Skip to main content

Bengals Notebook: DT Jay Tufele Looks To Channel 'Big Peko,' At Paycor; Friday Injury Update

Markus Bailey (right) to get some work Sunday.
Markus Bailey (right) to get some work Sunday.

Logan Wilson (shoulder), their leading tackler, is out. D.J. Reader (knee), their Pro Bowl-caliber nose tackle, is out. Josh Tupou (calf) their solid back-up nose tackle, is out.

And here come the Falcons Sunday into Paycor Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's FOX 19) with the NFL's third-best running game and dangerous two-way threat in quarterback Marcus Mariota.

So no wonder when Domata Peko saw the 513 area code flash Friday morning out in Calabasas, Calif. Just for a second, one of the great Bengals nose tackles thought maybe they were wondering if he'd been working out.

But it was just someone telling him he has a big fan in a young guy who figures to get some more plays Sunday at his old spot. When Tupou went down late in the first half of last Sunday's 30-26 win in New Orleans, second-year man Jay Tufele took his first 23 snaps as a Bengal and was huge in the three-and-out stand in the next-to-last-series that set up the winning touchdown.

"Big Peko is a legend in our Samoan culture. One of the very great Samoans for 15 years," Tufele said after Friday's practice in the IEL indoor facility. "All the time I watched Peko. Every time they played Troy (Polamalu) I would watch. They were Samoan. That's exactly it. Same culture."

Big Peko has been watching the 6-3, 310-pound Tufele. And his Bengals.

"I saw he had a big tackle for a loss last week," Peko said. "I've reached out to him on social media and other Polynesian players around the league. I want to show my support and encourage them to keep going on their path. I'm proud of them. Especially those guys who are playing for the Bengals, Jay and Josh. It's great to see. We're always rooting for the Bengals."

Peko, 37, played his first 11 seasons in Cincinnati, where he became a roaring crowd favorite and community staple while anchoring five top 11 defenses that went to the playoffs and won three AFC North titles.

"He would literally have this place rocking," said Tufele, who remembers growing up in Utah watching Peko raise his arms to beckon the Paycor noise. "Maybe I can channel that energy and bring it in."

Peko discovered Tufele last year when he was a rookie in Jacksonville playing with Peko's Denver teammate on the Broncos line, Adam Gotsis. When the Bengals claimed Tufele on waivers on cutdown day this season, Peko took note his old team had him.

"I went on social media and told him, 'Hold it down over there in Who-Dey land,'" Peko said. "The Jungle really responds, especially when you're out there doing your job. Once you get the fans behind you, we're tough to beat in The Jungle."

Tufele was born in American Samoa and came to the United States when he was three and his family settled in Utah. The Jags took him in the fourth round out of USC in 2021 and now he's getting ready to play his first game in Peko's old place.

"It felt so good to get into a game and help my brothers," Tufele said. "We've got the next man up mentality. Our plan is we have to stop the run and then we're going to have to get after Mariota."

Tufele was able to knock off the rust. He played in only four games for the Jags last year as a rookie and took just 54 snaps, eight in the 2021 finale.

"I was so excited to get in there and help out the guys in a big spot," Tufele said.  

It's going to be an emotional crowd, no doubt. Sunday's Rulers of the Jungle are well known to Peko.

Devon Still was his teammate and fellow defensive tackle that night in 2014 when Still's daughter Leah had them in the palm of her four-year-old hand in a halftime ceremony celebrating her victory over cancer and the father-daughter team that raised more than $1 million for pediatric cancer patients and their families.

"I miss them, man. Super proud of them," Peko said. "Especially Leah, how she fought through it, fought the good fight and overcame that. Those were tough times for them and they endured that and I'm sure God has blessed them now and I'm super pumped that they're back to The Jungle."

And he'll be here, too, as Tufele channels him.

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Head coach Zac Taylor said after Friday's practice that he'll make a standard activation from the practice squad on the defensive line but wouldn't elaborate. The last time they needed a D-tackle they went and grabbed 2021 fourth-rounder Tyler Shelvin and he played nine snaps against the Ravens two weeks ago. Domenique Davis, a first-year player who has yet to play in a game is also on the squad …

_With rookie Jeff Gunter (knee) out and the Bengals dressing five ends in each of the first six games, that could mean third-year player Khalid Kareem makes his NFL debut and gets promoted from the squad. Kareem, a 2020 fifth-rounder out of Notre Dame, has played 23 games and saved the season last year with his forced red zone fumble in Denver last year …

_With Wilson out, Taylor said Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey are getting his snaps. Look for ADG, with 54 snaps in place of Germaine Pratt last month against the Jets, to get the bulk...

_Taylor said wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (hip), who went limited Wednesday and Thursday but full Friday, is fine. Not to so backup wide receiver and special teams ace Stanley Morgan, who apparently pulled a hamstring in Thursday's practice, didn't work Friday and is listed as doubtful …

_Tight end Hayden Hurst (groin) was limited all week, like he was pretty much the last two weeks, and he's played. For the second time in three weeks he plays one of his old teams and he'd like to do what he did against Baltimore and score a touchdown. He's rapidly becoming a fan favorite with his yards-after-contact.

"I'm an emotional player but I try not to get to emotional about something like this," Hurst said. "It will be good to see some old friends, but just staying focused." ….

_Running back Joe Mixon need 89 yards Sunday to join Corey Dillon, James Brooks, Rudi Johnson and Pete Johnson as 5,000-yard Bengals rushers….

Related Content