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Rey Maualuga Beginning to See the Game Slow Down

June 7th, 2012 at 12:29 PM
By Chuck Chapman

'LB Rey Maualuga' photo (c) 2011, Navin75 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Rey Maualuga was thrown into the fire last season. With the NFL lockout prohibiting OTAs, teams hit training camp cold without any off season workouts or preparation. For Maualuga, who was transitioning from outside linebacker to the middle, it made for a steep learning curve.

Most thought that Maualuga would thrive being moved back inside where he was a consensus All-American at USC. Playing linebacker in the NFL, however, is not the same as playing it in college. Maualuga struggled getting the hang of his new assignments and it showed in 2011. Maualuga told Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson that his first real off season working at MLB was speeding up his development, especially as a leader on the defensive side:

 

"My mindset is I can't call the play and try to get everybody lined up and at the same time get back in the huddle tell everybody to run to the football and be that leader everybody wants because I've got a lot of things floating around in my head," Maualuga said. "I was still trying to adapt too. At the same time I was trying to second-guess myself and I couldn't try to do two things at once. Now I feel a lot more comfortable; hopefully that side of me will come out sooner rather than later."
An ankle injury suffered in an October practice also derailed Maualuga's development. He freely admits he never fully recovered and that the injury caused him to play too tentatively.
 
"I felt like I was playing scared, or playing worried. At times you saw where I was getting cut-blocked, so every time someone would get low I would just give out and was just protecting my ankle first," he said. "I was playing wrong football, as far as I didn’t want to reinjure my ankle and be done with the season. At times I felt like I was playing selfish. They could have put someone out there that could have done more than I could have. Just going out there and letting the coach know that I was fine when really I was not. I wasn’t playing to my potential due to the fear of reinjuring my ankle."
 
Maualuga is also facing the pressure of having a rookie behind him. The Bengals signed Vontaze Burfict as an undrafted free agent, partially as insurance against losing Maualuga, who is in the final year of his contract and may still be facing a suspension for off the field problems. To Maualuga's credit, he's taken Burfict under his wing and helped mentor him in his adjustment to the NFL, something Maualuga says that Rashad Jeanty did for him when he was a rookie.
 
Although Maualuga's charge for an alleged assault last year has been dropped in lieu of mediation, he still hasn't heard any definitive word from the NFL about his status for 2012. 
 
This season is a pivotal one for Rey Maualuga. In a contract year with a talented rookie breathing down his neck, he must make due on the promise he showed when the Bengals drafted him. It would appear he's motivated and ready to take on that task.
Tags: Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Football, NFL, Rey Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict

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