Defensive tackle Domata Peko broke the huddle and lined up as a slot receiver, ready to move his 320-pound frame downfield on a simulated pass play.
Better to improvise than work out alone.
Two dozen Bengals defensive players worked out Tuesday at an indoor soccer complex where the team sometimes practices in bad weather. The offense had a separate workout at the University of Cincinnati, with more than 45 players participating in all.
It’s the first time the Bengals’ units have gotten together since the NFL locked out its players.
”It’s just like the first day of school when you see everybody again,” said Peko, a defensive captain entering his sixth season. ”It’s really good to see everybody and build chemistry and get things going. I’m tired of working out and lifting weights.”
With no resolution to the labor stalemate, Bengals veterans decided to follow the lead of other teams and hold informal workouts around town for a week or two, simulating offseason practices. They can’t go to Paul Brown Stadium or use any of the team’s equipment.
Also, they have to be careful not to get hurt during the voluntary sessions, which would jeopardize their contracts.
”We ain’t going to kill ourselves out here because we ain’t getting paid out here, first of all,” cornerback Adam Jones said. ”Second of all, if we hurt ourselves out here, they ain’t going to cover us over there. So it’s a whole lot different, but we are pushing ourselves, I can tell you that.”
While the defense lifted weights, went through conditioning drills and simulated plays on the suburban soccer field, the offense worked out on the University of Cincinnati’s practice field. The units planned to get together on Wednesday, giving rookie quarterback Andy Dalton his first chance to throw against the Bengals defense.
More than 45 players attended the workouts, with others expected in later in the week.
”You’ve got a lot of teams that are at home or at the beach and not really worrying about football,” Jones said. ”But as you can see, we’re missing only one or two guys (on defense). Everybody else is here.”
Their improvisational skills were tested.
During a session simulating plays, linemen lined up as receivers, tight ends and blockers. The line practiced pass-rushing maneuvers by setting up five rubber garbage cans – representing the offensive linemen – and dashing between them.
Peko and his wife made copies of the defense’s playbook for the workouts, which will last two weeks. They stuck closely to the schedule for a regular offseason practice. Several veterans worked out the travel arrangements. A local high school donated gloves and other equipment.
”We’ve been planning this for about a month now, getting everybody’s emails and getting flights arranged and getting rides back and forth,” Peko said. ”(We) were able to get a good rate at a hotel to put our rookies in and those guys that can’t afford it right now because of the lockout.”
Players agreed that the uncertainty makes it difficult.
”That’s the bad thing,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. ”You really don’t know what to gauge. The lockout could be a week, a day or a whole year, you really don’t know. So right now we’re just trying to stay in shape as athletes and maintain.”