CINCINNATI — Mike Daniels was all smiles during his first news conference as a member of the Bengals. He was upbeat and energetic for the entire 21-minute Zoom meeting with reporters.
“I feel refreshed, I feel so happy, I’m just so thankful, almost overwhelmed really for this opportunity,” Daniels said. “Just the amount of love that I’ve been given by the coaches. Geno (Atkins) actually reached out to me and said, ‘I really look forward to us potentially playing next to each other.’ So, I really, really, had some good meetings with coach (Nick) Eason over Zoom learning, looking through everything. I was just really looking forward to this opportunity.”
Daniels is a former Pro Bowler that has dealt with injuries in each of the past two seasons. He’s missed 13 games over the past two years with injuries. He appeared in just nine games for Detroit in 2019.
“I haven’t stop training since the season ended last year,” Daniels said. “When the quarantine hit, like I said, I built a gym in my house and I haven’t stopped training since. I haven’t stopped training at all. I feel like I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been going into a season.”
The Bengals reportedly signed Daniels to a one-year deal that could be worth up to $2.7 million. He could be a steal at this stage of the offseason if he can get back to his old self.
Daniels says his body feels better now than it did prior to the 2017 season when he finished with 49 tackles, five sacks and a Pro Bowl appearance
He had other options in free agency, but the chance to play with Geno Atkins, D.J. Reader and the rest of the talent that the Bengals have on their defensive line was too good to pass on.
I say it’s everything,” Daniels said when asked why he chose Cincinnati. “I see the opportunity to play next to a really good player who I have admired my entire career in Geno Atkins. That definitely played a big part of it as well. To be able to play with another pro. A guy who handles his business the right way, does things the right way. I know he’s had a lot of success with Carlos (Dunlap), they got drafted together. Looking forward having a guy like that coming off the edge as well. Mentioned Carl Lawson, I watched with my own two eyes him get three sacks against us in Lambeau [Field]. I always admired the Bengals. I remember we came here in 2013 and despite our efforts on defense, we had four turnovers and a touchdown we still lost the game because they were a tough, hard-nosed defense.”
Daniels built a workout area at his house in Michigan at the start of quarantine. Then he had to break everything down and move it to his home in Wisconsin after he moved back following his one-year with the Lions. He admitted that he and his family had to adjust on the fly, but he was always focused on getting ready for the season.
“Gyms are closed, then (I’ll) build my own gym,” Daniels said. “If trainers are unavailable, then I’ll find my own. We can’t go running anywhere inside the building, (then) I’m going to go running at the local park with my sled. I’m going to do squats in my basement. I’m going to get the work. I’m going to find a way to get the work. There’s just no excuses. Quarantine, no quarantine, you gotta find a way to get the work done. To say what I’m trying to say in a nutshell, I feel like I’m ready to go. I know I’m ready to go.”
The Bengals don’t need Daniels to be the man. They have multiple guys that can fill that role in Atkins and Reader. They need him to compliment their stars and be really good in specific situations that he’s thrived in throughout his career.
Daniels played 60 percent of the Packers’ snaps on defense in 2017. In a perfect world, he would play 30-35 percent of the Bengals’ defensive snaps this season.
He and his wife Heaven are expecting their fifth child. It’s just one more thing that motivated Daniels over the past few months.
“You’ve gotta be a pro. That’s kind of what I took pride in — working out in my own basement, my backyard, in my garage,” Daniels said. “I had my pregnant wife spotting me, things like that. Just really getting after it. Working it with my trainer, bringing him in town and working with him. You really have to take this process seriously. It was definitely a unique year but I feel like it gave me an opportunity to get in front of this thing. “
For more on the Bengals, including the latest training camp news, go here!