‘That’s a fine!’ Bengals have fun holding each other accountable

NFL

CINCINNATI — When Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert addressed a crowd of reporters in the locker room during OTAs, he already knew what was coming.

“That’s a fine!” Yelled teammate C.J. Uzomah, who happened to be walking by.

In the Bengals’ tight ends room, one could essentially be fined for anything, and Uzomah is quick to notice when someone breaks the rules. When rookie tight end Drew Sample stood in the middle of the locker room doing a television interview, Uzomah counted cameras and doled out a fine.

It’s unclear just how many fines exist because Uzomah and Eifert denied a request by ESPN to look at the list. But it’s safe to say that it’s long, and probably not entirely suitable for general audiences.

“It’s a $1,000 fine if you talk about the list of fines,” Uzomah said.

Some fines are absurd, such as fining someone for writing with a weird pen or wearing Bengals-issued gear outside of the locker room. Others follow the attention-seeking rule: Anyone who gets caught throwing up their hands in disgust after the quarterback fails to get them the ball is probably getting fined.

Drawing attention to yourself seems to be the main fine — whether that means doing an interview on camera that day (the more cameras around, the bigger the fine) or posting an attention-seeking photo on Instagram.

And rookies seem to get the short end of the stick. Uzomah explained that veterans can use discretion to add fines that aren’t written down.

“If you’re a rookie, you can get fined for anything,” Eifert said. “You can get fined for being ugly, you can fined for walking weird.”

A fine for being ugly? That could get expensive fast.

“Within reason,” Eifert countered.

Even Uzomah admitted he has got quite a few fines coming his way. Uzomah posted several Instagram videos of himself singing karaoke in his car and polled readers on the song choice — undoubtedly a fine for being an attention seeker.

“Have you seen C.J.’s carpool karaoke?” Eifert asked. “It’s a good thing he makes all this money now, because he’s getting fined every time he does that.”

While the fine system started out strong last year, it didn’t last. When most of the tight end group started getting hurt, the team had to sign new players just to have bodies at the position. It wasn’t much fun to dole out a fine to a relative stranger.

“It kind of fizzled out after I got hurt,” Eifert said.

The bond within the group last year was evident despite four tight ends going on injured reserve. They’d have dinner at each other’s houses and several attended the wedding of running back Giovani Bernard earlier in the offseason. Having a silly fine system is just one more way to have fun with each other.

Every fine goes into a pool, and at the end of the season the group will use the money to take a trip together.

But what works for one position group doesn’t work for all. Bengals wide receiver John Ross said their group doesn’t do fines, probably because it’s led by the laid-back A.J. Green.

Ross said the veterans never even made the rookies buy them dinner, which is something the defensive line group has done in the past.

“It’s a $1,000 fine if you talk about the list of fines.”

Bengals TE C.J. Uzomah

“Heck, A.J. would probably pay for the dinner himself,” he said.

The linebackers have their own system that appears to be led less by the players and more by new linebackers coach Tem Lukabu. Even though things were explained at the beginning of the offseason, linebacker Preston Brown still found that out the hard way.

Brown went his entire career without a team fine, noting that he’s a bit of a rule follower. His only fine came from the NFL when the league fined him for hitting Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck while he was sliding.

But Brown returned to his locker one day this offseason to find a picture of himself circled in red with the word “fine” written over it. He had apparently messed up a drill, so now he had to put some money into the position group’s pot.

Last year a bad move during practice might have earned you a negative grade. Now it’s going to hurt a player’s wallet.

“If you do something wrong, you have to put it in the pot,” Brown said. “It definitely makes sure you’re on your P’s and Q’s no matter what’s going on. I don’t want to get fined anymore.”

It’s a friendly incentive, Brown said, but the message is clear: Be accountable. That’s what new coach Zac Taylor has been trying to preach since Day 1.

“It wasn’t as it is now, so now you really have to make sure you’re doing what you’re doing right, or you’ll get a fine in your locker,” Brown said.

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