breaking news

Multiple crashes on area highways causing severe backups

College diploma in hand, Billings determined to ‘get everything right’ in Year 3 with Bengals

The decision to forego his senior year of college haunted Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Andrew Billings his entire rookie season as he sat on injured reserve.

Twenty-eight months after the Bengals selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, he finally walked across the stage to receive his undergraduate degree at Baylor University on Saturday.

»RELATED: Bengals sign defensive tackle

Billings can now say for sure he has no regrets, and with school now behind him, he’s gearing up for a big year on the field as well. The 23-year-old nose tackle said he is feeling back to his old self for the first time since tearing his meniscus during a practice before the preseason opener in August 2016.

“Leaving early was a battle: ‘Was it the right decision? Should I have stayed?’” Billings said Monday before practice at Paul Brown Stadium. “But looking back at it, I’m glad I made the decision because I still got everything taken care of, and it meant a lot for me to finish. It just sucked sitting out that whole first year, not having anything to do even though I just made a big step in my life. It hurt but I was just focused on getting back.”

»RELATED: Nothing settled on Bengals O-Line after preseason opener

Billings, who majored in communications and minored in business, returned to the field last year in time to make his debut in the season opener against Baltimore, and he was getting regular snaps at nose tackle by Game 8.

However, it wasn’t until the end of the season that he really started feeling physically back to normal, and he still couldn’t say the same for his mental approach to the game until now. He played in 15 games, for 29.4 percent of all defensive snaps, and finished with 13 tackles.

“I feel a lot different mentally and physically,” Billings said. “Physically, it’s just a process. You’ve still got to make sure everything is right, I’m still rehabbing. My muscles still aren’t the same as my good leg, so I’m still trying to get that back, but I’m feeling way better. Mentally I’m feeling 100 percent. At the end of last season I was still a little worried about it.”

»RELATED: Driskel flashes with arm, eyes more than feet in Bengals comeback

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he sees a difference in Billings from a year ago. Billings has “had a good camp,” Lewis said, and this preseason is important for him in terms of his development, as he is now two years removed from the injury.

“They really believe the player needs 15 to 18 months to get back (from knee surgery),” Lewis said last week. “… In Andrew’s case you have a young player who never really got to play and got hurt and missed time. The injury he had affects the ability to push on big people as big people push back on you. You need the leg strength and balance. The only way to gain that again is by doing it. Nick Cosgray (Director of Rehabilitation) out there pushing on him isn’t going to help much. He’s got to do it all the time. It’s good he perked up through the end of last year and he’s come here into camp and done it.”

»RELATED: Takeaways from Bengals preseason win over Bears

Billings said that although he is still building strength in his knee and the muscles surrounding it, the mental part of the recovery process was the most difficult.

He looks forward to playing this season without doubts about his ability creeping back into his mind.

“The hardest thing is just not worrying about it, not trying to baby it around and really just moving your feet,” he said. “That’s how you get injured in the first place not moving your feet.

“Physically, the weight is what you’re worried about, too much weight on there. For a running back, it’s probably more about cutting, but I’m not running full speed so I think maybe in that sense it’s a little easier. I’m just pushing some guys. I can squat with a knee injury but running, I don’t know.”

Billings no longer squats as much as he used to. Instead, he focuses on less power and more reps, which was a big adjustment. The Waco, Texas, native had been dubbed as “college football’s strongest player,” by in early 2016, which made him a widely touted prospect before he surprisingly slipped until Day 3 of the draft.

Draft analysts considered him a steal for Cincinnati and he’s out to prove them right. Sitting out his first year put him behind, but Billings is ready to “get everything right” this season.

“I lost a year of experience, a year of practice experience, a year of playing experience, but I try not to focus on being behind,” he said. “I’m just working to catch up. I wish it never happened, but it is what it is.

“I’m working on my technique every day, so now it’s more my hands that I’m focused on than my knees really at this point. I’m ready to get my grind on and help the defense. I want everyone to see me on the other side of the line of scrimmage. That’s where I want them to see me at all times.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

HS Roundup 9/25: Area teams, golfers compete in D-III sectionals

Division III boys golf began sectional play on Tuesday, with several area teams and individuals making the cut. Middletown Christian and Cedarville each qualified from the Walden Ponds tournament. Evan Green shot an 86 for MC and Adam Wood led Cedarville with an 84. Austin Whitton of Cin. Christian and Amay Kejriwal and Alec Martin of Miami Valley...
HS Scores 9/25: Northmont golf wins FireBolt Cup

Boys Soccer Tuesday’s Results Alter 2, McNicholas 2 Beavercreek 3, Wayne 0 Bellbrook 2, Oakwood 0 Carroll 9, Badin 0 Dixie 4, Madison 2 Eaton 2, Valley View 2 Fairborn 3, West Carrollton 1 Fairmont 2, Springfield 0 Greenon 3, Stebbins 1 Northmont 3, Lebanon 0 Oak Hills 1, Middletown 0 Sidney 3, Piqua 1 Springboro 2, Miamisburg 1 Tippecanoe 8...
Dwayne Haskins excited for opportunity to compete ‘blow for blow’ with Penn State’s McSorley
Dwayne Haskins excited for opportunity to compete ‘blow for blow’ with Penn State’s McSorley

Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson had the quote of the night Tuesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Asked about the play of quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who has won the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award twice in his first four career starts, Wilson said, “He’s very accurate. If he went to the county fair, he’d win a...
Wittenberg’s new athletic facility, opening in 2019, has a catchy name
Wittenberg’s new athletic facility, opening in 2019, has a catchy name

The new $40 million indoor athletic facility rising on the campus of Wittenberg University will be known simply as  “The Steemer,” Wittenberg Athletic Director Gary Williams said Tuesday. “It’s just the Steemer,” Williams said. “That’s what Wes wanted to call it. It’s kind of catch.” Wes...
Hal McCoy: Barry Larkin turns down interview for Cincinnati Reds manager post
Hal McCoy: Barry Larkin turns down interview for Cincinnati Reds manager post

For those hoping and wishing and praying that Barry Larkin will be the next manager of the Cincinnati Reds, well, your hopes, wishes and prayers won’t be answered. Larkin doesn’t want it. Not at this time. Maybe down the road, but not now. This startling information comes from President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams, who indicated...
More Stories