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The Cincinnati Bengals have four players on the roster with hometowns in Georgia and six players who played college at the University of Georgia, so there is plenty of excitement about the team’s trip to Atlanta on Thursday.
And perhaps the player most looking forward to the preseason game against the Falcons is cornerback and Atlanta native Adam Jones.
“I’ve only got to play there twice, but I’ve always got in the end zone when I played down there, so we’ll see,” Jones said. “I’m just going to try play within the defense.”
His last visit to the Georgia Dome came in a 2010 regular-season game when he returned a Roddy White fumble 59 yards for a touchdown to give the Bengals a 25-24 lead late in the third quarter of a wild game they would go on to lose 39-32.
Jones said he knows the intensity level won’t be quite as high Thursday night, but he’s looking forward to it nonetheless.
“It’s the preseason, but it’s still exciting getting to go home and compete,” he said. “I’ll get to see my mom and my little girl a little before the game, so it’ll be pretty fun.”
Jones did not practice Monday or Tuesday with an undisclosed injury, but he said he expects to play against the Falcons.
“I’m good,” he said, adding that his current injury is not related to the hamstring issue he had during OTAs. “I don’t know how much I’m going to play, but I’ll be in there. I don’t want to hurt myself, or my team. It’s probably smarter to take less reps.”
The other Georgia natives on the Bengals roster are cornerback Chris Lewis-Harry (Smyrna), guard Clint Boling (Alpharetta) and Brandon Thompson (Thomasville).
“I’m excited to get down there and see my family, but at the end of the day you’ve got to treat it like another game,” Thompson said. “I’m real tight with my family. I talk to them all the time, and they came up here for the first week of camp.”
While Georgia ranks sixth on the list of states producing the most players on the Bengals roster — California (12), Texas (10), Florida (seven), New Jersey (five) and Ohio (five) — the University of Georgia is the most represented college program.
Wide receiver A.J. Green, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, tight end Orson Charles, defensive end Robert Geathers, tackle Dennis Roland and Boling all played for the Bulldogs.
“I never got to play in the Georgia Dome, so this will be my first time,” said Green, who recently bought a house in Atlanta. “I’ll have a lot of people at the game I’m sure. I’m looking forward to it.”
Defensive end Michael Johnson also has ties in the state after playing collegiately at Georgia Tech.
The game also will have a special feel for Falcons rookie guard Phillipkeith Manley, a Hamilton High School graduate who grew up cheering for the Bengals.
Manley is an undrafted college free agent, but the Atlanta coaching staff got a long look at him last week when he played the entire second half in his NFL debut against Baltimore.
“It was a surreal feeling walking out there pregame and seeing teams that you’ve watched every Sunday growing up,” Manley said. “I think it’s going to be really cool to get out there and play against my hometown team. I’ve got 10 people coming down this week. Nobody came down last week because they all wanted to wait to come down and see Cincinnati play.”