CINCINNATI — For the Bengals coaching staff, the anticipation for the upcoming season can be equated to that of a child waiting to see what Santa Claus brought.
“It’s like Christmas morning again,” said Bengals assistant head coach Darrin Simmons. “I know what’s in the wrapping, but I haven’t gotten to play with the toys yet.”
Training camp begins this week, in a year when the expectations are higher than in recent seasons.
“We need to do better; we know that,” team owner Mike Brown said. “We think we’re in position to do that. We look forward to doing better and getting the stadium looking the way at games that we think it should.”
He’s talking about packing Paul Brown Stadium with fans, which they are allowed to do this season with COVID-19-related attendance restrictions having been lifted.
“You just feel that excitement that you forgot that you missed,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “You didn’t forget, but you didn’t get to experience it. Now that it’s back, I know that our players are juiced up. Our fans, our coaches, everybody’s ready to get a full crowd out here and get after it.”
A full crowd at home would be the first of quarterback Joe Burrow’s pro career. Remarkably, Burrow is fully cleared to practice on day one of training camp — eight months after a serious knee injury.
"To be where he is now does not surprise me," offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. "It's almost unfairly expected just because we know how he works."
The Bengals are looking for their first winning season since 2015.
The team kicks off their 2021 campaign Sept. 12 at home against the Minnesota Vikings.