How a steak dinner turned a recruiting journey right into a feast for Bengals – Cincinnati Bengals Weblog
CINCINNATI – On Thursday evening around 7:30 p.m., several new and current members of the Cincinnati Bengals sat down for dinner to seal the next key piece in the future of the franchise.
They were spread over three tables – one downstairs and two upstairs – in Jeff Ruby’s The Precinct, a staple of Cincinnati’s food scene. Among those at the table below were three notable people – quarterback Joe Burrow, trainer Zac Taylor, and Riley Reiff, who was on a recruiting visit.
Reiff sat down, had a steak, and got Ruby himself a cigar to celebrate a possible deal. When the group left a few hours later, Reiff’s decision was sealed. He officially signed a one-year contract Friday morning that includes $ 5.5 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.
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The recruiting dinner was also a celebration for the Bengals as they wrapped up a great free hand week. Other signers among those at dinner – defensive end Trey Hendrickson, cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie, and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi.
Reiff was the one who was being courted. And after a steak and a night with Burrow, he agreed to become his real appliance.
“I said goodbye to eating that steak and thought, ‘I want to block for this guy,'” Reiff said on Friday.
The Precinct or other Jeff Ruby location are common places for teams or companies looking to close a deal. Ruby was familiar with the Bengals and Burrow. The young quarterback has a steak named after him on the menu. A portion of the proceeds will go to his charity in his home region of southwest Ohio.
For Taylor, the dinner felt like an official visit from his time coaching college football at Texas A&M or the University of Cincinnati. The third year coach was impressed by how concerned these players are with the team’s success, which is an important consideration given the Bengals’ six wins in the past two years.
After a busy first week of freelance agency work, Joe Burrow and the Bengals are hoping that better days are ahead in 2021. Ian Johnson / Icon Sportswire
“Just a really fun group,” said Taylor. “The mood is huge. You are all we want to talk about and I’m really glad we made it work for all of these people.”
When Hendrickson, who signed a four-year $ 60 million deal, first met Burrow, he saw the team-minded mindset that Taylor was referring to. He was sitting upstairs at a table with his wife, Alisa, and they both ordered fillets with sautéed mushrooms. They talked to Hilton and his wife, Chassidy, and immediately felt a connection.
“It’s a different feeling on the first day to say we had conversations like we’ve known each other for five years, so it was really special,” said Hendrickson.
It wasn’t just Taylor and the new players. Defensive end Sam Hubbard, coordinators Brian Callahan and Lou Anarumo and assistant Mark Duffner were also there.
The Bengals hope the team chemistry can lead to victories. Cincinnati ended the NFL with the worst record in 2019, improving to 4-11-1 in 2020, but were the only team in AFC North not to make the playoffs.
The franchise believes Burrow is key to getting Cincinnati off the division’s doormat to its first playoff spot since 2015.
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Hilton, who ordered a ribeye steak, said he got a feel for who Burrow was in the locker room at dinner.
“He has an aura about himself,” said Hilton. “He’s a young man, but he commands the room. He takes pride in being the leader of the team and just hugs the room.”
After Ruby greeted the tables and told a few stories, he took his dinner and found an open table top in the bar area. When he left around 8:30 pm, the dinner party was enjoying the food and company.
Ruby offered Reiff a cigar for him and Taylor to celebrate a potential deal with the Bengals. Ruby also promised Reiff a box of his hand-rolled Dominican Republic cigars if he signed.
A trainer stopped Reiff and told him he had no intention of letting Reiff leave Cincinnati until he signed the deal.
It turned out that such measures were not necessary. All it took was an evening with his future teammates, a solid evening and a quality steak.
“Good food is a way to get to a man’s heart and brain,” said Ruby.