So, with a break in their offseason schedule, Cincinnati's core group of wide receivers spent Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas. They hung out in poolside cabanas, dined at a renowned steakhouse and caught a Lil Baby concert.
The outing, sandwiched between the Bengals’ voluntary workouts, highlighted a chemistry head coach Zac Taylor said has become a key dynamic for one of the NFL’s most prolific pass-catching units.
“We don’t just want to be around each other just because we all play receiver,” Boyd said. “At the end of the day, we look at each other like family.
“Bonding is the most important thing, because then you’ll get unselfish people around you. That’s always the beauty of it.”
The cohesion in Cincinnati’s locker room was cited by players and coaches as a major reason the Bengals won their first playoff game since January 1991, and nearly captured their first Super Bowl title before falling 23-20 to the Los Angeles Rams.
Team-building activities were previously restricted due to COVID-19 protocols, but as limitations have loosened, there are more opportunities to hang out away from Paul Brown Stadium.
When it came time to pick a destination, the group, which included Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and reserves Stanley Morgan and Mike Thomas -- opted for Las Vegas, with the extravagant day parties being one of the deciding factors, according to Boyd.
“You just have to have your s--- set up,” Boyd said. “You can’t just go to Vegas just thinking you’re going to party and just get a nice table.”
Typically, Boyd -- a frequent Vegas visitor -- said there will be some team-themed regalia provided when he reserves a table. This trip featured cardboard cutouts of each of the players.
Morgan said the reception around town following the Super Bowl appearance was different than previous visits, especially for the starting trio of Chase, Higgins and Boyd.
“It was nice just to see those guys get treated the way they’re supposed to get treated,” Morgan said.
The group commanded special attention on the field, as well. Chase, who finished the season as the Associated Press Rookie of the Year, had a whirlwind start to 2021, racking up 754 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his first seven games. When opposing teams started to defend him more aggressively, it opened the door for Higgins to get more targets.
Chase and Higgins were one of three receiving duos in the NFL to each have more than 1,000 yards last season. Boyd, a veteran who had been Cincinnati’s top receiving option in 2019, finished the year with 828 yards.
The production from all of the team’s receivers was instrumental in the team’s success last season, which included a wild-card win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
“I don't think [the importance of cohesion] can be overstated,” Taylor said. “The chemistry in that room is very important to how they play.”
After the Vegas day party, the meal and the concert, the Bengals receivers were back in Cincinnati with ample time to spare before Tuesday’s voluntary workout. Then, with the exception of Higgins, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, they all got back to work, preparing to defend their status as AFC champions.
“You gotta get away from football sometimes and just have fun and enjoy being around your friends, for sure,” Morgan said. “Then come back and lock in.
“Because you know we’re about to have another long season again.”