The speculation began April 7 as soon as the NFL released the preseason schedule, and it was confirmed Thursday when the Cincinnati Bengals announced they will be holding joint practices with the Minnesota Vikings.
This will be the third time in the last four seasons the Bengals have held joint practices with the team they open the preseason against, but this year’s sessions feature added intrigue with the return of Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota head coach who spent six seasons as Bengals defensive coordinator under Marvin Lewis.
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“Marvin and I have a great relationship. We talk a lot,” Zimmer told reporters in Minnesota. “The players there, I have a lot of respect for them, and I believe they have respect for me. So I think we’ll be able to practice the right way.”
The Bengals held a pair of joint practices against the New York Giants ahead of last year’s preseason opener at Paul Brown Stadium, and in 2013 they practiced against the Atlanta Falcons in Flowery Branch, Ga., in the days leading up to the game.
“Our past experiences with joint practices have been good,” Lewis said. “You put yourself on the field with another team and let the competitive juices flow a little bit. And it’s great that we could work this out with Zim.”
The practices will be held Aug. 10-11 on the practice fields adjacent to Paul Brown Stadium, and both will be free and open to the public. The Aug. 10 practice will begin at 3 p.m., while the Aug. 11 session will start at 11 a.m. The Bengals and Vikings kick off the 2016 preseason at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12.
News of the joint practices was well received by Bengals who played for Zimmer.
It’s definitely going to be good to see Zim out there,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “He was my first defensive coordinator here, and he laid the foundation for the athlete I am today.
“It’s going to be fun going against Zim,” he added. “Just to see him again and know I came a long way from my rookie days.”
Even though Zimmer is known for his defense, as a head coach he has his hand in the offense as well, which means he’ll get a good look at Dunlap and the other former defensive players he coached.
“I’m quite sure he’s going to be coaching both sides of the ball,” cornerback Adam Jones said. “Zim is one of those guys he’s going to let you know when you’re doing something wrong or right. We’ll know each other pretty good, so it will be pretty funny.”
Zimmer made it clear he won’t only be coaching his Vikings.
“They know I’ll still get after them, too,” he said of the Bengals players.
In addition to Zimmer, the joint practices will reunite the Bengals with former teammates Andre Smith, Emmanuel Lamur, Terence Newman and Troy Stoudemire.
Dunlap and Smith went head to head in practice the last six seasons.
“It’s going to be good to compete against Andre and see him in different colors,” Dunlap said.
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