A disappointing season hasn’t jaded Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon.
When asked what he wanted for Christmas his answer was simple: “Being here is Christmas.”
The second-year running back had a hard time thinking about the holiday last week while preparing for the “Battle of Ohio” finale at Cleveland, but said he will take Christmas, which happens to fall on a regular off day for the team, as a time to relax.
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“I don’t have any big plans,” Mixon said. “I’m sure I’ll take some time to enjoy the day but I’m just thinking about finishing the season strong right now.”
Cincinnati (6-9) wraps up the season Sunday at Pittsburgh (8-6-1) unable to finish higher than last in the AFC North but has a chance to keep the rival Steelers from the postseason with a win. Pittsburgh needs to beat the Bengals and have the Browns beat the Ravens to win the AFC North.
Mixon is pretty low key when it comes to the holiday but a few other players took some time to celebrate a little early with different charity or community events.
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Defensive end Carlos Dunlap built gingerbread houses with some local kids on Thursday as part of his foundation and said he got as much out of the experience as the kids.
“This time of year I always try to do something to get in the Christmas spirit and give back to the kids so they have the Christmas they dream of, and one of the things they like to do is build a gingerbread house,” Dunlap said. “The majority of the time they show me how to do it because I didn’t do that as much as a kid, so it’s fun interacting and sitting back and taking lessons from them.”
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins spent a whole week recently giving to the community and was named Week 15 NFL Players’ Association Community MVP for providing tens of thousands of dollars in resources, financial assistance and events for 50 families in need during his “Atkins Family Week of Giving.”
From Dec. 10-16, Atkins and his wife, Kristen, hosted a unique display of charitable work for a number of families across the Cincinnati area. After sifting through more than 200 nominations gathered via a social media campaign, their acts of kindness included things such as providing furniture and clothing, paying bills and taking a family of four on a shopping spree.
“While we don’t give for the recognition, it’s great to see the amount of people that are being helped through our story being told,” Atkins told Bengals.com.
Cornerback Darqueze Dennard has tried to become more involved in the local community this year and especially wanted to give back during the holiday season. Dennard visited a homeless shelter on Dec. 17 and gave out Nike bags filled with toiletries, and the next day, he took some children shopping.
“We are all blessed to be able to do something we love and we get paid pretty well,” Dennard said. “I grew up not having a lot, so I understand where kids are coming from, so the least I can do is be able to reach back and give back time and money to motivate and show them Christmas is about mindset and the spirit. People out here are rooting for you, and you can do whatever you want.”
Dennard also tries to spend a little extra on his family for Christmas, saying “They should be happy this Christmas.”
He didn’t have anything special he wanted for himself, but fellow cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick wandered into the Louis Vuitton store last week and bought himself a bracelet. Kirkpatrick said he had already finished all of his shopping for his family, so he figured he would buy himself a little something.
“I mailed off all my gifts (last) Monday,” Kirkpatrick said. “I’m a couple steps ahead this year. Last year I waited until the last minute.”
The Bengals have done their share of giving this holiday season but as they head into their finale Sunday at Pittsburgh, they will be looking to do a little taking. Cincinnati kept the Ravens from the playoffs in the 2017 finale and will be looking to play spoiler against the Steelers as well.
Bengals at Steelers, 4:25 p.m., WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12. 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7