Carl Lawson out of Auburn had a great rookie season for the Cincinnati Bengals, managing to record eight and a half sacks in 2017 while working on a limited basis largely as a pass-rushing specialist. That promising beginning left big expectations for his future, which were marred by the fact that he tore his ACL in the middle of his second season a year ago.
The young edge defender is back and ready to resume his career, however, looking to solidify himself as a dominant pass rusher in which the Bengals hope is an improved defense all around, also working with the likes of Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard, and Jordan Willis.
Lawson spoke to reporters about his recovery from the ACL injury that he suffered in October. Now about nine months out from that incident, he is back on the field and working for the Bengals in practice, even making plays in the backfield, including a tackle on Joe Mixon.
“When I tore my ACL, yeah, the process sucks, but unless you really take a limb from me, I know how to recover. I know how to prep my body”, he said to reporters. I think that sort of demeanor tells everything you need to know, and he naturally went on to talk about his love for the game and the resources he has in his role in the NFL to recuperate his body.
“There was never really a question of getting back to myself. The goal was to be better than before, and that’s the main goal coming off of this”, Lawson continued. “I never once thought, ‘oh, I’m not gonna be back to myself’. The goal was to try redeem myself from last season, a bad season, bad defense we had, and just coming back better”.
Cincinnati could certainly use a spark off the bench from Lawson. As a team, they only recorded 34 sacks in 2018, or three fewer than they gave up as an offense. Geno Atkins led the team with 10 sacks, the only defender to make the Pro Bowl, while Dunlap added eight, and the rookie Hubbard had six of his own. Nobody else had even two sacks except for defensive tackle Andrew Billings with two and a half.
Interestingly enough, Lawson, Hubbard, and Billings are all players that Pittsburgh Steelers fans liked a lot for their team in the years that they were coming out of the draft, in each of the past three years—Billings in 2016, Lawson in 2017, and Hubbard in 2018. Naturally, the Bengals got all of them.
As for Lawson, he went on to call the injury a bit of a “blessing in disguise”, as it gave him an additional opportunity to work on and evaluate his game. He also concentrated on his flexibility as an edge rusher, citing ankle and hip flexion, quad strength, and spatial awareness as areas of emphasis.
The first crack he’ll have at the Steelers’ line will be in Week Four at Heinz Field. He has two career tackles in three games against Pittsburgh.
.@carllawson55 is coming back from an ACL injury, but the goal was never to just return to the field…
“The goal was to try and redeem myself from last season… and come back better.” pic.twitter.com/BDDNJJISsb
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 4, 2019