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Cincinnati Bengals' Jessie Bates chasing ‘old self’ to close out contract year on a high note

Jessie Bates III knows precisely what he needs to do in the second half of the Cincinnati Bengals’ season to play like one of the best safeties in the NFL.

And it’s a much simpler process for him than it would be for most players in his position.

“Be the old Jessie Bates,” the 24-year-old All-Pro safety told PFF in an interview this week.

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Bates was astonishingly and refreshingly honest while explaining to local reporters earlier this week why he hasn’t been as productive this season as he has been in recent years. The looming uncertainty over his contract was weighing on his mind and affecting his play over the first nine weeks. He was pressing too much, and he found it to be a difficult conversation to approach with teammates because everyone’s situation is different. 

Jessie Bates' snap counts and overall grades by year
Season Total Defensive Snaps Overall Grade Rank Among Safeties
2018 1114 79.9 15 of 163
2019 1059 61.2 106 of 168
2020 1050 90.1 1 of 172
2021 538 55.6 115 of 151

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Bates and the Bengals couldn’t reach an agreement on a contract extension this summer, so he came into the season knowing contract talks likely wouldn’t resume until after the season. Bates said in September that he planned to play “pissed off” this year. One of Bates’ secondary-mates, slot cornerback Mike Hilton, was openly petitioning the Bengals to “extend Jessie Bates” as he closed a media scrum in October.

Now, as the Bengals have reached the bye week with a surprising 5-4 record, Bates did a little self-reflection with some time off, and his comments earlier this week might have been blown out of proportion. Maybe he was a little too forthright.

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