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DE Sam Hubbard credits Bengals' winning culture to Joe Burrow: A guy like him 'inspires the whole team'

Cincinnati has undergone a speedy turnaround in the last two years, a change that appears to have plenty of staying power.

Defensive end Sam Hubbard, a fan of the long-beleaguered Bengals before he became one in the 2018 NFL Draft, traces the beginnings of Cincy's newfound winning culture to its quarterback, Joe Burrow.

"I think it goes back a long way," Hubbard said Monday on NFL Total Access when asked where the team's vibe began to change. "We struggled in Cincinnati for many years. I grew up a Cincinnati fan, and I'm one of the longest-tenured Bengals nowadays. But it all starts with our quarterback. We got a great quarterback that we believe in in Joe Burrow. Having a guy like that that you can always play hard for and you always know you're in every game, it inspires the whole team.

"Our coaching staff and front office has done a good job just collecting guys that fit our culture. Self-motivated guys that want to win and have experience winning. And it all just kind of builds on each other. And it's up to us as players to keep that standard rolling."

As a premier player at the game's most important position, Burrow makes sense as the catalyst for the Bengals ascent to the top of AFC contenders.

The QB has gone 22-10 in his last two regular seasons following a rookie year that ended with an ACL tear. He has authored a trip to the Super Bowl and another that ended just short, in the AFC Championship Game -- both farther than any Bengals team had gone since 1988.

But Hubbard has himself shown how the club's winning ways can be attributed to a collective of determined players, such as when the local Cincinnati kid made a statement on the national stage, scoring a 98-yard defensive touchdown to unknot a tied wild-card game and help down the rival Ravens last January.

It was a potentially season-saving play in the fourth quarter of a game where Burrow and the offense had failed to find separation -- a highlight that displayed the strides the Bengals defense has made to keep better pace with the team's surging offense.

Headed by defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, the unit ranked sixth in scoring last season, which was its best showing since 2016 and the fourth consecutive year of improvement under Anarumo.

Hubbard has played all but his rookie year under the DC, and he made sure to sing his praises, as well.

"Lou's amazing," he said. "I love playing for him. This is my fifth year with Lou, so we really know each other well. I know what he's thinking, what he's trying to accomplish on certain play calls. … He's a player's coach. We're the ones on the field, and playing for a guy like that makes you want to play even harder. I got a lot of respect and I love playing for Lou."

If all the good vibes lead to a fifth straight year of improvement as it pertains to scoring defense, the Bengals will attack 2023 able to claw their way to another Super Bowl berth using either side of the ball.

That journey begins next week, when the team's rookies report to training camp on July 22, and the veterans join them July 25.

"The anticipation is growing, and the excitement is growing," Hubbard said. "We're ready to roll."

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