The Bengals didn't have a very pretty practice Wednesday on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields. With four NFL officials on site, the flags were flying and so were the punches as training camp hit a week. Plus, there wasn't a lot of throwing the ball as the Bengals worked on the running game in shoulder pads and shorts before about 1,400 fans.
Just sloppy enough to irk offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. But one thing he liked is his guys kept after the physical part of the game and didn't back down. Particularly three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, who bumped-and-ran with cornerback Adam Jones before ripping a sideline pass away from him late in practice.
And that was after he stepped in to break up one of the day's two fights and got punched for his efforts as the offense appears to get comfortable with Jackson's don't-back-down approach.
"I think so. It's the whole mindset of Hue. You've got to be the one punching them in the mouth and not the one getting punched in the mouth," Green said. "I think that's going to be our nature as a team. Hard-nosed, physical football. Especially in November and December."
SAM linebacker Emmanuel Lamur actually punched Green after Green joined about 40 of his friends in breaking up the first bout of camp, a scrum between Lamur and left guard Clint Boling. But it didn't appear to hit his mouth or anything else, for that matter, in a typical camp fight that may get Lamur a lecture on NFL economics after taking a swing at their best player.
"E-Man man just got caught up in the heat of the moment. No hard feelings," Green said.
Also getting into the action was quarterback Andy Dalton putting a 10-second block on cornerback Leon Hall after a handoff to running back Giovani Bernard. But Hall, good soldier, let him have his way because you can't hit the guy in the orange jersey.
"You get to practice six and legs are tired and attitudes are starting to flare and you have to push them over the wall," Jackson said. "It was hit and miss. When you're playing a good defense every day, you're going to win some and lose some. What I'm looking for is an attitude. It's a mindset on how you do things. I like it, but I didn't like the results. But I do like way our guys respond."
Guys like Green and Boling. There were apparently no hard feelings between Boling and Lamur, either as they shook hands after practice.
Boling, coming off a two-day rest for his ACL, took the snaps at left guard Wednesday as Mike Pollak rested his knee. Boling was active in the run game, particularly trapping on the power play, and just plain pushing people forward. He's part of an offensive line that has caught the eye this camp of Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, the former 12-year pro guard.
"You can definitely tell Hue's influence," Lapham said. "They're attacking the line of scrimmage, they're jumping the tackles in pass protection and not giving ground and they're keeping the pocket nice and wide. I think they've had a good camp."
The matchup of the new ACLs, Boling vs. two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, never took place Wednesday even though it was Atkins' first day of clearance. He stayed on the side, though, and didn't participate in team drills.
Boling, who practiced the first day of training camp last Thursday, has been alternating rest days. He says he can't think about Atkins' injury and Atkins can' think about his and neither can let up.
"You just can't think that way," Boling said. "I don't want somebody to do that to me. I want them to do whatever they've got to do to make the team and help our team win. You can't go up and block somebody and go, 'I can't hurt him.' In that case, the guy shouldn't be out there. I don't think there's going to be any brothering in law going on."
Certainly Green and Jones didn't take it easy on each other. They chicken fought to the sideline before Green bumped and ripped the ball away and ran down the sideline. Then as he ran back to the huddle he playfully jumped on Jones' back as Jones accused him of pushing off.
"He's having a great camp. Best I've seen him since I've been here," Green said. "It's made me better going against him."
Don't let the lanky laid-back Green fool you. Jackson's commitment to build his offense around a physical running game can only be aided by the fact his biggest threat in the passing game is no wallflower.
"No he's not. Uh-uh," Jackson said. "Look, at the end of the day, we can't be a group that backs down. This league is too competitive. You can't back down. We're not going to be shy about what we do, our defense isn't going to be shy about what they do. That's the way it has to be."
That's the way it was for Green growing up in leafy Summerville, S.C., where he was always surrounded by older cousins while he played basketball against kids four and five years older.
"I like to be physical. It's just my nature," Green said. "I grew up in the country where everybody was older than me. That's how I got my toughness."
But they hope he's tough up to a point. Some of his teammates were relieved nothing happened to him and hope he never tries to break up a fight again.
But Jackson did like Green's play against Jones.
"Contested catch. The NFL is all about contested catches and A.J. is the kind of guy that can do that," Jackson said.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Give it to Boling on a run-oriented day. He must have been playing well to be annoying. Lapham thought he had a good day.
"He's really athletic," Lapham said "He does a nice job reading on that power player. You have to be decisive on that play and he does a good job with that in space. You might be wrong one out of our four times, but if you're wrong you've got to go 100 percent and that's what he does."
PLAY OF THE DAY: Vontaze Burfict is the WILL linebacker and it's so apt because he wills this defense to play chippy and confidently. Remember, they're only in shoulder pads, but that doesn't stop Burfict. After lighting up wide receiver Cobi Hamilton on a reverse, he made like a heavyweight fighter and popped the mouthpiece out of rookie tight end Ryan Hewitt's mouth coming over the middle. To Hewitt's credit, he caught the ball while the mouthpiece flew almost as long as the completion.
QUOTE OF THE DAY I: Green on Lamur throwing a punch at him: "No hard feelings. I would have done the same thing if I saw a white jersey holding me back. But I was just trying to pull him back off him. No hard feelings."
QUOTE OF THE DAY II: Bengals defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry on why he calls himself "The Dark Knight: "I've always been the dark horse, so to speak, so I turned it into "The Dark Knight...I just kind of accepted the concept."
GENO LITE:Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis wasn't kidding around when he said Atkins would be limited after coming off the physically unable to perform list. In his first practice back since ACL surgery, Atkins stayed on the side working in drills and didn't go near the team activities before leaving the field with no commenT.
"I was assured through the people that work with him daily that he was at the point where he could come back and practice on a limited basis and work his way in to begin the regular season," Lewis said…
SLANTS AND SCREENS: If you want to focus on that sixth and last cornerback spot, now it has to be between fourth-year man R.J. Stanford and seventh-round pick Lavelle Westbrooks. Chris Lewis-Harris has been suspended without pay for the first two games of the regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. He's eligible to return to the Bengals' active roster Sept. 15, the day after they play the Falcons. following the team's Sept. 14 game against the Atlanta Falcons. Lewis-Harris, who has played in eight games over the last two years with 21 snaps from scrimmage, played in six games last season and had two of his four special teams tackles in the win over the Patriots. He can practice and play in the preseason…
The Bengals have a group of players going through the NFL's concussion protocol with tight end Kevin Brock leaving Wednesday's practice like right tackle Andre Smith left Monday's practice. Also in the protocol are linebackers JK Schaffer and Jayson DiManche…
The day's other bout featured rookie linebacker Marquis Flowers, in his debut off PUP, dusting up with offensive lineman T.J. Johnson.
The league sent four officials to work the practice in head linesman Kent Payne, umpire Undrey Wash, back judge Todd Prukop, and side judge Michael Banks. It turned into a flag fest after head coach Marvin Lewis had praised his team before practice for its execution and focus…