‘Earn your stripes’ -- Bengals rookies look to make early impact

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — DJ Turner II said his first day on the practice field as a professional athlete for the Cincinnati Bengals felt comfortable, as the team gave the newbies a chance to settle in together with a rookie minicamp Friday before jumping in with the veterans next week.

Cincinnati’s second-round draft pick already knew a few of his fellow rookies, but a chance to ease into the new routine and new environment was helpful.

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The Bengals held a light workout for their draft picks, college free agent signings and a couple of tryout players in the indoor facility Friday. Cincinnati has officially signed all eight draft picks and inked deals with 13 college free agents -- Tulane safety Larry Brooks, Georgia Tech wide receiver Malachi Carter, Duke linebacker Shaka Heyward, Miami wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer, Auburn wide receiver Shedrick Jackson, Washington guard Jaxson Kirkland, Tennessee-Chattanooga defensive tackle Devonnsha Maxwell, Alabama linebacker Jaylen Moody, Memphis linebacker Tyler Murray, Arizona State defensive tackle Tautala Pesefea, East Tennessee State halfback Jacob Saylors, Houston tight end Christian Trahan and Utah State halfback Calvin Turner.

The rookies will mix in with the veterans starting Monday with the continuation of the team’s offseason workout program.

“It’s cool to just come in, being around the rookies, having a good relationship with all them and everybody is cool,” Turner said. “It’s good to settle in, but I’m ready to get started.”

The Bengals knew they were drafting safety Dax Hill’s former teammate at Michigan when they selected Turner at No. 60 overall, but they didn’t know they also were reuniting two childhood friends with their first two picks in the draft. Turner grew up in northern Atlanta with first-round pick Myles Murphy, a defensive end out of Clemson, and even has a photo of himself at a birthday party standing next to Murphy when they were both young.

Turner also worked out with fifth-round pick Chase Brown, a running back out of Illinois, during the Combine process, and he knew fourth-round pick Charlie Jones, a wide receiver out of Purdue, from playing against him in the Big Ten Championship in back-to-back seasons, including in 2021 when Jones was at Iowa.

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A chance to play with Hill again especially excites Turner because the two were comfortable playing alongside each other at Michigan and expect to regain that chemistry in Cincinnati. Hill already prepared his teammate for what to expect in joining the Bengals, which helped Turner as well.

“He told me it was good energy, good team, good teammates, good coaches, winning environment and it’s gonna be fun,” Turner said. “It’s gonna be fun playing here, and I’m just ready to work.”

Third-round pick Jordan Battle, a safety out of Alabama, said he was especially excited to put on his Bengals gear Friday and see his name on his locker near the other guys in the Cincinnati secondary.

He said it might have seemed like his reaction on draft day was subdued since he was playing a game of UNO cards at the time he got his call from Zac Taylor, but he was stoked to be joining the Bengals.

“I kind of feel so good in this (gear), knowing I’m in a winning program, knowing I’m in a winning facility with guys who know how to win, guys who know how to compete,” Battle said. “Competing against them guys at LSU (Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase), in 2019. I was a freshman; now I’m here with them. It feels awkward but real because they are from LSU and I didn’t like them. Now I have to like them.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Battle said he is going to like competing against an offense with Burrow and Chase on the other side in practice. Turner said the same.

“I’m not gonna see better in games, so it will get me ready for the games,” Turner said. “That’s how you look at it, so I’m excited to go up against them and get me right.”

Murphy, who the Bengals officially signed Friday, said it was “a great experience to just be out there and be a part of a team again” because he loves that feeling. It was hard to show much during a 45-minute workout Friday, but he’s coming into his first days with the Bengals knowing he has to earn respect from everyone around him.

“Really (the) biggest thing is to earn my stripes early,” Murphy said. “This is one of those things like going from high school to college you were top of the totem pole in high school and you go to college and got to earn your stripes at the bottom of the totem pole, just like I’m on the bottom of the totem pole now. I got to earn my stripes and do what I need to do to (to) get the respect of my teammates really.”

That’s exactly what Bengals coach Zac Taylor wants to see from the rookies and anyone trying to earn a spot on the roster. He said his message to the players Friday was just to make sure they are sleeping and eating well and spending their time well so they come into work feeling ready to compete and learn.

Taylor said he and the other coaches are looking at the little details to see how disciplined players are.

“I think the energy is good, just receptive to the coaching, listening and doing things the way we want it done,” Taylor said. “It’s not always gonna be perfect. There’s gonna be things you want to correct, to get better at. … Make sure that Monday when you show up, you can make a strong impression not only on the coaches, but on your veteran teammates as well, by being attentive in meetings, being in shape when you show up for practices. ... You’re either in shape or not right now, so we’ll find out Monday.”

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