Bengals safety Jessie Bates: ‘It’s easy to play hard for Coach Taylor’

There’s an implicit level of trust in Cincinnati’s coaching staff. That’s just part of what makes these Bengals dangerous in the playoffs.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor watches from the sideline in the first half of an NFL...
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor watches from the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Cincinnati, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)(Jeff Dean | AP)
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 7:02 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Another adjective surfaced Tuesday to describe the Bengals heading into Sunday’s wild-card playoff game: “Fresh.”

As in, well rested, mentally sharp and, for the most part, healthy.

Safety Jessie Bates, speaking Tuesday with former Bengals cornerback Adam Jones on Bally Sports Ohio, said it has everything to do with head coach Zac Taylor.

“Zac knows what we’re feeling, knows what kind of conversations are being had in the locker room,” Bates offered. “Throughout the preseason he knows when we’re getting good work. He communicates when it’s live, communicates when it’s not live, so there’s no gray area there about when we need to turn it on.”

It isn’t the first time in recent days Taylor has drawn acclaim from his players. Last week, it was a chorus of praise for his humanity and sensitivity in handling Damar Hamlin’s on-field collapse. ESPN reports the NFL wanted the game to continue and that Zac Taylor was instrumental in bringing about its suspension.

[Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor on Damar Hamlin’s release from the hospital]

As that incident fades in the rearview, the focus shifts back to where it’s always been: Taylor the player’s coach who places such a strong emphasis on locker-room culture and team trust.

The most well known examples are Taylor’s “victory Mondays,” when the players get the day off following a win. The players don’t always take it; most were back lifting and studying film hours after the Bengals’ midseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs. But as the playoff race narrowed and the pressure intensified, that day off turned from luxury to necessity.

Bates says it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“It’s easy to play for a coach that has respect for the game, respect for the players and the type of work we do. Like I said, any time you got a coach like that, who wants to take care of the players and give the players days off but mentally stay focused in the game plan, its easy to play hard for a coach like that,” he said. “So much respect to Zac.”

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Taylor on Monday spoke to that same sense of understanding among the players, who know when to red line—and when to throttle back.

“We’ve got new pieces, but we have that same confidence that we have the right leadership. Everyone in this locker room knows what it takes to be successful. They know what it takes to go to Wednesday practice and give it your all, and Thursday practice and be ready. I think that’s what we have confidence in our players. There’s not a man on this team who doesn’t understand it, and if there was a moment where they didn’t, the veterans got them in line and made sure they understood.”

Add “fresh” to the slew of adjectives unfurled Monday: Confident, young, explosive, accountable, connected.

Defensive tackle D.J. Reader talked about the players’ trust in each other and trust in their coaches.

“It’s like being in a relationship for a long time with someone you’re truly in love with,” he said. “Like, you know our team is a good, gelled team, and we’re all in a relationship that way, and year after year, it’s just gonna get better. This year is a really, really good year man, so everyone understands each other.

“[...]It’s the trust and respect that we have for each other in that locker room, because we’ve been through it. We’ve seen that guy grind across from us, most of us for two years now. We understand what that person is about.”

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