"What day is it?" Jones yelled.
"August 11," somebody said.
"It's August 11, and we're still talking about something that happened in January?" Jones said.
Yes, of course. That's because the last time the Bengals suited up for a game they lost a playoff game to the Pittsburgh Steelers last January in one of the great meltdowns of all-time.
It was the fifth consecutive season where the Bengals made the playoffs and lost in their first game, but that one was so much different.
That was a reputation game -- at least in the eyes of many. It was the kind of stinging loss that is hard to shake, compounded by how the Bengals became unglued in the end.
The Bengals were immediately labeled out of control as they fumbled away a chance to advance to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs in the final two minutes, only to see Jeremy Hill lose a fumble as they tried to eat up the clock. They then saw Ben Roethlisberger move the Steelers into field goal range to win it in the closing seconds.
That drive was aided by a personal-foul penalty on volatile linebacker Vontaze Burfict, which was followed on the same play with Jones getting an additional 15 yards for mixing it up with Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter, who was inexplicably on the field.
Sprinkle in players dancing up the tunnel during the game to celebrate Burfict's late-game pick and a sideline dance by Hill before the fumble and you can see why there is this idea that the Bengals are out of control.
So are they?
In that game, they were at times. But so were the Steelers and the officials didn't exactly have their best day either.
Even so, the reputation now follows the Bengals as the ready for the 2016 season.
You've heard it all. So have they, even if they won't admit it.
I asked Bengals coach Marvin Lewis if he paid any attention to that type of talk, and he had a one-word answer.
"No," Lewis said. Then he added, "And it doesn't matter. You don't win, and you're the victim of everything. You can't worry about that. We've moved on."
Lewis did make a point of asking if the Bengals were out of control when they rallied from behind in the fourth quarter with a backup quarterback. Good point.
"We know how to hit the reset button," Bengals receiver A.J. Green said.
Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth has seen a lot in his 11 years in the league, all with the Bengals, but that was a game that stung him to his core.
"We had it won," said Whitworth, the longest-tenured Bengals player. "You make unbelievable plays to win it, and then you give back. That hurt."
Jones, who was at the center of the storm, said he didn't care what anybody said about him or the team. He said he wouldn't change the way he plays, although he was apologetic about the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he got to give the Steelers a point-blank field goal to win it.
"Let them say what they want to say," Jones said "Half the (expletive) they say isn't right. We know we're a good football team and we play in-between the lines. The film doesn't lie. They (media) have nothing else to talk about. What do you have to do to sell papers? The bad-boy Bengals. I am just going to play the way I play regardless what anybody says within the rules of the game. What I did in the playoffs was unfortunate. I take all responsibility. At same time, he (Porter) shouldn't have been on the field. I don't get into reading all that (expletive). Frankly, I don't give a (expletive) what they say."
That's pretty much the feeling you get in the locker room now. That was then, this is now.
Learn from it.
And I really do think they will. Lewis overhauled his coaching staff, adding six new coaches and the word is the ship is a lot tighter. Linebacker coach Jim Haslett has been a head coach, while quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor and secondary coach Kevin Coyle have both been coordinators.
Truth is, the Bengals might have pushed for a Super Bowl last year if Andy Dalton didn't break his thumb in Week 13 against the Steelers. Crazy? Don't forget they went to Denver and led the Super Bowl champs at the half with a backup quarterback in Week 16 only to lose in overtime. I think it was the best of the Cincinnati teams that made the playoffs the past five years.
"We had a good team," Green said. "But we can't start where we left off."
They do have some holes to fill. They lost their No. 2 and No. 3 receivers behind Green, which leaves questions at those spots. But Lewis thinks they are good enough there.
Oh, and Dalton's healthy, and he had his best season before he went down.
On defense, they return basically the same unit from a year ago. That's a good thing since they were loaded with talent.
"Yeah, but we have to earn our way back, and that's a heck of a journey," Whitworth said.
They do so trying to shed a label -- warranted or not.
"In some ways, as horrid as that ending was, the reality is we did find whatever it was to get back into the game and take the lead," Whitworth said. "To put ourselves in that position says something. Without the fluke stuff happening, who knows? But that's last year."
Yeah, like Jones said, this is now early August. Turn the page, please.
More notes from Bengals camp
- With both Mohamed Sanu (Atlanta) and Marvin Jones (Detroit) lost to free agency, the Bengals will use the summer to find weapons to go with Green. It's been Boyd, the team's second-round pick, who has impressed. "He had two good days of work against the Vikings," Green said. Boyd will play mostly in the slot with veteran Brandon LaFell the likely starter outside with Green. LaFell has had a good camp. But if you're looking for a potential No. 2, go with Boyd. The kid is smooth.
- One of the great dynamics of the season will be how Haslett handles Burfict. Haslett, who was the head coach of both the Saints and the Rams, is a fiery coach who won't take crap from anybody. Burfict is the Bengals wild child, but the word is the relationship has been a good one so far.
- Second-year player Cedric Ogbuehi takes over as the starting right tackle for Andre Smith, who left in free agency. Ogbuehi impressed in his limited time last season for the Bengals and the staff is excited about him. He will eventually move to left tackle, but with Whitworth there now he will be a good right tackle this season. The center spot with Russell Bodine remains a position of concern. With Whitworth sitting out the work against the Vikings, the Cincinnati line had some trouble with penetration from the Vikings down players.
- Another player who the team is excited to see is safety Shawn Williams, who steps in as the starter for Reggie Nelson, who is now in Oakland. Nelson was a big part of their defense with his range, and it will be interesting to see if Williams can match that ability in coverage. He had four starts last year and had two picks.