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“Last year, I was just a person that was following the crowd, just listening,” Maualuga said. “Now I feel my presence and the way to speak to the guys will help one or two people. I’m just trying to be that leader and no matter how it works out, when the season starts I’m trying to be that captain. That’s my goal.

“When it’s third-and-short, I want everybody to look in my eyes and feel confidence knowing I can call a play, line everybody up and make that play.”

Peko thinks it’s especially important for the Bengals to get together and clear out the cobwebs from their 4-12 season.

“When you have such a bad season like last year, people start pointing fingers and stuff,” Peko said. “I think the only way to get away from that is to go back to the basics, get better, look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘How can I get better?’”

A coach couldn’t have put it better.