LOS ANGELES — DJ Reader spent his first four seasons with the Texans, and he had a choice to make when he became a free agent in 2020.
Many teams showed interest in Reader, but he picked the Bengals. That might have seemed an odd choice since the Bengals had been one of the worst teams in football. Sure, the four-year, $53 million contract Cincinnati offered had a lot to do with his decision. But so did the fact the Bengals had the No. 1 pick and he knew who they were going to get with it.
“Knowing they were going to get Joe Burrow gave me confidence that I was going to play with a good quarterback,” Reader said. “I had seen him play. I just needed to figure out what kind of person he was and he’s amazing. I made the right choice.”
That choice looks mighty wise now. Reader will line up at nose tackle for the Bengals on Sunday in Super Bowl LVI. He’s the run-stopping force in the middle of the Cincinnati defense.
In the Bengals’ divisional win over the Titans, Cincinnati hero star running back Derrick Henry to 62 yards on 20 carries.
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“He was Superman,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “If you’re going to single out one guy for their performance, DJ Reader is certainly deserving of that. He set the tone.”
The Bengals will need Reader to set the tone again Sunday. The Rams don’t have Henry in the backfield, but Cam Akers and Sony Michel give them a solid 1-2 punch in the running game.
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Reader’s first season with the Bengals ended in October 2020 when he suffered a season-ending quad injury. He bounced back this season to have a monster year in the middle for the Bengals.
“This is what you dream about as a kid,” Reader said. “You always tell your parents and everybody around you that you’re going to play in the Super Bowl. You get in the league and you realize how hard that is, how hard that dream actually is. It’s something you fight for every day. Every team goes into every year wanting to do this.”
Earlier in the playoffs, Reader spoke about how everyone was “sleeping” on the Bengals and they felt disrespected. He’s not sure how anyone can overlook them now.
“We’re in the Super Bowl, so I hope people respect us,” Reader said. “We don’t really care about that. We’ve always got a chip on our shoulder. We want to play. Guys are competitive and they want to go out and play. That’s the kind of team we’ve got.”