Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins is described by his peers as dominating with a non-stop motor, which he rarely puts in park. The two-time Pro Bowl performer marvels with his play on the field, but his work ethic and offseason regime could be a harbinger of greatness.
Atkins traveled home to Georgia and Florida shortly after the 2012 season ended in January. He returned to Cincinnati in March to begin his offseason training in order to keep ahead of the Joneses. Since then he has been working with Clif Marshall, Performance Director at Ignition in Mason, in preparation for the season.
"Training is very important if I want to maintain a high level of play,” Atkins said during a one-on-one interview at Ignition recently. “Clif puts you through an intense workout that is not for everyone. In preparation for the training, you have to make sure you get eight hours of sleep and eat right. You have to come in with your mind right because Clif is going to bring it. He’s basically going to try and kill your body.”
Atkins said Marshall does a great job incorporating speed, power, endurance and agility drills in a workout that translates to the playing field. He displayed some of that power at the end of his workout, bench-pressing 465 pounds with relative ease.
“What you need to know about Geno is when I look at my attendance sheet over the past three years his name is at the top,” Marshall said. “He’s been here more than any other NFL player we have in the program. Geno is consistent and has a blue-collar approach every day he comes in to work out.
“More importantly, I think the transition and the way he uses the strength and power of training on the football field is what’s most impressive to me.”
Marshall quoted a scripture from the Bible to sum up Atkins as a person. Proverbs 14:23: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
The University of Georgia product has quickly emerged as one of the elite defensive tackles in the league. The 6-foot-1, 303-pound Atkins recorded 53 tackles last season and dropped quarterbacks like the barometric pressure with 12.5 sacks. A beast of a man in the trench, he is humble and takes great pride in leading by example.
However, his greatest fear is being outworked by an opponent.
“It’s always on my mind that there is someone out there trying to get better than me,” Atkins said. “That’s why I put in the extra work during the offseason. Not only that, I’m trying to be a leader on the team. The younger guys are looking up to me, and when they see me working hard that’s going to trickle down to them.”
Atkins, 25, is entering his fourth year in the league and his game is evolving. He attributes good coaching and playing smash-mouth football against stiff competition for his development.
“I think the talent in the AFC North has made me a better player due to the physical nature of the division,” he said. “I play the run and pass better than I did early on. I’m working on my fundamentals with the help of coach (Jay) Hayes, who is helping develop me into a great player, as well as playing in coach (Mike) Zimmer’s defense.
“If you listen and follow what Zim says, he’s going to put you in position to make plays. Don’t do anything extra or try to go out there and do your own thing. Just follow what he says and you’re going to make plays. I love him.”
Cincinnati is stacked like a plate of flapjacks on the defensive line and expects to live up to the hype without crumbling. On paper, the Bengals are legitimate contenders to win their division and advance in the playoffs.
Atkins insists nothing will faze the team -- not even the cameras of HBO’s Hard Knocks series.
“I think we proved that you don’t have to be flashy or run your mouth,” he said. “You let your play do the talking for you. It will be business as usual. You can see in our locker room that we don’t have any ‘me’ guys. It’s all about team first and getting better together. I feel that we’re on the rise and have all the tools on offense and defense. I think we’re ready to roll.”