CINCINNATI — Jessie Bates was arguably the best safety in the NFL last season.
The 24-year-old finished with 109 tackles, three interceptions and 15 passes defensed in 2020.
Bates and the Bengals were unable to agree to a long-term contract before the 2021 season began.
The star safety admitted that the stalled negotiations impacted his play on the field during the first half of the season.
"I feel like my mind was ... Honestly, it was on other things throughout the first part of the season," Bates said on Monday. "I feel like I'm at a better head space now than I was at the beginning of the season. So caught on to proving the wrong people right and the main thing I should be focusing on is proving the right people right as far as my coaches, my teammates, my family and not worry about all of the other stuff. I know that's gonna work out, I know what type of player I am, that stuff's gonna work out regardless, but like I said I gotta be better for this team."
Bates has 55 tackles and one interception in eight games this season. He talked with former college teammates and coaches during the bye week.
"It [those conversations] really put it in perspective. Like 'hey, bro. Nobody's feeling sorry for you. You gotta go out there and perform whether things have gone your way the first half of the season or not,'" Bates said. "I can't be thankful enough for this bye weekend because it's really helped me mentally going into the second part of the season and I hope my teammates can see it as well."
The Bengals' defense has taken a step back in their last two games. If Bates can play at a high level in the second half of the season, it would go a long way toward helping this team make the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
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