Here's to a good Thursday to you.
If you perused the newspaper and Internet sites (like this one) that cover the Cincinnati Bengals beat late Wednesday night, you probably saw one common theme: everyone, and I do mean everyone, wrote about Cincinnati's linebackers. Specifically, in some form or fashion, we all wrote about the newest one, Taylor Mays.
Hopefully you got a chance to check out ESPN.com's rendition of the Mays to nickel linebacker story here.
As we keep with the linebacker theme in this edition of the "Morning Stripes," let's take a look at a few other stories from the Bengals beat:
A great deal more trust was given to second-year weakside linebacker Vontaze Burfict this preseason as he started wearing the mic'd-up linebackers helmet. In doing so, he has taken over play-calling duties from veteran Rey Maualuga. Burfict sets the back half of Cincinnati's defense and will be its most used defender when the season begins Sunday. As a result of his wider responsibilities, perhaps now is the time to start calling Burfict "The Captain" of the new-look linebackers, Geoff Hobson writes for the team website.
Speaking of linebackers, even the Bengals' Sunday opponent, Chicago, got in on the linebacker motif Wednesday. According to my colleague Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com, both D.J. Williams and Jon Bostic are options for the Bears at middle linebacker in the opener. Williams is a veteran who missed all of the preseason with a calf injury. The question for Bears coaches is whether his conditioning is up to par. Bostic is a rookie from Florida who returned an interception for touchdown and laid a vicious hit on San Diego Chargers receiver Mike Willie that drew a $21,000 fine that he's appealing. "We're going to leave it wide open in terms of where we are at the end of the week," Bears coach Marc Trestman said.
Moving quickly to Cincinnati's D-line, the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy got his hands on the terms of Geno Atkins' five-year, $55 million extension. According to Reedy, Atkins will receive a $15 million signing bonus and a $3 million roster bonus next season. In 2014, Atkins' base salary will be $2.7 million. It will increase each year to its peak $9.25 million in 2018. The deal also makes Atkins' new cap number shoot up from 23rd highest on the team to third highest. Reedy said Atkins also will make $100,000 in bonuses each year he is named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Staying with the Enquirer, we move over to offense, where quarterback Andy Dalton met with reporters Wednesday to discuss the Bears and his expectations for the season. The third-year quarterback will be comfortable with whomever protects his blind side Sunday. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is trending toward being "Doubtful" for the opener.
Just four more days, and real football returns, folks.