FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson couldn’t believe how quickly the afternoon disappeared as the visiting Bengals shared practice with the Atlanta Falcons.
The defensive end says he enjoyed almost everything about Monday’s change of pace in the Bengals’ training camp.
“It’s fun getting to see how people do things at other places and get to switch up the scenery a little bit and have a different climate, all of that,” Johnson said. “It’s fun. Practice went by fast, it seemed like to me.
“It just gives you a different look to go against different guys. It was fun to go against different people and also fun to be back down South.”
The 90-degree Georgia heat was a definite change of pace, even for Johnson, an Alabama native and former Georgia Tech star.
“We had to get used to the heat a little at first,” Johnson said. “We had a pretty good day. It wasn’t too tough. A little humidity. Nothing we can’t handle though.”
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and Falcons coach Mike Smith also applauded the first of two days of shared practices before the teams meet in their preseason opener on Thursday night.
Lewis said at the combined practice sessions “got great tape to evaluate” as he contemplates roster decisions.
“That’s really part of being here,” Lewis said. “It’s another opportunity for us to evaluate our players, particularly our guys who are trying to make our club or trying to push for more playing time.”
In an attempt to guard against injuries, there was no tackling to the ground.
Smith had no update on Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who left practice early.
For the Cincinnati defense, the practice against quarterback Matt Ryan and receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones provided a test.
“It was good work against different looks and different concepts and things like that, the way they develop,” Lewis said. “It’s great to have to react that way.”
For the most part, the coaches’ efforts to control the tempo were successful. There was one very brief exchange of shoves late.
“You’re always competitive any time you’re out there,” Johnson said. “You want to put your best stuff out there. We’re all professional and we all understand it is practice. If you need to pull up here or there to protect yourself, you do that.
“The main guys you really have to worry about are the younger guys who aren’t used to taking care of each other. The main thing is we want to get to the gate healthy.”
Smith was a position coach with Baltimore from 1999-2002 when Lewis was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator. He said it was “wonderful” to be back on the same field with Lewis.
The coaches mapped out plans for the combined practices in May. Smith said players stuck to the script.
“I thought the guys executed extremely well today,” Smith said. “They had an understanding of what we wanted to accomplish and we were able to do that the entire practice.”
Starters saw more work Monday than they are expected to receive on Thursday night. For the Bengals, one area of emphasis will be the competition between Josh Johnson and John Skelton to win the backup job at quarterback.
The Falcons are looking for new starters on the offensive line. Rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant, the first-round pick, has been with the first-team defense throughout camp.
Another rookie, Robert Alford, also is competing for playing time at cornerback. Monday was the first chance for the rookies to line up against another team.
“I’ve been going against Julio and Roddy the whole camp,” Alford said. “They’ve been getting me better in my technique. Today it just felt good to go against an opposite team. It was a good change of pace.”
Following another shared practice on Tuesday, the teams plan separate workouts on Wednesday before Thursday night’s game at the Georgia Dome.