The Bengals have named D.J. Reader as the recipient of their 2021 Ed Block Courage Award.
Coordinated through NFL athletic trainers, the award honors players who symbolize "professionalism, great strength and dedication," while also acting as community role models.
Reader, a sixth-year player out of Clemson University, suffered a torn left quad tendon early in 2020 that required season-ending surgery and an intense rehabilitation process.
"D.J. faced up to his unfortunate setback with professionalism," said Bengals head athletic trainer Paul Sparling. "After surgery, he worked long and hard on his rehabilitation to get back for the 2021 NFL Season. He returned for training camp with little fanfare and demonstrated the on-field leadership and physical skills that the club envisioned when he signed here in 2020. He has shown to his teammates the type of courage and strength that epitomizes what the Ed Block Courage Award represents."
This year, Reader has been a dependable presence in the middle of the Bengals' defense, and has recorded 43 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for losses and seven quarterback hits. His play has been particularly strong against the run, as Cincinnati's rush defense improved from 29th in the NFL last season (148.0 yards per game) to fifth this year (96.1).
"D.J. has been the cornerstone of it all for us," said defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. "He's right in the middle, and he commands. You're not going to see a whole bunch of stats from him — he doesn't play a "stat" position — but you can't move him, so he's been able to clog up the middle and shed blocks, which just gives us that much more of an advantage."