"I felt as if the (wild-card loss to the Houston Texans) was sort of like, if I perform well they would want me. I don't know if they want me, but I do know I didn't perform well," Maualuga told Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer. "If I did well, good results will happen."
Maualuga was an instant hit with Bengals fans after being drafted in the second round in 2009, but his play -- mixed with some off-the-field nonsense -- has put him in the doghouse more than once. Coach Marvin Lewis called out the 25-year-old linebacker this season, asking him to play more of a leadership role.
Cincinnati's defense was sensational down the stretch, but Maualuga's play was scattershot. He led the Bengals with 10 tackles against Houston, but lost the one-on-one matchup with Texans tight end Owen Daniels.
ProFootballFocus.com points out that Maualuga ranked dead last among the 35 inside linebackers who played more than 50 percent of the time this season. Maualuga also tends to get caught up mentally on "external issues," per Reedy, instead of focusing on the task at hand.
Texans 19, Bengals 13Check out the best photos from the wild card matchup between the Bengals and Texans.
"He takes everything very hard, takes everything to heart, and sometimes that holds him back," defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said last Monday. "We were talking about it today. That was two days ago that we played the game. I said, 'You've got to let that go.' That's not doing him any good to harbor all those thoughts that he let this guy down or me down or the team down. Because he didn't."
Said Maualuga: "I really don't know if they want me back."
The Bengals aren't a poor fit for Maualuga. There's consistency with the coaching staff, and Zimmer is a no-nonsense leader running a talented young defense. Whether or not Cincinnati wants him -- and we'll know soon enough -- Maualuga must decide how much this opoortunity means to him.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.