July 2014

After Nightmare, Legaux Dreams Of Return

Munchie Legaux has grown accustomed to “the look.”

When people realize who is and are reminded of the gruesome knee injury that he suffered nearly 11 months ago, Munchie can see their facial expressions change.

“Guys see me and look at my knee and go, ‘Oh my God,’” said Legaux. “I’m OK.man. I don’t have a prosthetic leg or anything.”

Far from it.

Legaux running (440x269)

After enduring months of mind-numbing rehab sessions following surgery to repair all four ligaments in his left knee, Legaux estimates that he is 80 to 85 percent recovered.

“I expect to be out there for the first game of the season,” Munchie told me. “And I expect to be out there competing for the start of camp.

“Every day, twice a day, I’m in the training room and the weight room. Lifting, running, squatting – whatever it takes to get me ready for camp.”

“When you’ve had an injury like that, you have to fight through a lot of things,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville. “But he’s a battler.”

Legaux was one of four Cincinnati seniors who represented the program at American Athletic Conference Media Days in Newport, RI and his presence was noted by Commissioner Mike Aresco in his state-of-the-league address.

“I am especially pleased to see Munchie Legaux from Cincinnati and I’ll be happy to shake his hand after he takes the field this season,” said Aresco.

“It was an honor and a blessing for him to recognize me,” said Legaux.

While Gunner Kiel will enter training camp as the number one quarterback on the depth chart, Coach Tuberville says that Legaux and Jarred Evans will be given the opportunity to compete for the job.

“I have been in this situation for the last two years,” said Legaux. “Competition brings the best out. And if it’s Jarred Evans of Gunner Kiel out there for the first game, I will be their biggest supporter.

“There’s a target on my back with people thinking, ‘What is he going to be like? Is he going to be the same guy? Is he going to be Munchie Legaux running around and making plays?’ But that doesn’t define a quarterback. A quarterback is willing to sit in the pocket and throw the ball and I can do that and also run at the same time.”

Regardless of how much playing time he earns, Legaux’s comeback is already an inspiration to his coaches and teammates.

“When he first suffered that injury, nobody ever thought he would come back,” said Tuberville.

“Everybody watched Munchie go down, and everybody is going to watch him get back up,” said cornerback Adrian Witty.

“Nothing is impossible,” said Legaux. “Injuries…anything you have going on in your life…just continue to have faith, take it day-by-day, and stay positive. That’s the main thing – stay positive.”

After a nightmarish injury, Munchie Legaux has an increasingly realistic dream: To run back on to a football field in a Bearcats uniform.

“I can’t wait for that moment. I might cry,” Legaux told me. “A lot of guys are happy for me to be back and say, ‘We might cry with you.’ But I don’t know what to expect when I run out for the first game with guys noticing, ‘Man, look at him. He’s running. He’s back.’ I’m just excited and ready for that time.”

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Eifert On Course Entering Second NFL Season

The American Century Championship is the most prestigious celebrity golf tournament in the world. There’s a $600,000 purse, live weekend coverage on NBC Sports, and this year’s list of celebs included legendary athletes like Charles Barkley, Roger Clemens, and John Elway, Olympic heroes such as Mike Eruzione, Dan Jansen, and Bode Miller, comedians Larry the Cable Guy and Ray Romano, and even former Vice President Dan Quayle.

This year’s tourney in Lake Tahoe, NV also included Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.

Eifert making catch (440x248)

“I think I was the least-famous person there, if I even am famous,” Tyler told me with a laugh. “But it was a lot of fun being around all of those guys and they were really good to me. For me, I didn’t feel like a celebrity so much. It was more like a kid getting to hang out with some of the celebrities.”

This year’s winner was former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien. Eifert shot 79-77-82 to finish in a tie for 28th  (out of 86) and let his Twitter followers know that he wasn’t happy with the result.

“I wasn’t terrible, but I hit the ball a lot better than I scored which is frustrating,” said Eifert. “But it seems like that’s always the case. It was still a good time and hopefully I’ll get to go back next year.”

Eifert golf event (440x292)

There was one other participant in the event with Bengals ties – Carson Palmer – and he and Eifert were in the same group in the first round (along with Chiefs QB Alex Smith). In case you’re interested, Palmer shot 76-73-78 to tie for 15th. But here’s what inquiring minds really want to know: Did Eifert and Palmer compare notes about playing in Cincinnati?

“A little bit at first, but not a whole lot,” said Eifert. “We were just out there playing golf so it wasn’t a whole lot of business.”

Eifert got back to business this week with the start of training camp and is looking to build on a rookie season that saw him finish with 39 catches for 445 yards (11.4 ypc) and 2 TD.

“Overall I was happy with it,” said the 23-year-old from Ft. Wayne, IN. “The transition went well for me and I enjoyed playing. I didn’t feel a lot of pressure – I could really just go out there and have fun and try to help the team win. I wasn’t maybe as productive as I wanted to be, but when you’re splitting balls with another tight end – between the two of us we caught a lot of balls.”

Jermaine Gresham finished with 46 catches for 458 yards, meaning that Cincinnati got a combined 87 receptions for 903 yards from their top two tight ends. But former offensive coordinator Jay Gruden expected to get the ball to Eifert more frequently last year after the Bengals made him the first tight end selected in the draft (21st overall). In an interview I did with Gruden after the 12th game of last season, he said that Eifert “was probably the most underutilized player on our team.”

“Somebody told me about that comment and it was a surprise coming from him,” Tyler told me. “When you have this many playmakers, it’s hard to utilize everyone. Obviously I would have liked to be more involved in the offense and make more plays for us, but we have a lot of good players.”

Eifert suffered a stinger in the next-to-last game of the regular season and barely played in the playoff loss to San Diego as he was only on the field for 3 of the 81 offensive snaps. Considering how effectively Cincinnati used Eifert and Gresham in a dual tight end package during the regular season, does Tyler think the playoff outcome would have been different if he had been healthy?

“It’s hard to say,” said Eifert. “I don’t think one player can really change the game. San Diego brought it to us. I would like to think that I could have helped, but I guess we’ll never know.”

This much we know beyond a shadow of a doubt: Eifert is a much golfer than Charles Barkley. Sir Charles shot 106-107-106 to finish dead last in the celebrity event.

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Dennard Is Leon-Like In First NFL Camp

When Leon Hall made it back on the field for the first day of training camp after rehabbing his torn Achilles, one of the happiest people to see him in uniform was a rookie that has frequently been compared to the veteran cornerback – first round draft pick Darqueze Dennard.

“(Leon) is a great player,” said Dennard. “I think he’s one of the cornerbacks that get underlooked because he doesn’t talk as much as a Richard Sherman, but he has the same production as him. He’s a very productive player and just to have him back playing – I’ll get to watch him and pick his brain as well.”

In seven NFL seasons, Hall has earned a sterling reputation for his consistent, technically-sound play at cornerback. The 22-year-old Dennard displayed similar traits at Michigan State and earned the Jim Thorpe Award last year as the top defensive back in college football.

“The guy is all football,” said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. “He’s really smart and he’s really competitive. He’s taken all of the information that we’ve given him in the spring and he’s retained most of it. He’ll be a really good addition to our team.”

“He knows what he’s doing,” said safety Isaiah Lewis, who played with Dennard in college. “He catches on to things fast and he’s always done that. Back at Michigan State, he picked up the defense fast which allowed him to play as a freshman so he’s doing the same thing basically.”

Bengals Football

While Hall was still sidelined during OTA and minicamp practices, Dennard worked with the first unit in the Bengals’ nickel packages. But he won’t necessarily have to play abundant snaps as a rookie since Cincinnati has four other first-round picks at cornerback in Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones, and Dre Kirkpatrick.

“It’s deep back there in the secondary,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “(Darqueze) is going to have a hard time getting to see the light of day – which is a good thing. But I think he’ll be able to handle that, because I think he’ll really be able to be a huge contributor on special teams and so forth. And I think that’s going to be an important part of how we shape this football team as well.”

“I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win,” said Dennard. “Whether that’s playing five snaps on defense or playing 80 snaps on defense – becoming a starter or just being a special teams player my first year. Just doing whatever I can to help the team win and get to our goals.”

Dennard autographs (640x427) (440x294)

In mid-June, Darqueze signed his first NFL contract which will pay him roughly $8 million over the next four years. But instead of spending a big chunk of it during the players’ four week break before training camp, Dennard was busy trying to earn it.

“I’ve been training – working on my footwork, studying film, and studying receivers’ tendencies and things like that,” said Dennard. “Just getting ready to play football again.

“I’m excited just to get back out there and play again. I have an opportunity to join a great defense and add my little talents to it. I’m just really excited about the competition that’s going on in camp and the overall team goals.”

“He doesn’t care about the glitz and glamour and all of that stuff – he’s here to do the dirty work,” said Guenther. “He’s a cornerback with a linebacker’s mentality and I like those kind of guys.”

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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