Bengals practice in snow to prepare for playoffs
CINCINNATI — The temperature was 20, the wind chill was numbing and snowflakes filled the air when the Cincinnati Bengals shuffled onto the field at Paul Brown Stadium for a one-hour practice Thursday. Two of them ignored the weather.
Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski wore shorts — his standard practice attire even in winter — and offensive lineman Dennis Roland wore shorts and no sleeves. The rest of the team was bundled up for the wintery workout, getting ready to host the New York Jets in a wild-card playoff game Saturday.
“I’m not a fan of the cold, no sir, but I don’t mind playing in it,” said Roland, who grew up in Missouri and attended college at Georgia. “I figured that in the game I don’t like to bundle up, so I might as well not go out to practice bundled up. Get used to it.”
Temperatures in the teens and a chance of flurries are forecast for the game Saturday at the stadium, which turns into a wind tunnel because the seats behind both ends zones are lower than those on the sidelines.
The Bengals looked like they wanted no part of the cold last Sunday night, when they lost to the Jets 37-0 at frigid Giants Stadium. The AFC North champions had nothing important at stake, while the Jets needed to win to make the playoffs.
It has been cold all week in both cities. The Bengals don’t have a covered field — they’re the most northern NFL team without one — and had to repeatedly rearrange their practice schedule to accommodate the conditions. They took buses to an indoor soccer center the last two days, then held their brief workout at the stadium on Thursday.
Even that practice had to be moved up because a storm was moving through the region, dumping several inches of snow. The tarps were removed from about two-thirds of the field when practice began — a front loader scraped snow off the rest of the field — and workers used leaf blowers to push snow out of the seating areas in preparation for the game.
Roland said the lineman haven’t discussed whether they would go sleeveless for the game.
“When you’re on the field, it doesn’t bother you,” he said. ’When you’re on the sideline, the benches are heated so it keeps you warm for the next series.”
The Bengals will be playing a team that also is built for the cold. Both teams rely on running the ball and playing defense. The Jets won five of their last six games to reach the playofffs.
“Playing in New York, (cold) is something we play in all the time when it comes to November and December,” Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said in a conference call this week. “That’s how you want to be made. If you want to win games, you’ve got to win in the cold. That’s the big thing about our team. This past December, we won a lot of games, and we won one in January, too.”