rush things like that and when it comes, it comes.”

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