Bengals second-round pick eager to ‘show his stripes’

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — Kris Jenkins said he felt like he already fit in with the Cincinnati Bengals just from his pre-draft visit to the team’s facility, and now after his first NFL practice, he’s fully embraced “Who Dey Nation.”

The second-round draft pick and former Michigan defensive tackle called it “a blessing” to put on his practice jersey Friday to take part in rookie minicamp.

Cincinnati’s draft picks and college free agent signings had a chance to ease into the offseason workout program with a short session together on the field at the Indoor Practice Facility before integrating with the veterans Monday.

Jenkins, full of smiles after practice Friday, is already loving the chance to “show his stripes.”

“It is really a blessing, and I’m so, so honored for this unbelievable opportunity, you know, finally being able to step on the field, first day on the field as a rookie,” Jenkins said. “So (I’m) just looking forward to maximizing this opportunity to get better every single day, make our coaches proud, make the Who Dey nation proud for bringing us in and giving us this opportunity.”

Rookies arrived Thursday for orientation, but Jenkins also came to Cincinnati the day after he was drafted and had been to Paycor Stadium for a “top 30″ player visit before the NFL Draft. It was during his initial meetings with the Bengals throughout the pre-draft process and particularly that “top 30″ visit that gave him a good vibe about the organization.

Being back with the coaches and all the rookies just reinforced what he already thought about the Bengals.

“I could kind of just get that sense of, that feeling how big the culture is here, and not really just on the field, but off the field as well,” Jenkins said of his first two days with the other rookies and coaches. “And I’m looking forward to, you know, really digging my feet into that culture, getting set into that, because I just have a feeling, coming from where I came from, really how important the Bengals, the ‘Who Dey’ means to everybody here and I really want to make a positive impact.”

The Bengals clearly believe in Jenkins, a three-year starter who led the nation’s top-ranked defense on a national championship team at Michigan. He was known by his teammates and coaches as “The Mutant” for his strength, athleticism and work ethic.

Head coach Zac Taylor and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo spoke during draft weekend about how long they were staring at Jenkins’ name on their draft board, hoping he would still be available to them when their first pick on Day 2 came around. He’ll have a chance to serve an important role in the rotation at defensive tackle, known as a strong run stopper with the ability to improve in the pass rush as well.

Being a Bengal “means everything” to Jenkins because of how “Who Dey Nation” believed in him and accepted him. Since Jenkins was drafted, the fan base seems to have embraced him as well, which he said is probably because of his smile. Jenkins brings an infectious energy to the room, but he’s also serious about his work and he plans to make the most of his opportunity.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s an honor, but like I said, I haven’t done nothing yet,” Jenkins said. “And I want to continue to prove that, and that’s why I’m excited to work with the vets and learn from them, learn from the coaches, learn from my guys in here because it’s just like I said, this is an unbelievable opportunity for me. And you know, it’s an honor to have so many people believe in me that, you know, I want to give them something back.”

Jenkins said he hasn’t stopped smiling since the draft, “a dream come true” for the son of a Pro Bowler looking forward to making a name for himself. He was excited to get started Thursday with orientation and Friday with rookie minicamp.

The former Michigan captain takes pride in trying to set the tone as a leader, and he’s already doing that with the rookie class. He’s still got to earn the respect of the veterans and learn from them, but trying to stay vocal with the new guys coming in with him.

First-round pick Amarius Mims said Jenkins is the “loudest” on the rookie text chain. Jenkins acknowledged he’s just “a weird dude,” always willing to break the ice and be real with people.

“Obviously, there’s business to take care of, but if we’re bonding, I’ll just be the random guy that sends some random meme where maybe you get it, maybe you don’t get it, but it was a meme there,” Jenkins said. “Or, I’ll just send like a random photo in the chat or something like that.”

“We’ve clicked the second we got here, like you got so many good guys, so many good guys with character all around us, all across this room, you know, that I met with yesterday and today. So really just getting my feet in with them, just like getting to know the guys introducing ourselves, it’s been a heck of an honor already. And we just started, so really just getting an opportunity to be a sponge right now and go from there.”

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