For the second year in a row, the Cincinnati Bengals had a joint practice with an NFC opponent stopped by a fight. But unlike last year, when a dangerous helmet-swing melee with the Rams immediately ended things, Wednesday’s practice against the Packers resumed after a pair of fights.
Bengals and Packers Engage in Multiple Fights at Joint Practice
Or at least it did for everybody except for Packers offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, who was walked off the field by a Packers staffer after playing a central role in both fights. The first devolved into a mass of humanity pushing and shoving each other, but the second one was just between Jenkins and Bengals defensive tackle DJ Reader.
And Reader didn’t hold back when asked if there was any pre-existing animosity between him and Jenkins.
“Man, I don’t even know that guy,” Reader said. “I don’t know who he is. No idea. He’s a JAG in my book. JAG — just a guy. I don’t know that man.”
He’s a J A G
— Dj Reader (@Djread98) August 9, 2023
Asked if he saw the Packers remove Jenkins from practice, Reader said he did.
“Because he needed counseling. Go out there and talk to your counselors or something,” Reader said. “We’re out here trying to work at football. You’re out here losing, and you want to go extra and try to hurt people and do extra stuff?”
“I had a good day, so I ain’t trippin’,” Reader added.
The entire defense, and in particular the defensive line, had a good day against the Packers’ offense. And the Bengals weren’t going to let the fights overshadow that.
“I don’t know about everybody else, but I was in a great mood,” defensive tackle B.J. Hill said. “Some other people’s temperature ran a little hot for some reason. Fortunately (Jenkins) got kicked out of practice. Our guys finished and had a great practice.”
Wednesday was the only joint practice between the two teams before Friday night’s preseason opener at Paycor Stadium. The sole reason for shortening it from two days to one was last year’s brawl with the Rams, who had just beaten the Bengals in the Super Bowl six months earlier.
In both instances, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor thought his friendship with the other team’s head coach — the Rams’ Sean McVay, whom he worked for from 2017-18, and the Packers’ Matt LaFleur, who was also on that 2017 Rams staff and is Taylor’s closest friend in the head coaching ranks — would lead to a more respectful environment in what is typically a heated exercise.
During a news conference 15 minutes before the joint practice, Taylor said he had spoken with his players about the right way to conduct themselves.
“We talked about how we want to treat their team,” he said. “It’s like practicing against our own team. It’s competitive. So there’s that fine line. You got professional athletes that it’s important to.
“But at the same time, we want guys to protect each other in those moments where that’s going to come up. Stay away from the quarterback. We don’t want guys fighting. We don’t want the storylines to be about guys getting in altercations. So again, we’ll focus on the right things today.”
Reader wasn’t buying the “treat them right” mantra.
“It’s not your teammates, so you don’t really care about them,” he said. “If we was playing them on Sunday, we damn sure wouldn’t give a f–k — excuse my language — we really wouldn’t care about them. Guys want to get good work in. When guys start getting beat and start losing or something happens, tempers flare. It’s just how it goes.”
The consensus among other defensive players after practice was that they had done the right thing because they didn’t start the fight, nor did they escalate it to a point where the practice had to be canceled as it was last year.
“Maybe he just didn’t want to practice,” Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt said of Jenkins, intimating he got kicked out on purpose.
Pratt said the Bengals’ defense had a great day, got its work in, and sent a message to the Packers and the rest of the league.
“You like to impose your will on an opponent, just settin’ the tone as a defense,” he said. “Understand that we gonna punch in you your mouth when you come to Paul Brown (Stadium). Paycor, but it’s still Paul Brown to me.”
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