While his teammates were voluntarily sweating it out during OTA practices and his agent was trying to negotiate a new contract, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap spent the last few weeks surfing the black-sand beaches of Costa Rica, riding four-wheelers in the rain forest, buying a house in Miami, taking the speed train to Milan and touring Army and Air Force bases in Italy and Germany as part of the NFL-USO tour.
But Dunlap, who forfeited a $300,000 workout bonus by skipping OTAs, also was putting in work in Miami, training with Pete Bommarito with the goal of being in premier shape when reporting for this week’s mandatory minicamp.
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Coming off the field Tuesday morning after a walk-through, Dunlap saw a crowd of reporters waiting at his locker and feigned a U-turn before setting in for a 20-minute interview in which he said his contract situation was at the heart of his decision to skip the first eight weeks of OTAs.
“We’re obviously in negotiations, so that’s obvious,” he said. “That’s been stated by both teams, and we’re making great progress. I just wanted to make sure I was in the best shape for the season, which I feel like I am. And I just wanted to work one-on-one with my guys (in Miami) and make sure I was ready for when I need to be there.
“I mean, this is Year 9, and it’s voluntary,” Dunlap added. “There are no hard feelings between any of us. This is the process. Both sides understand it, and me personally, I just wanted to make sure I was in the best shape because obviously that’s going to tell all.”
The 29-year-old Dunlap is scheduled to make $7 million this season in the final year of the five-year, $39.4 million extension he signed prior to the start of 2013.
The 2010 second-round draft pick said he feels as though he has at least “a handful” of seasons left in him, and he wants to play all of them with the Bengals.
“Cincinnati gave me my first shot, so, I would love to be here and finish my career here because I feel like I’m working on a legacy,” Dunlap said. “I’ve done some great things up to this point. I have the career sack record and I have one stud behind me (Geno Atkins) and one young stud coming in afterwards (Carl Lawson). I’d like to extend that gap between me and the next person so that it’s something that lasts generations for my future kids.”
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Dunlap owns the Bengals single-season (9.5) and rookie (13.5) sack records, but his 64.5 career sacks are actually second in team history behind Eddie Edwards’ 83.5.
Atkins, who was in the same rookie class as Dunlap as a fourth-round pick in 2010, has 61.5 career sacks.
Dunlap and Atkins each signed contract extensions in 2013, six weeks apart. Dunlap signed July 15, while Atkins inked a five-year, $55 million deal Sept. 2.
The team is negotiating with both players to try to get new deals done before the start of the season. Dunlap said the talks are progressing and he doesn’t have a deadline for finalizing a new contract.
“Right now we’re making progress,” he said. “I just want to continue making progress so that we can get there and get what we want done, what’s best for both sides.”
While the process affected his attendance for voluntary workouts, he said it’s not something he views as a burden.
“The guys in the locker room don’t talk about it, and my agent only brings me positive news, so it’s not weighing on me,” Dunlap said. “I’ve got guys in place so that they take on the weight of the back and forth stuff. He just lets me know when we’re making progress or if we’re not making progress and we’ll let that handle itself.
“I’m just going to make sure I’m ready to play football,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, that will help push the needle whichever way it goes.”
Dunlap did say it bothered him that this decision to skip voluntary workouts, something that routinely happens across the league, led some to portray him in a negative light.
“All the comments and everything talking about the reasons for me not being here obviously hit home a little bit because they painted me to be a selfish guy, which was not my objective,” he said. “My goal was to make sure I was in the best shape for when football starts so that I can be there for my team for the long haul. And I feel like I’m there. I feel like I accomplished that. And I’m ready for whatever.”