The fifth-year player, who signed his franchise tender on Tuesday, said he’s viewing the upcoming 2022 season as a chance to again showcase his talents ahead of a potential payday.
“It’s a great opportunity to continue to present what I’m about, who I am to this franchise and other teams as well,” Bates said on Wednesday. “Like I said, I’m looking at this as an opportunity to prove that I’m one of the best safeties in this league.”
The former Wake Forest standout held his first news conference since he rejoined the team this week. Bates did not participate in the team’s offseason workouts or the majority of training camp after the Bengals and Bates failed to come to terms on a long-term contract.
Last season, the 25-year-old was voted a team captain and had two interceptions in the postseason, including one in the Super Bowl LVI loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Bates said he had a lot of thoughts on the right time to return. He opted to come back a week before camp officially ended and right as the team prepares for two joint practices against the Rams.
He is currently on the commissioner’s exempt list. The team has up to two weeks to use that roster exemption but can fully activate him at any time. Bates said he will participate in individual drills but not team drills at Wednesday’s practice.
Bates is set to earn $12.9 million on this year’s franchise tender, which is a one-year contract. Bates and the Bengals cannot engage in contract discussions until this year is over.
Cincinnati drafted former Michigan safety Dax Hill in the first round of this year’s draft. Hill has been the team’s starting free safety in Bates’ absence and had an interception in the team’s preseason game against the New York Giants on Sunday.
Bates said Wednesday he understood the business component of the NFL.
“I was drafted here in the second round, and they had two starters here as well,” Bates said. “It’s a cycle, man. It’s part of the league. It’s the uncomfortable conversations, like I said, that a lot of people avoid.
“I’m here. I know what I’m about.”