Don’t poke the bear.
It’s a pretty straightforward expression, but some people still don’t get it. And that may just be a good thing.
It doesn’t matter how good the Cincinnati Bengals become, how many division titles they win, how far they go in the playoffs, or whether they eventually win their first Super Bowl. Someone will still disrespect them. Someone will poke the bear.
The latest example of that came recently when executives, coaches, and players around the NFL ranked the top 10 defensive tackles for 2023. Not only did Reader not make the list, he didn’t even receive an honorable mention.
That opinion is by no means shared throughout the NFL.
According to Pro Football Focus, Reader is the 9th best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. He earned an 87.3 overall grade in 2022, which included a 73.1 mark against the run and an 84.3 score as a pass rusher after registering 32 pressures on 310 pass-rushing snaps.
Pro Football Network has Reader listed as the league’s 11th-best defensive tackle and had this to say about the Bengal mainstay:
“Honestly, 11th feels disrespectful to D.J. Reader, considering the caliber of player he is. And while there is no denying he can make an impact as a rusher, particularly in collapsing the pocket, he doesn’t bring that same pop that someone like Vita Vea does at nearly 350 pounds.
“But he’s ahead of Vea for two reasons. First, he is one of, if not the very best, run-defending defensive tackles in the NFL. The mental side of the position is often disregarded when discussing it. It is not just “big guy not move” when defending the run. The mental trigger necessary to process blocking schemes as you’re crashing into opposing 300-pound blockers is an absurd task. But Reader does it, which consistently puts him in the right place at the right time. His athleticism and power also aid in his run-stuffing ability.”
None of that matters to Reader. He really doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks. He just goes out there and does his job, and does it better than most anyone else in the league.
“I’m done harping on (respect), I don’t care if they respect us or not,” Reader said earlier this year. “We got a bunch of guys that care and play football hard. (Forget about) them. I don’t care. I’m done caring about it. Wherever they got the line, however they feel week-to-week, we’re just going to play football. It’s not even worth addressing anymore.”
OK. So you poked the bear. And you know what they say about that: Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.