Bengals’ Reader ready to move forward

Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, left, is tacked by Cincinnati Bengals strong safety Vonn Bell, middle, and nose tackle D.J. Reader during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, left, is tacked by Cincinnati Bengals strong safety Vonn Bell, middle, and nose tackle D.J. Reader during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Lineman expects Cincy defense to be even more competitive.

CINCINNATI -- D.J. Reader usually talks to his mom every day, but the Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle went almost a week without speaking to her after the Super Bowl. That’s how difficult the three-point loss to the L.A. Rams was for him to digest.

After looking at the film, Reader felt pretty positive about the effort and overall performance of the team, and now he’s ready to get back to work toward what the Bengals hope can be another successful run in 2022.

Reader’s mom understood him needing some time to himself immediately after that game, though.

“She doesn’t even try to talk to me after stuff like that,” Reader said. “We are very similar. We don’t talk to each other after losses. Me and her always talk about leaving it all out on the field. That’s something her and my dad always preached to me since I was a kid, just demeanor, how you play the game. If you leave it all out on the field you don’t have anything to be ashamed of. You are a natural competitor, you are going to be pissed, but don’t be ashamed.”

Reader decompressed with a trip to Costa Rica, hanging out with his young son and just taking time off at home.

Meanwhile, the Bengals got busy patching up the few glaring holes to remained in their roster rebuild. They signed three offensive linemen in free agency and used five of six draft picks to add depth on defense. Reader said he looks forward to facing some “new blood” across from him in practices and the defense should be even more competitive now.

“It shows they care about winning,” Reader said. “We came in and took care of business last year, made them believe in us a little bit more. They are just going to go out there and keep getting players for us to win and guys that can do a good job. It means a lot to see them pour into it and shows how important it is to them as well.”

One big question now is whether the Bengals have enough on the defensive line to replace Larry Ogunjobi’s production. Cincinnati re-signed B.J. Hill after he proved ready for the challenge after recording 5.0 sacks in the regular season playing behind Ogunjobi.

Reader said Tyler Shelvin, Josh Tupou and versatile second-year player Cam Sample all are capable of stepping up, and he’s excited to see what the rookies do. Cincinnati drafted versatile defensive linemen Zach Carter and Jeffrey Gunter.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor has said the team can’t just replace Ogunjobi and it will take multiple guys filling in. Ogunjobi was having a solid season before it ended in the first round of the playoffs with a foot injury. Still, he had done enough to prove himself with 7.0 sacks, and he departed in free agency for another opportunity only to have his big offer from the Bears revoked after what they reported to be a failed physical.

“Me and Larry talk to each other all the time,” Reader said. “… It’s a very, very unfortunate situation. It’s one of those situations you feel like your life is going to change and, boy, does your life change. We pray together. We talk to each other. He knows I always have his back. I’m just praying for him. I’ve always had his back. I’ve watched him grow as a player. It’s very unfortunate the situation happened. When I saw it, it really pissed me off but I can’t comment on it.”

“Business is cutthroat and not everybody goes about handling business the same way,” Reader added. “You got to take that into perspective at all times. Unfortunately, that’s the way they handled it. That’s life-changing money and for that to be snatched away. It’s rough.”

Reader said Ogunjobi remains in high spirits, and the same is true of Bengals free safety Jessie Bates, who is still waiting on a long-term deal after getting franchise tagged.

Reader said he talks to Bates two or three times a week, and Reader said he keeps reminding Bates the fruits of his labor will come. He hopes the Bengals reward him but in the end, someone will.

“Nobody -- I wouldn’t say wants to be played with -- but when you’ve done something and you feel like you’ve put that work in, you want to be rewarded for it,” Reader said. “I feel like what he did in the playoffs spoke for itself. How much of a leader and through the middle and somebody who comes up and he plays in big games, he’s out there. I think he pressed a little bit last year as a player, but I think the way he ended the year just spoke volumes to who he is as a person. He pressed through. He didn’t come out here and complain. So I love him. I love that guy.”

Reader said the players on this defense still have a chip on their shoulders despite the success they had last year rolling through the postseason as underdogs. Much of the attention the Bengals do receive is on the offensive side of the ball, but Reader said he kind of likes that people on the outside don’t notice them.

If opposing offenses overlook them like everyone else, Reader says they will just “get thumped in the mouth.”

“The only people that talk about it is y’all (local media),” Reader said. “We still got the chip. It’s not like there’s a lot of respect out there. Just that’s the nature of these guys and this city and having guys that push us every day. Everything about this team makes you have a chip on your shoulder and want to be blue collar and go out there and earn it. That’s what we embody.”

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