Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had some sharp words for LB Rey Maualuga in an interview with Bengals.com last week that was largely focused on the club's slumping defense.
Among Zimmer's thoughts on his starting strongside linebacker:
"He sure has to play a hell of a lot better than he did this year because he was extremely average."He's undisciplined. Half of our whole defensive team is undisciplined."
Maualuga seems as if he's internalized the criticism and is ready to respond on the field.
"I need to start becoming a leader and the person I want to be and then everything will fall into place. I can't sit here and wait," Maualuga told the The Cincinnati Enquirer over the weekend. "It's my third year in and it's time to step it up, wake up and play. Things don't get handed to you, you have to grab it.
"Now is my time to step it up and prove people wrong. I can't be some random dude walking around the locker room anymore."
And he could be shouldering a more important role in 2011 if he takes over in the middle for free agent Dhani Jones. Maualuga has averaged 69 tackles, one sack and one INT in his first two seasons.
"I think this organization expected a lot out of me when I first stepped foot in this place," Maualuga said. "Then again I expected a lot out of myself as well. It's like you ask the fan sitting out in the stands what stood out from Rey this year and I'm sure people won't say as much. They will say I made a play here or there. I'm not satisfied with how I performed."