D.J. Reader heard it, and he wasn’t about to let that happen.
“You see what’s on Twitter,” An emphatic Reader told reporters after the game. “Y’all see Good Morning Football. Y’all know what’s going on, it’s not a surprise. It’s personal. It matters to you every time.”
Reader had a phenomenal performance stopping Derrick Henry and Tennessee’s ground attack during Saturday’s Divisional Round victory. It was just one of the reasons why the Bengals came out on top and advanced to their first AFC Championship since 1989.
It wasn’t just Reader eating up blocks for the linebackers to make stops. Reader himself was making tackles at and behind the line of scrimmage. His quickness and strength was on display the whole night.
But Reader’s had games like that before. Even when he was with the Houston Texans, he’s used to limiting King Henry and his almighty power. He’s been arguably the best nose tackle in the NFL this year, and yet, everyone wanted to talk about how the Bengals weren’t going to have the bodies at defensive tackle to stop the Titans’ smash-mouth offense.
It’s a wonderful microcosm of how the Bengals have been doubted this entire season, and Reader spoke on that after the game behind the podium.
“We’ve been getting slept on the whole year,” Reader said. “It’s something we take pride for in this locker room. We take it as disrespect every time. All year it’s been something. ‘We won’t do this, we won’t do that.’ We don’t worry about outside noise. We read it, [but] we’re not worried about it. We’re confident in us. We’re going out there every game feeling like we’re the ones who need to get beat.”
Reader’s significance to the Bengals is matched by his immense physical presence on the field. He was the first of now many headlining additions to the locker room and has been worth every penny. And the reason he signed with the Bengals was because of Joe Burrow, whom the team didn’t even draft yet.
“He’s the toughest guy in the league,” Reader said of his quarterback. “He’s tough, just gritty. I love it. I love that about him. He doesn’t complain, he goes out there and does his job. I really appreciate Joe.”
Burrow will always get the credit as the face of the franchise, but guys like Reader, who get the dirty jobs done without the limelight, are the backbone of the team. It’s only fitting that one of Cincinnati’s most overlooked players has a statement game in the most important of ways.
“It don’t matter to me, I know who I am,” Reader said. “I’m confident in who I am as a player. I know what I do. Y’all seen it. Everybody’s seen it. I read it. I go on Twitter all the time, type in ‘D.J. Reader’ to see what’s going on, but I don’t worry about it. It’s just fuel to my fire.”
Reader’s fire is scorching hot right now, just like the Bengals.