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Jessie Bates Embracing Leadership Role as Bengals Aim to Take Big Step This Season

Bates is quickly becoming the face of the Bengals' defense.

CINCINNATI — The Bengals started organized team activities [OTA’s] on Tuesday. The workouts are voluntary, but every player on the roster was there in person.

Jessie Bates played a huge role in helping the team accomplish that feat. The free safety was named the Bengals’ NFLPA rep last month after Geno Atkins was released. Voluntary workouts became Bates’ first task at hand.

“The biggest thing of a winning football team is the communication part,” Bates said. “I felt like we had 100% of the guys on the Zoom when we were having conversations with the negotiations, so there's no surprise on that start right there. I think a lot of people are excited to make that first impression, not only on the coaches but on the other teammates as well.”

The opportunity to build chemistry for a team with up to 10 new starters, a roster filled with young players, and key members of the team coming back from injury was too valuable to pass up.

Resetting the standard for the turned over roster is Bates’ next assignment. He knows things have to change if the Bengals are going to have their first winning season since 2015.

“That's what you'll build. We don't know exactly what that will be,” Bates said. “We’re not sure what the standard is. It has to be very different, though. That's what we're hoping for.”

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The fourth-year safety has proven himself on the field in his first three seasons. He became one of the NFL’s best safeties last season. He finished the year with three interceptions, one forced fumble, 109 tackles (78 solo) and allowed a 54.3% completion percentage. He was also Pro Football Focus’ highest rated safety for the 2020 season.

Bates is looking to take another step forward by becoming an established leader and the new face of a Bengals’ defense that has struggled in recent seasons.

The 24-year-old is helping set a tone that could carry over to mandatory minicamp, training camp and the 2021 regular season.

“This team’s on a mission,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “You guys keep asking what’s the good of these 10 OTA’s? It’s these guys coming together and really establishing their identity on all three units. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m going to be excited to go compete with these guys.”

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