Archdeacon: Bengals veteran Dunlap’s frustrations over reduced role continue to boil over

Defensive end seen arguing with coach on sidelines; announces he’s selling his house via social media

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI – Losing his mind?

Giovani Bernard did want to go there.

After the Cleveland Browns had beaten his Cincinnati Bengals 37-34 Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, the veteran running back was asked about the late-game meltdown on the sidelines by his veteran teammate, defensive end Carlos Dunlap.

Dunlap – a two-time Pro Bowl selection who’s just one sack behind Bengals career leader Eddie Edwards (83.5 to 82.5) – is disgruntled about his recent demotion to a back-up as Coach Zac Taylor and his defensive coaches have opted to go with younger players and those who fully buy in to their way of doing things.

Sunday, as Cleveland drove straight down the field in the final minute and scored the winning touchdown with 16 seconds left and him on the sidelines, Dunlap got into a heated exchange with a defensive coach.

Other Bengals – including team captain A.J. Green and Taylor – did their best to step in, pull Dunlap back and try to deescalate the situation.

But once he it got into the dressing room Dunlap promptly announced – via tweet – that his home was up for sale:

This outburst follows a Saturday post on his Instagram account where he listed the team’s depth chart at defensive end for the Browns' game.

It showed he was running third string at both end positions, which meant, besides the starters, he was also playing behind just-signed Margus Hunt on the left side and rookie Khalid Kareem on the right.

“Stand down and stand by is what this tells me,” he wrote. “Zac/Lou they got an experiment, but I ain’t got time for this.”

TV cameras caught Sunday’s sideline unravelling and it became a topic of conversation in the postgame Zoom interviews of several other players in these pandemic times.

Afterward no one mentioned COVID-19, but a few Bengals talked about the other virus suddenly infecting their dressing room.

Bernard though didn’t like one radio announcer’s “losing his mind” reference to Dunlap:

"I wouldn’t say, as frustrated as everyone is, ‘losing his mind’ is not the term we should use.

"It’s just one of those situations that’s unfortunate because we know the type of player he is and what he brings and what he can do on the field. He’s a gifted athlete. But the thing is it’s tough to talk about.

“It’s a situation he is going to have to handle, but I’ve always been the type of the person – and a lot of the guys in the locker room have been this way -- we can only worry about the guys that want to be here, the guys that want to take care of business and do it the right way.”

And that’s the sad thing here.

I’ve known Carlos Dunlap since he came here as a second-round pick out of the University of Florida in 2010. He’s always been a decent, introspective and caring guy when it came to his teammates, his family or the community at large.

And by community, I’m not just talking about Cincinnati or even Florida and Charleston, South Carolina where he grew up.

He ran an anti-bullying campaign for kids in all those places, but he also used to take it to schools in cities wherever the Bengals played. The son of a school teacher and a proponent of education, he’d used to send the classes a book to read before he got there. Then he’d show up with pizzas, T-shirts and sometimes teammates.

Once in Pittsburgh he brought one of the Steelers with him and then gave kids bicycles.

I remember how he once sought out the family of an 8-year-old Cincinnati boy who had been repeatedly bullied in school and ended up committing suicide.

Dunlap introduced me to the boy’s parents after a game and they couldn’t say enough good things about him.

Twice – in 2015 and again just two years ago – the Bengals nominated him as their choice for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

But since then Taylor has taken over for Marvin Lewis and the team is trying to bring in younger and more productive talent.

The transition has been tough. Dunlap has just one sack this year. And the team under Taylor won just two of 16 games last season and are 1-5-1 now.

Dunlap wants to be traded, as does similarly demoted veteran lineman Geno Atkins and fourth-year receiver John Ross, who never has lived up his billing.

The trade deadline is Nov. 3 and while the Bengals are actively searching for a deal for Dunlap – who’s at the end of a three-year, $45 million deal – he is pushing the matter in an out of character way that ends up being nothing but selfish.

This tact – I’ll be such a disruptive force that you have to get rid of me – is something you might expect out of all-about-me players like Terrell Owens or Antonio Brown, both who did go that route at one time or another.

But Dunlap always has been as solid in the dressing room and on the field.

That’s what bothers some of his teammates.

Receiver Tyler Boyd, who had a career high 11 catches for 101 yards Sunday, had one choice comment that can’t be printed here, but he did say: “For him to do that on the sidelines, obviously, I don’t agree with it.”

Green explained why he stepped in:

“I don’t know the exact situation that happened, but as a captain and a leader, my job is to defuse a lot of these situations. I know a lot of the people are frustrated with whatever is going on, but at the end of the day we’re a family, so we’ve got to keep all of this in house.”

“A lot of people wouldn’t be talking if we were winning. And I think with losing comes a lot of frustration. You have to learn how to channel those frustrations. You can’t put in on social media, so that’s why I deleted all my social media. I don’t need it. And when I’m done with football, I will not be on social media.”

Sunday one veteran Bengal was in his right mind.

About the Author