Originally written on WhoDeyFans  |  Last updated 7/25/12

The Red Rifle is the definition of professional.

We’ve got approximately 48 hours until training camp starts for our beloved Bengals. I don’t know how you all feel, but this has been the longest off season I can ever remember. Not only has this been an incredibly exhausting time off for all us fans, but I’m sure Roger Goodell is ready to get this season started. There have been 31 different arrests since the Giants won the Super Bowl. We’ve seen big names like Marshawn Lynch, Dez Bryant and even Adrian Peterson mentioned with legal issues these past few weeks.

Those 31 arrests have come from 21 different teams, but who is the one team without a single off season issue that somehow gets mentioned in every other story? The Cincinnati Bengals. There is no reason for me to bring up names and crimes from our own players, yet this doesn’t stop the media from comparing every incident to some moment in this teams ever-so bright history. We still have some of those players on this roster but has this team changed? Has this team grown? Are they finally professionals?

[If you have yet to see this post game speech by Marvin Lewis following a loss to the St. Louis Rams, please watch, but be warned there is a use of some...colorful language.]- Marvin Lewis Speech

“Reach down inside and be a f—ing pro!”

It’s hard to say that statement ever reached that team. 2009 was a great year for the Bengals, but the issues were just swept under the rug only to re-emerge in 2010. Marvin Lewis never had that professional team for most of his time here because most of his time here was never about the team. It was about a handful of players that are no longer here.

My question is this, what do you, as a fan, expect of this team for 2012? Not as far as wins or losses but as far as how they grow and mature into the veterans who will grasp that illustrious Lombardi Trophy. There is a perceived change of ways around the organization with not only bringing in “professional” players but more competence in the running of the front office and coaching. There is a higher regard to a players character (although there are still instances of possible issues) but the team is also focusing on players who play as a team to win and not as a player looking for a TD just to showboat. There are a million reasons to be excited for this upcoming season, but the one aspect I can’t wait to see is how this team handles the success of last year mixed with the pressure of topping that previous success this upcoming season. Will they be the professionals Marvin has longed for or will they take their ball home?

Last year was the opening introduction into what can be a long and exciting story for this new professional team of Bengals. As the plot begins to rise we can only hope they thrive as a unified team and take the necessary steps forward. I can’t help but recall one of my favorite quotes from Lost, “If we don’t live together, we’ll die alone.” Which one will it be? Win as a team or lose as an individual?

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