Joe Mixon had not spoken to the Cincinnati media since before the Super Bowl. You still heard his voice, of course. Around the training pitches next to Paul Brown Stadium and inside the home dressing room, it’s impossible not to.
One of the most bombastic, energetic players in recent team history doesn’t do it quietly or subtly. He leaves an impression, the same way the 228-pound back has in piling up 6,255 yards and 42 touchdowns in five NFL seasons.
Still, there’s been a shroud of mystery surrounding him since he was last seen throwing a touchdown pass to Tee Higgins against the Rams, then controversially being ruled out of bounds on two third-and-1 runs in the Super Bowl, including a by Samaje Perine who set up the final, fateful play in the 23-20 loss.
On Friday, as the Bengals’ third training camp wrapped up, Mixon went through his daily routine of filling the entire time for autographs and photos with fans. He then paused and shared his time with a small group of reporters.
As has become the norm with the 26-year-old Pro Bowl player, he left an impression.
Here’s Mixon, in his own words, discussing the ticking clock on his career as he reaches his sixth season, what would make him walk away, his enthusiastic recruitment of La’el Collins, the 2,000 number being tossed around in camp , the special motivation of the Super Bowl and, oh yes, the third-and-1 he saw from the sideline.
What has been your reaction to going to the Super Bowl and not getting it done?
This is going to be the first and last time I ever talk about the Super Bowl. It happened last year, we got there, which was definitely a blessing. There are many vets who have never made it to the Super Bowl, and many take such things for granted. At the same time, yes, we left. But we are not satisfied because we did not come out with the big ring. At the same time, the best thing I can take forward from it is that we have been there before. We know how to get there and what it takes. At the end of the day, we just have to stay focused, continue to build our team chemistry and take care of business day by day, week by week.
You can’t know for sure until you see it, but how might the line and run blocking look different for you this year?
Obvious, gaping holes. I’ve been on how many teams, I’ve seen such gaping holes. At the same time, we’ll see and definitely look forward to our new three key additions, and we’ve seen the numbers I’ve posted before. I just hope to blow these numbers out of the water. At the end of the day, everybody has their own personal goals, but to be real, (mine is) to touch that Super Bowl again and finish the job and we get a ring.
How was free agency for you? Were you on the horn, in the mix?
Definitely. Especially with La’el, I was in the mix with my agent and told him I don’t care who calls, get him to Cincinnati. Any circumstance possible. We made it happen and added Alex Cappa and Ted Karras. The three were hell additions. I come out here just to hear your center and guard and tackles, hear the guys talk about getting me to 2,000 (rushing yards). That’s a great thing to hear. Whether I get it, whether I don’t, hearing those guys are very rock hard. Kill those careers with records and do special things, we have a special group. That’s a big thing for me. That’s exactly what we want to hear.
Do you think of 2000 or other numbers in your head?
My thing was just to get better every year. That is actually what has happened. I feel like I’m starting to scratch the surface. With the people we’ve added, the sky’s the limit. Big things to happen.
You are young. But you’re at the place where people start to wonder, when will the senior relapse hit him? Do you hear or think about it?
I don’t know if people realize this, but I turned 26 last week. I’m 26, this is year 6. A lot of the guys hitting year 6 are hitting 30 or 29. I’m three years behind that. At the end of the day, I know I’ve got at least four more prime years in me for where it’s going to be up here (holds hands over head). I’m not worried about any of that. I just come out here, take care of my job, do what I have to do, take care of my body for No. 1. So two, come out here and play and be the best teammate. I always have been. I always will be. When it stops is going to be the day I stop playing football, I’m telling you that now.
Much was made after the Super Bowl that you weren’t around during the end of the game. How did you process it, and should you have been on the field?
At the end of the day, whoever is out there, I have no doubt they should make the play. Coach got caught running two minutes and through the playoffs he got me in two minutes. It was a thing that was caught in the moment. I should really have taken the initiative myself and just thought “Hey, I’m coming in”. It was the heat of the moment. Third down, third-and-1, obviously I want to run in, but when we’re going to be down, we’ve got to hustle and keep going. It sucks. Of course I know I would have been able to help and do anything to get that 1 farm, but that’s over, that’s last year and we’re in 2022. We’re trying to do everything we can to to repeat and come back at once in the same situation. And when we’re in that situation, you know for sure I want to be in.
(Top photo: Katie Stratman / USA Today)