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Bengals plan cautious return to work after longest season in football

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Numbers correspond to success. The team that the Bengals beat in the AFC title game, the Chiefs, was seeded first. The Rams, who beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl, finished fifth. The Bills, another playoff team, finished second. The Ravens, one game ahead of the Bengals in the AFC North before December, finished last in adjusted games lost while dropping their last six.

And yet, Boese says most of the offseason program is probably more about intangibles than aerobics.

“We are very aware of the length of the season and will proceed accordingly,” Boese said. “We’re trying to restore the chemistry we had last year. Just getting the guys back around each other in the locker room and starting to build that camaraderie is the main focus this offseason.”

Boese runs the team’s nerve center. His predecessor, Chip Morton, used to call a team’s weight room, “The Boiler Room”. This is where you can gauge a team’s heart and spirit and Boese could tell something special could be brewing ahead of the magic of the last two months.

Around mid-season, he noticed men walking into his office early on Tuesdays, sipping coffee and talking about how their wives had met. Or he heard guys talking about having a burger together after one of those Friday mornings. Or maybe he would watch from his office and see ten guys shooting hoops after practice.

He thinks the chemistry started bubbling last May and June, when the Bengals were one of the few teams in the league with near-perfect volunteer attendance. Boese thinks it’s because Taylor’s skill for the modern player has produced a regimen with the appropriate workload.

“Zac’s philosophy about practice and the way we do things is extremely smart,” Boese said. “I think our players understand that. It’s different in places where it’s not like that here. The trust factor. They know what we’re doing. They know when they come back here we’re not going to not meet them on the ground. Those days are over.

Think back to 2019, Taylor’s first spring. They had all three phases, but no Joe Burrow, DJ Reader, Vonn Bell, Mike Hilton, Tee Higgins, Trey Hendrickson, Ja’Marr Chase…

“I don’t expect our guys to be very far from where they should be. You saw it last year, you saw the elevated character of the dressing room,” Boese said. “Look at what we did last spring and it’s a testament to our players, our leaders. Guys like Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, Jessie Bates, Sam Hubbard, DJ, Vonn, Burrow. The list goes on.”