With Cincinnati Bengals defensive ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap returning to practice this week, it is likely both will play Saturday night in the preseason game at Dallas.
The third preseason game is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season, with the starters likely to play at least the first half, which means an early preview of the 2013 sack race.
“You want to get as many as you can,” said Johnson, who last year recorded 12 sacks to finish second on the team to Geno Atkins’ 12.5. “Any given week it can be the other guy. We want to challenge each other and compete. You could miss one and the other guy would get it. If someone slips up and I get it, I’m going to say ‘Thank you.’ That’s how we are: someone else’s success if our motivation. It’s not being mad because another guy got one, it’s more brotherly competition and be the best you can.”
Last year Atkins and Johnson became the first Bengals teammates to record double-digit sacks since Reggie Williams (11) and Eddie Edwards (10) in 1981 on the way to leading the team to a franchise-record 51 sacks.
No Bengals team has ever had three players reach double-digit sacks in a season, but with the emergence of Wallace Gilberry (6.5 sacks in 2012), the improvement of Dunlap (six) and the addition of James Harrison, it doesn’t sound far-fetched this year.
“We’re not trying to get too caught up in numbers,” Johnson said. “They’re great and all, but the main number we are chasing is to be No. 1 in total defense. If we’re doing that, all of the stuff will fall in line.”
In addition to a new $11.175 million contract after signing the franchise tag in March, Johnson also is sporting a new, cleanly shaved haircut after cutting off his dreadlocks.
“It was time,” Johnson said. “The No. 1 lady in my life – that’s my mom – she likes it. I had (dreads) twice in college, and when I cut them off I regretted it. This time I didn’t have any such feelings.”
One of the highlights of Tuesday night’s Hard Knocks episode was the annual Rookie Show, with the first-year players poking fun at many of the veterans and the coaches through skits and slide shows.
Trotwood-Madison High School graduate Roy Roundtree had the entire room bursting with laughter with his over-the-top portrayal of Taylor Mays. Roundtree wore short shorts and a tissue-paper headband as he light-stepped through some workouts in Mays’ jersey.
“It was good. They got me,” Mays said. “I’m going to get him back at some point.
“It was really creative. They made some good jokes, where you can make the joke but it’s still OK because the person can laugh at it. It’s kind of like, ‘Do you make fun of these guys? Are they going to get mad?’ It’s good because it shows that guys can work really hard and then have fun and laugh. Just kind of take a load off and have some fun. I think that’s important.”
Twenty minutes into practice Wednesday, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis pulled the team off the field because of lightning.
After resuming 30 minutes later inside Paul Brown Stadium, another storm forced them indoors, where the offense and defense alternated between practicing in the gymnasium and convening in the large meeting room.
“We still got things done,” defensive backs coach Mark Carrier said. “We were able to go through a walkthrough (in the gym). You can’t go through enough alignment assignment stuff.”
University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari was at Bengals practice Wednesday as a special guest of head coach Marvin Lewis.
The two grew up about 10 miles apart in western Pennsylvania but didn’t become friends until 2010 when former Bengals strength and conditioning coach Ray Oliver left for UK and ended up introducing the coaches to each other.
Calipari posted an Instagram photo of him and Lewis together on the field Wednesday, and he tweeted the following message: “Marvin also gave me three unbelievable ideas that I will talk about later. Pretty excited about them.”
James Harrison, Andrew Whitworth, Adam Jones, Robert Geathers and Brandon Ghee were among the players who sat out practice Wednesday.