CINCINNATI — Just about when the University of Kentucky marching band was performing at halftime of Sunday's Cincinnati Bengals-Denver Broncos game in Paul Brown Stadium, word came from Lexington.
Joker Phillips was out as coach of the Wildcats.
With three ex-Cats playing for the Broncos, word spread quickly after Denver completed a 31-23 victory.
"It's a sad thing," said linebacker Wesley Woodyard, Denver's leading tackler. "I'm going to miss Joker. I'm still going to support Joker. And hopefully our Cats can get back on the line."
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Danny Trevathan, a rookie linebacker who notched his first career sack Sunday, was moved by the announcement that came in the form of an "open letter" from Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart.
"I'm just going to continue to pray for (Phillips). He helped me out a lot and I'll never forget that," said Trevathan, who twice led the Southeastern Conference in tackles while under Phillips' guidance. "No matter what I'm going through, no matter where I'm at, he's a good coach to me. He taught me a lot of things. That's what he was there for, to teach us as players and as a person. My prayers are with him and his family. I'm sure he'll find a job."
Tight end Jacob Tamme said he heard the news from Woodyard in the showers.
"I don't really have any (reaction) right now, to be honest," Tamme said. "Obviously, I want to see the program succeed. I've got a ton of ties to Joker and a lot of people on that staff, as well as to Mitch."
Too soon for him to think about who should replace Phillips, Tamme said.
"Who knows?" Woodyard said. "Somebody that believes in winning and somebody who's going to get the program turned around."
Woodyard, Trevathan and Tamme form the Colorado chapter of Big Blue Ball.
They missed the band at halftime, but all three took a peek on the field.
"I did see them," Trevathan said. "And I saw the dance squad walking through."
Unlike this season's Wildcat squad, the Broncos are rolling along with a 5-3 record.
Woodyard was fresh off AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, having totaled 13 tackles (9 solo), a sack (12 yards), an interception, two passes defensed and one fumble forced — exceeding or matching his career highs in every category — in Denver's 34-18 win over New Orleans.
"It's just hard work, you know. My coaches and my teammates believe in me and I believe in myself," said Woodyard, who came out of UK as a free agent in 2008. "So it's just exciting to get a chance to be out on the football field with those guys."
He led in tackles Sunday with 14 (4 solo), one for a loss.
"If you're going to be a linebacker and you're going to be successful, you've got to find that football," Woodyard said. "You've got to sniff it out and be around it all the time."
Trevathan, a sixth-round pick, has steadily picked up steam his rookie season.
He recorded six tackles (1 solo) Sunday, including a sack of Andy Dalton. He also was credited with a hurry.
"Yeah, but it is what it is," Trevathan said of his sack. "I just went out there to try to play my game and whatever came out came out, and I'm just happy to be with a great group of guys like this.
"I wasn't happy at first (early in the season). I felt I could have been more involved. But I was just transitioning. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer. But I've been on the road for a long time; I've been learning the ropes, and the older guys here do a good job telling you where the experience comes. ... They teach me, and I think I'm applying that very well."
Tamme, who arrived this season with quarterback Peyton Manning as a free-agent from the Indianapolis Colts, caught three passes for 12 yards Sunday.
He suffered an elbow stinger — tingling down to his hands — after taking a hit late in the first half. Repeated hits kept the tingles coming.
"The first one was the worst. I didn't know what was wrong with it," Tamme said. "I've never felt anything like that. Luckily, everything seems to be good."
In addition to Bluebloods, Denver has a Cardinal-red player to be reckoned with in Elvis Dumervil, the starting defensive end out of the University of Louisville.
Dumervil, who was in on five tackles (3 solo), including a sack, speaks highly of his ex-UK defensive mates.
"Danny's been tremendous. He's come in as a rookie. He's doing what the coaches ask. He's a great teammate. He works hard everyday," Dumervil said. "Woodyard, he's been here, been a captain. He's an emotional leader and he's a productive guy.
"It's a little tough embracing a blue Wildcat guy, but I'm glad they're my teammates."