Tuesday afternoon the Cincinnati Bengals made their second trip in as many weeks to the University of Cincinnati’s practice bubble, which is something they didn’t do at all ahead of last year’s playoff game despite even lower temperatures.
The team began preparations for last year’s game in Houston practicing outside in 22-degree weather with a 14-degree wind chill that left wide receiver A.J. Green complaining of numb toes and no doubt played a role in quarterback Andy Dalton getting sick enough to miss the entire practice the following day.
A UC official said the temperature inside the bubble was 70 degrees Tuesday.
“The one good thing about playing at Houston is that it will be indoors, and not where we have to worry about the weather and all of that,” Dalton said. “I think it’s good for us to go over to UC and get these practices in and practice in a similar atmosphere to what game conditions will be like.”
The bubble not only helps simulate the weather, but the noise.
“(Reliant Stadium) was the loudest place we’ve played at in the last two years, easily,” wide receiver Andrew Hawkins said. “That’s good practice for us because it’s going to be hard to hear yourself think. You have to be able to be poised in the noise, as coach always says, and that’s what we’ll work for.”
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis noted the bubble has significance beyond the controlled environment because it sits on the field where Dalton first met and practiced with his teammates during the 2011 lockout.
“That’s where the Andy Dalton era started, and those guys, without the help of us as coaches, helped shape that football team from that day when they began practicing up there on their own,” Lewis said. “They’ve never let of go of it, and Domata (Peko) and Andrew (Whitworth) and the rest of them like Robert (Geathers). They’ve policed the group time and time again, and it’s been good.”
Bengals rookie right guard Kevin Zeitler has yet to face Houston Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt in a professional game, but they know each other well from their days as teammates at the University of Wisconsin.
“Just from when we were in college together, it’s light years ahead (of where he was then),” Zeitler said. “He’s just an outstanding player, long, athletic, strong – he does it all. You watch him on film, it’s just insane the things he can do. It’s going to be a very tough challenge. We’re going to have to put a lot of effort towards stopping him.”
The two actually met in high school while growing up a mile away from each other, although they never faced each other.
Zeitler said he was in Arizona training for the Combine last year when he watched Watt’s 29-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Bengals in the Texans’ 31-10 wild card win.
“I’d say he’s probably the best there is at that, judging the quarterback and jumping up and batting down balls,” Zeitler said. “Even at Wisconsin he was able to do it all and just make plays to affect his team somehow, and he just did it again (on that play).”
Bengals: Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis did not practice Tuesday. Green-Ellis tweaked his hamstring during pregame warmups Saturday and did not play in the season finale against Baltimore.
“He’s got a little twinge right now, but it looks like he’s going to be fine,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said.
Green-Ellis and safety Taylor Mays did side work Tuesday, while safety Chris Crocker sat out. Crocker suffered a quad injury late in Sunday’s game against Ravens.
Texans: Houston placed linebacker Darryl Sharpton on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday. Sharpton, who began the year on the physically unable to perform list with a quad injury that forced him to miss the first nine games, had started five of the Texans’ last seven games before suffering a hip injury Sunday at Indianapolis.