Sheldon Rankins Reports to Bengals From Secret Location, Leaving Just 3 Players Yet to Practice

Veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins reported for Bengals practice this week and has been impressed with the rookies in his room.

CINCINNATI – Sheldon Rankins reporting for his first week of the Cincinnati Bengals’ voluntary offseason program would have been the biggest storyline of the day today if it weren’t for Joe Burrow’s absence.

Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor said after practice that Burrow’s absence was part of a planned day off and no reason for concern.

A few minutes later, Rankins said his time away from the team for the first four weeks off the offseason program also was no big deal.

New Bengals DT Sheldon Rankins Raves About Rookies in His Room

Rankins, the veteran defensive tackle whom the Bengals signed to a two-year, $24.5 million contract in March, didn’t want to say where he was for the last month. But he was clear about what he was doing, which was following the routine he has for most of his eight previous offseasons.

“In my normal place I always am,” Rankins said when asked where he had been working out. “I never disclose the location. But the people that have been training with me know where I am, and we’ve been working hard.”

“Like every year, I always make sure that when I’m away, it’s no different than if I’m here in the building working out around our strength guys, with our coaches,” Rankins added. “I’m working on technique, I’m working on getting stronger, getting faster, getting more explosive. Just putting myself in the best physical shape possible to show up and be the guy they expect me to be.”

While Rankins’ workouts at his secret Bat Cave location were similar to what he would be doing at Paycor Stadium, he admitted the process wasn’t the same.

“Yeah, it is different, 100%. It’s a lot different,” he said. “I was going through it, watching tape when I was away, watching the walkthroughs and different things like that. But to get out there and hear it being called and getting lined up and hear all the checks, when you’ve been out of football for a while in the offseason, getting back into the first bit of real football activities, at first, it’s a lot. But everything slows down really quickly.”

That’s why Rankins showed up this week to put on his new No. 98 jersey for the first time rather than waiting until next week’s mandatory minicamp.

“I wanted to make sure I got back here, got accustomed to hearing how things are going to be called, the speed at which we line up, and the little nuances that may be different from some things I’ve done in the past,” Rankins said. “So when training camp gets here, that stuff is already out of the way. Now I can just line up and play football and be the guy that I know I am.”

Taylor repeated today what he said while Rankins was away — that his absence was not a big deal because of his track record since he’s been in the league. But Taylor said it was beneficial to have the veteran report a week ahead of minicamp.

“It’s been good to get him out here and get him acclimated with how we do everything,” Taylor said. “He’s a pro, so he’s been doing a great job away from the facility. Now it’s good to get him back in here for these last couple of weeks.”

The other benefit that comes with Rankins’ arrival is what a veteran with 109 games played in eight seasons can mean to the young defensive linemen.

The Bengals selected Kris Jenkins in the second round and McKinley Jackson in the fourth, and the expectation is both will be counted on to be a part of the defensive line rotation as rookies.

“I think they’re supremely talented,” Rankins said. “I was able to talk to them a little bit today after practice, just picking their brains on where they are mentally. Whether it’s the playbook, whether it’s everything that comes along with being a rookie, just seeing where they are and answering some questions for them, whether they be on the field, off the field, whatever it may be. I think they’re in a good spot right now. A lot’s being thrown at them, but they’re handling it well.”

Rankins said he wanted to make sure they knew he would always be there for them for anything they need, just as Cam Jordan and Nick Fairley were for him as a rookie.

This will be the first time since Rankins considered himself a veteran that he’ll play on a team that will be counting so heavily on rookies.

But he said the idea doesn’t concern him in the least after getting his first impression of Jenkins and Jackson.

“Watching them and understanding what they bring to the table, I think they’re up for it,” Rankins said. “I expect nothing less of them than to go out and be productive and handle whatever is thrown at them. They’ve done it so far. They’re just adjusting. No matter how talented you are, there’s always that adjustment period when you’re going from college to the NFL.

“If their number is called, which I expect it to be, I think they’ll be fine.”

Of the six big free agents the Bengals signed this offseason, only offensive tackle Trent Brown has yet to practice. Safeties Vonn Bell and Geno Stone, tight end Mike Gesicki, and running back Zack Moss have been participating since the offseason began.

Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase also has yet to participate, but Taylor said he was even less concerned about that absence than Rankins’.

The other missing receiver, Tee Higgins, is not eligible to report until he signs the franchise tag he is not happy about having. There is no indication Higgins will sign the tag before the start of training camp, and it likely won’t be until after the team has played a couple of preseason games.

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