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Bengal Morning Takes: 53 'Tough' players

CINCINNATI -- As we mentioned Wednesday, special-teams coordinator Darrin Simmons will have an active role this week in helping the Cincinnati Bengals determine who they will be keeping on the 53-man roster when cuts are made by Saturday.

With so many of the final 20 or so players on the 53-man roster anticipated to play roles on special teams, Simmons has to make sure he's heard. There may be a linebacker whom defensive coaches may not be sure about keeping, but if Simmons believes he has great upside as a player on the cover or return units, he'll make a case for keeping him.

In other cases, there may be a position battle that comes down to keeping a player who can be special-teams versatile over another who thrives only at the offensive or defensive position he plays. Look no further than the debate centering around keeping H-back Orson Charles over fullback John Conner last year.

Beyond all of that, though, what else is Simmons looking for when he sits down and identifies the players he wants to hold onto?

Toughness.

"These guys are all tough, don't get me wrong," Simmons said. "But there's certain levels when you get to this."

When he and his fellow coaches have a position battle that's too close to call, and they think all players involved can be special-teams versatile, Simmons falls back on toughness. Specifically, he looks at the players he's comparing and wants to see which is out-hustling the other. He wants to see which is out-hitting the other. He wants to see which is getting down the field quicker than the other. He wants to see which player exhibits the type of determination that can sometimes make the difference in springing a big play.

"I'm looking for guys who have poise," Simmons said. "I have a pretty good feeling for what it's going to take for us to beat Baltimore and the atmosphere we are going to play in in Baltimore and Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Having been through this I know what those guys look like. That will figure into it, too."

Simmons added that a number of spots are already settled and won't be too difficult to hash out when team officials convene after Thursday night's preseason finale against the Colts. Others, however, will require tough decisions.