CINCINNATI - They're known as OTA's in the NFL. That stands for Organized Team Activities. In the old days, we just used to call it "practice."
It was first opportunity Tuesday to see the Bengals as a full team. "It felt like a team, we felt united" defensive lineman Geno Atkins told me in the locker room Tuesday morning.
The last few weeks have involved weight work, conditioning and prep time in the classroom.
"It had my head spinning a little bit" said newly-signed cornerback Terrence Newman.
OTA's allow the players to take the classroom work to the practice field. It allows them to take what's on paper, and relate it to footwork and timing and decision-making.
Newman signed a free-agent contract with the Bengals after getting a call from defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, with whom he had worked with in Dallas. "When he called, I didn't need to come. He wanted me and I said 'let's get this done."
Newman says starting "is not on my mind". He and Nate Clements are there to lead, "police a little bit" and do whatever is needed in the secondary.
Atkins went to the Pro Bowl in his second professional season, and that will motivate him to only get better. "I know everybody wants to go up against me and see how good I am." He says the OTA's allow players to work on fundamentals, developing chemistry and bonding as a team.
Adam Jones always projects energy, but now he feels comfortable in the defense and thinks that will allow him to play faster. He feels he's in the best health since 2006. He's strong with a good body weight, checking in at 187 pounds, about where he wants to be.
Where he most wants to be is returning punts. "I really want that job," he emphasized to reporters. "I really want that job, and I'll leave it at that."
A.J. Green who had a major impact as a rookie didn't have OTA's a year ago because of the NFL lockout. He says the extra work this season will allow him "to get my depth down, work on little personal releases, be a little more patient and become more of a student of the game."
Green is only a second-year player but is seen as a veteran by 2012 draft picks Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. Green hopes he can help them become good receivers, while making himself better.
There are 14 OTA sessions allowed in NFL camps. They'll mean different things to different players. Some will learn that they belong in the NFL, others will learn that they should be selling insurance.
It's part of the team-building process. "You're not guaranteed anything" said Newman. "This is where you gotta work and earn it."
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.