One of the most interesting sights in Friday’s preseason opener against the Jets occurred during the National Anthem.
As a TV camera panned the Cincinnati sideline, it zoomed in on Armon Binns who appeared to have tears in his eyes and he approached his first game in a Bengals uniform.
“It was such a big moment,” Binns told me after the game. “I’ve been through so much the last couple of years and to be here with this opportunity – nobody would have thought that I would have been here. It felt great man. I’m so blessed to be out here with this team and to compete for a spot on the roster.”
The former University of Cincinnati star had not appeared in a game since last preseason when he went to camp with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent. Armon had two catches for 24 yards in his Bengals debut, and also had a 19-yard grab wiped out by a holding penalty.
“It took me a couple of series for the game to slow down,” said Binns. “It was great to be out there and I had so much fun. It was cool.”
“I thought Binny came in and did what we expected him to do,” said Marvin Lewis. “He did a nice job on third down catches and routes. You know, when they run certain coverages, you have to have other people that can beat the coverages. I thought he and (tight end Jermaine) Gresham did a nice job on that drive to keep the drive alive and keep it going.”
Binns and Brandon Tate are the leading candidates to start opposite of A.J. Green at wide receiver. Tate also finished with 2 receptions for 24 yards against the Jets, and rookie Marvin Jones led the team with 48 receiving yards on two catches.
“We’re really deep at this position,” said Binns. “Tate is a great player and brings a whole different dynamic to the position. The more guys that we have – the better our team is going to be.
“We’re only going to get better. It’s so early. It was the first preseason game and we were really vanilla with our play-calling. The more we’re out there working together and the closer we get to the opening game, I think we’re going to hit the ground running.”
After spending last season on the Bengals practice squad, Binns appears to be a lock to make the active roster this season.
Does he feel like he’s clinched one of the wide receiver spots?
“I don’t ever want to feel like that,” Armon told me. “I just want to keep chipping away. When the regular season hits and I’m here, that’s when I’ll feel like I’ve made the team.”
Don’t be surprised to see a tear rolling down his cheek during the Star-Spangled Banner on September 10th in Baltimore.
If any football fans outside of Cincinnati were wondering whatever happened to former Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, they ought to know now.
After all, there probably isn’t a better way for a defensive player to be seen repeatedly on ESPN than to intercept a pass thrown by Tim Tebow.
“Man, it’s amazing,” said Burfict. “I have the ball right there in my locker and I’ll probably treasure that for the rest of my life. (Tebow) is on Sportscenter every time that you turn it on, so this is wonderful.”
Burfict also intercepted an Andy Dalton pass in the Bengals mock game last weekend, and the undrafted free agent has had a very solid training camp.
“Coach Zimmer always says bust your tail to the ball and good things happen,” said Burfict. “He’s always on us in the film room to read your keys and go where you’re supposed to go. Just handle your job and everything else will work out. That’s what I did – I handled my job and got an interception off of Tim Tebow.”
My radio partner Dave Lapham noted on Friday’s broadcast that Vontaze has an instinctive “nose for the ball” that all great defensive players have, but Burfict does not agree.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Vontaze told me. “Coaching is key to me. Listen to what the coaches tell me to do. A lot of people say that I was uncoachable and I’m trying to prove them wrong. I’m listening to what the coaches tell me to do and I bust my behind to get to the ball and try to make plays for my defense.”
That certainly doesn’t sound like the guy whose disastrous performance at the NFL combine and history of personal fouls at Arizona State caused his stock to plummet among NFL scouts. The Bengals elected to give Burfict a second chance, and so far, he’s quieting his skeptics.
“The past is the past and I don’t even look back anymore,” said Burfict. “I just want to get better as a football player. There are always going to be haters so it doesn’t really bother me. People talk and most of the time it isn’t true, so I’m just trying to go day-by-day and be a better player and teammate.”
Vontaze cherishes one of his critics: Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
“I’m very comfortable here,” said Burfict. “Sometimes I mess up in practice and I’m kind of scared to go into Coach Zimmer’s meeting because I know that he’s going to get on me, but he’s just trying to make me better.
“That makes me want to play harder – knowing that I have to do my assignment because I have him on my tail and if I don’t do it, he’s going to yell at me. That makes me a better player.”
Burfict is off to a good start in Cincinnati. He has a football in his locker and a Sportscenter highlight to prove it.
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