After eight seasons in the league, 121 games and countless of workouts, John Jerry figured he was done when he left his Arizona training facility last week and went home to Memphis without a guard job. The only thing left on the NFL calendar before the first day of summer was the mandatory minicamps.
“I actually thought I was kind of done,” says Jerry, decidedly not done after Tuesday’s practice with the Bengals. “My wife’s like, ‘you’re not done yet.’ I kind of honestly believed I was done.”
Mrs. Jerry had it right. The Bengals, with old friend Jim Turner coaching their offensive line, called over the weekend with the offer of a Monday tryout. That’s a good one. Jerry trying out for Turner is a little like David Ortiz trying out to win the key to Boston.
A mere formality.
But it was Tuesday’s first practice of training camp that proved Turner’s point, less than 24 hours after Turner handed Jerry the playbook.
View photos from Day 1 of 2019 Bengals Minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium.
“He didn’t go the wrong way once,” Turner said after practice. “The highest character you’re ever going to meet. Shows up for work every day, works as hard as anybody. You can see it on the field today. That guy works every snap. That’s ingrained in his soul. It doesn’t come from a coach or anybody else. That’s who he is. That’s all he knows. That’s the reason he’s here.
And he’s a blocker.”
Jerry, who hasn’t taken a snap since he started the 2018 pre-season finale at right tackle hours before the Giants cut him, has had his career jump-started for a variety of reasons.
The depth at guard had been a little dicey with incumbent right guard Alex Redmond suspended for the first four games, incumbent left guard Clint Boling sidelined until training camp with an unknown ailment and Rod Taylor rehabbing an ACL tear. When Jerry signed, they cut Rod Taylor and Zac Taylor, the head coach, says the move wasn’t related to starting left tackle Jonah Williams undergoing evaluation after sustaining an undisclosed injury and missing Tuesday’s practice.
But that did mean ending the spring the way it began, making a move on the line’s left side with Cordy Glenn moving back to left tackle and Christian Westerman and his two starts going into left guard. Jerry started all 32 games in two years for Turner in Miami several years ago at right guard, but on Tuesday Turner had him running at left guard behind Westerman. Turner says he’s noted five of his starts have been at one tackle or the other and Jerry says he’s finished a couple of games on the edge when tackles have been injured.
But he’s not here as a tackle. He’s a left guard.
“For now. For now,” Turner said. “We’ll see down the road where it fits into the five best guys.
Another big reason he’s here is that Taylor and Turner may have looked around after a couple of months without Boling and realized they were awfully young up front. Take away Boling and new right guard John Miller’s 47 starts led the group. Suddenly, Jerry, who turns 33 on Friday, is the oldest player on offense and defense. His 121 games leads the offense, one more than quarterback Andy Dalton. Until last year, he hadn’t missed a game since Dalton’s rookie year of 2011.
And then there was Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, the Giants secondary coach last season.
“(Anarumo) said the Giants loved him,” Turner said.
Maybe they were looking for a little gray hair and a little 6-5, 340-pound sway in the locker room. Defensive lineman Kerry Wynn, Jerry’s old teammate in New York, verifies what Turner, Anarumo and others say.
“He’s the kind of guy you want around here,” Wynn said.
Turner: “There’s a presence out there. Long arms. Perfect body for it. Everything we’re going to ask him to do, he’s capable of doing … That’s the reason he’s here. He’s got a ton of experience. We’re real excited to have him here for that reason.”
Jerry also gets the sense he’s supposed to pack some intangibles, too.
“I’m not a talker, but I’m a worker,” he says.
He spent last season surprised he got only one call for a workout. He believes he can still play, especially for Turner, a guy he happily calls, “A throwback,” as happily as Turner calls Jerry “a monster.”
“He’s blunt. He’s straight forward. I like his techniques,” Jerry says. “I think he’s the best to do it.”
Jerry certainly isn’t high maintenance. Glenn is wearing his No. 77. He’s got the No. 64 of the dispatched Taylor, a hard-luck seventh-rounder. There’s no locker with the offensive line. Instead he’s across the room between a quarterback and tight end.
“Gilligan’s Island, man,” Jerry said and when told it looked like he’d have to earn a locker, he smiled instead of snarled and said, “Nothing wrong with that.”
But his three-hour tour is over and he’s back in the game.