Cincinnati Bengals running back Rex Burkhead said the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign allows him and others around the league a chance to show they are more than just football players.
The NFL is permitting players to wear special cleats this week as part of the campaign to spread awareness for causes that are important to them.
When the Bengals host the Eagles on Sunday, Burkhead will don red cleats with the logo of the Team Jack Foundation he helped found in 2013 after meeting young Huskies fan and pediatric brain cancer patient Jack Hoffman while Burkhead was playing at Nebraska.
“This platform, it’s a small opportunity you have, a small window and just to make the most of it is what I try to do,” Burkhead said. “For an opportunity to get the awareness out for pediatric brain cancer — because it’s not a very heavily funded disease — it needs that awareness to be out there to help people donate to the cause.”
Burkhead invited Hoffman to the Nebraska spring game in 2013, and the video of him scoring a 69-yard touchdown went viral and led to an ESPY and an invitation to the White House. Since then, the Team Jack Foundation has raised more than $3 million for pediatric brain cancer research.
The league said more than 500 players are planning to showcase their causes on-field during games, and many have worked directly with Nike, Under Armour and adidas to design their cleats, which began arriving in locker rooms this week.
“I sent (Hoffman’s) dad a picture of them, and he’s pretty pumped,” said Burkhead, who noted Hoffman seems to be doing well with his latest MRI showing the cancer hadn’t spread or grown. “His dad said he loved them and it’s probably going to be a good auction item for the Team Jack Gala in February.”
Injury report: Wide receiver A.J. Green took the first small step toward his return Wednesday.
Green, who injured his hamstring Nov. 20 against Buffalo, did some light drills on the rehab field during part of the 30-minute portion of practice open to media. It is unlikely he would be available Sunday but wide receivers coach James Urban said it is encouraging any time he sees Green on the field.
Green was one of four to show up on the injury report as non-participants, joined by safety Derron Smith (thigh), tackle Andrew Whitworth (non-injury related) and quarterback AJ McCarron (neck, non-injury related). McCarron reported the sore neck to the trainers, who were unable to trace it back to any football injury, hence the NIR designation.
An additional nine players worked on a limited basis — wide receiver Brandon LaFell (knee), guard Clint Boling (shoulder), defensive end Wallace Gilberry (calf), long snapper Clark Harris (groin), H-back Ryan Hewitt (foot), tight ends Tyler Kroft (concussion) and C.J. Uzomah (calf) and safety Shawn Williams (hamstring).
Cincinnati connection: Eagles defensive lineman Connor Barwin said transitioning from Houston to Philadelphia in 2013 was made easier by the fact he was surrounded by so many of his college teammates from the University of Cincinnati.
At the time, there were three other former Bearcats on the team, including tight end Brent Celek and center Jason Kelce, who are both still there.
“It was really the Cincinnati connection that made the transition really easy,” Barwin said. “When I came here, Trent Cole was here, who is gone now, but Jason Kelce, who was one of my best friends in college, and Brent Celek, who I played behind for two years in college, were here and those guys are still here, so they made the transition really easy and it’s been great being here for now my fourth year.”
Toy drive: The Bengals and the U.S. Marine Corps are teaming up for the annual Toys for Tots Collection, which will take place prior to Sunday’s game.
U.S. Marine Corps volunteers will be at all entrances to Paul Brown Stadium with PODS to collect new, unwrapped toys and cash donations. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.
The Bengals have hosted this event for over 25 years, and more than 54,000 children in the eight-county Tri-State area will benefit from the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots collection this year.