CINCINNATI (AP) — Zac Taylor got up early Tuesday and headed to Paul Brown Stadium for his first meeting with his new team, one that was watching closely to see how the 35-year-old coach would handle himself.
At precisely 8 a.m., he stepped into the meeting room, which had been full of chatter but quickly went silent.
"It felt like game day, to be honest," Taylor said.
The Cincinnati Bengals gathered for the first time under Taylor on Tuesday, the start of voluntary offseason workouts. They got a feel for how the new coach will operate, received new playbooks, and officially started a different phase in franchise history.
"Like the first day of school, man," receiver A.J. Green said.
After 16 seasons of failing to get a playoff win under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals joined the NFL's youth movement by hiring Taylor, who has brought aboard a youthful coaching staff. They've balanced that by essentially keeping their roster intact coming off a 6-10 season that left them last in the AFC North and led to Lewis' firing.
Volatile linebacker Vontaze Burfict was released, but the Bengals have spent much of their salary cap room re-signing veterans who were unrestricted free agents.
For now, it's more about getting accustomed to this coaching staff, and yet again learning new systems on offense and defense.
"A lot of curiosity about how things are going to go," tight end Tyler Eifert said. "It's the unknown."
Although Taylor had met with players individually, Tuesday was the first time he could hand out playbooks and begin installing his systems. It'll be the third different system in three years for both the offense and defense, which presents a challenge. Players prefer to get comfortable in a system; it's been nonstop re-adapting in Cincinnati.
"I'm trying to get it as quickly as I can so I can learn it and get to the point in other systems I've been in," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "That's just where we're at right now."
Taylor is getting used to what it's like to be a head coach.
He walked onto the field at the stadium over the weekend, ruminating about what it will be like to coach there soon enough. The Bengals open their preseason with games at Kansas City and Washington before playing at home against the Giants and Colts.
"There's been a lot of work to do these last couple weeks, but now to finally get the players in the building, it's real," Taylor said. "I walked out on the field yesterday really for one of the first times. You look around the stadium and get a sense that this is coming at us, and I'm excited about it."
One of the biggest adjustments for Dalton and some others is working with a coaching staff that's roughly the same age.
"To be only a couple years younger than a lot of these guys — it's different," said Dalton, 31. "Our kids are all the same age. It's different, but I think it's also fun."