Head Coach MARVIN LEWIS and Special Assistant to the Head Coach/Running Backs Coach HUE JACKSON
ML: “I think it’s an exciting opportunity to pick ‘Gio’ —
He’s been a guy that you’ve liked for a while — you went to his pro day last month, correct?
ML: “Well, I try to pick out a position each year where I want to go and see the guys, and running back was my position this year. The ones I could make, I made. But yeah, he was impressive. Just to be around him and watch him work and watch him do things that day.
Comment on the Friday afternoon re-signing of T
ML: “I think, obviously, the biggest thing we can really be happy about was the signing of Andre Smith earlier today. It’s a great job. It’s obviously been an ongoing process getting Andre under contract, I think, with both sides, but I’ve really got to applaud our upstairs, the management group. What we were able to do at the onset of free agency was number one, retain our guys. We felt it was imperative. They did a great job of that. It’s been a lot of work, but we’ve been able to get that accomplished. Then there’s James (Harrison), and a couple of other guys that we’ve added to help accent the football team. So, now obviously, the draft, yesterday, today and tomorrow this will help us keep getting better. Again, I think upstairs should be applauded for what they’ve done. It’s been a great job. I’m going to let Hue talk and then you guys will have Andre here.”
Marvin had said pre-draft that when you take a running back, you could go with a guy who could really back up and be in the same mold as BenJarvus (Green-Ellis) or be a contrast. Giovanni’s much more of a contrast, would you say?
HJ: “I think we’re adding just another really good football player to our room. Obviously he has some different strengths than some of the guys in there. But we have a really good room right now, and we added a really, really good football player.
By different, you mean different skill sets?
HJ: “Yeah, because obviously this guy is ... he’s a guy that rushed for over 1,200 yards, he caught 47 balls — the guy knows how to score touchdowns and he’s a threat any time he touches it, whether he’s running with the ball or catching it. He has the ability to do some things differently than we’ve seen in the past, but at the end of the day he’s just going to be another guy we stick out there that’s going to have a chance to get our offense to where we need it to be.”
He’s small ... Could he carry the load for a month if need be in a couple games?
HJ: “I think this young player is a complete football player. He can do it all. Obviously, he’ll have a chance to come in and compete with the rest of the guys behind BenJarvus but then obviously, you want to make sure that if something was to happen, this guy could carry the load and I really think he can. Having evaluated him and watched every game he played this year and had a chance to work him out and having spent a lot of time with him, he has that skill set where I think he could play and be an every down player.”
Hue, when the board got reset for day two, is that the guy you’re hoping is there?
HJ: “Absolutely. I mean, again, Marvin said it best — kudos to our scouts from Mike Brown all the way down the organization, I think everybody did a great job of making sure of how we reset the board. And at the end of the day, the guys we were hoping would be there are starting to be there. Obviously, it’s early in the day, there’s still a lot of time left here, but we’re off and I think we’re doing a great job.”
There are some pretty good backs out there ... What made Bernard number one in your mind?
HJ: “We’re looking for a guy who would fit what we do, who can catch it and run with it, but you also have to be able to pass protect and be multi-faceted, the young man has that skill set. He demonstrated it week in and week out last year for North Carolina, and he hopefully can come in — not hopefully — he will come in here and do the same thing for us.”
He had a little injury history:
HJ: “He did have a knee (injury), and he did come out of that with flying colors. Obviously, the young man’s checked out perfectly and he’s ready to go.”
He’s pretty young, isn’t he? He had the three years (in college), but he’s coming out as a sophomore:
HJ: “Yes, he is coming out early. He is, again, a young player, and people talk about having one of the youngest offenses in pro football, and that’s a good thing. That’s not a bad thing. I mean, we have a lot of guys who’ve played a lot of football and we’ve added another young, talented player to the mix. It makes it exciting. I’m a fan here. I’m very excited about what’s happening here on offense.”
Can you talk about what you’ve done in the last 21 hours or so (on offense)? You’ve got Andre, you’ve got (2013 first round pick Tyler) Eifert. How are things looking now as compared to maybe a day ago?
HJ: “Again, I think it goes back to what Marvin said — we’re adding better players, we’re adding some of our players, and I think the offense is starting to go into the mode and the identity that I think (offensive coordinator) Jay Gruden has. Our job is to score points. I think Jay would be the first to tell you that, and in order to do that, you got to make sure you have players that can do that and we have some on this team right now. I think any time you can add more, you just have a better opportunity to get better.”
When guys talk about Giovani, they talk about his stature and his frame and compare him to Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice. Does he play kind of like that?
HJ: “Well, I don’t want to compare him to anybody. Those players you just mentioned are very good football players in the National Football League right now. I can see the comparison because of maybe the stature, but he’s going to have to go earn that. He’s going to have to go earn it on game day and play the way those guys have played. You just mentioned two really, really good football players; one guy is coming off a Super Bowl win and the other player has been very talented in this league, so if we can get this young man to do that, then we’re doing something really, really good.”
GB: “I go by Giovani. My dad gave me that name.”
How did you get the name?
GB: “One of my dad’s good friends was named Giovani, and he passed away. So I ended up carrying his name. He was an Italian guy that came by the cleaners a lot.”
Is that what your dad does? Runs a dry cleaning business?
GB: “Yeah. He works at a dry cleaning business.”
Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
GB: “I grew up in South Florida — Palm Beach County area, Boca Raton/Delray. I grew up there, until I got to high school, then I had to move all the way over to St. Thomas, which is in Fort Lauderdale. I spent my high school time there.”
Are you surprised you’re the first running back to go in this year’s draft?
GB: “Yeah. I obviously believe in the gifts that God gave me, but at the same time there are a lot of great backs out there. You can’t really do too much, other than just leave it in God’s hands, and you can say he really took care of me today.”
Is it true you’ve been working a little bit with Cris Carter at a speed camp?
GB: “I used to when I was younger. I haven’t worked out with his group in a while, but I definitely keep in contact with him. The biggest thing he always tells me is to keep working hard, stay true to yourself and be the person that you are. He’s really seen me evolve since I was a little kid playing in little league football with him and his son.”
The Bengals seemed to follow you around a lot during the pre-draft process. Did you get a sense that they were high on you?
GB: “Yeah. I knew they were one of the teams that was definitely considering me. But you never know how the draft plays out. But for the most part, I knew they were a team that was interested in me. But as a football player, you just try and fill yourself in with as many teams as possible. I’m obviously happy. I’m thrilled to be a Bengal now, and I’m excited to get this thing rolling and get back on the field.”
How much do you know about the other running backs on this roster?
GB: “I definitely know about them. Like the Law Firm (HB BenJarvus Green-Ellis). I was actually on Twitter, and we had a chance to talk a little bit through that. But other than that, I don’t know too much about it. There are obviously so many other guys that are fighting for a position. But I’m going to go in there with my head held high, know my position and know my role, and definitely just try my best.”
What did you and Green-Ellis talk about on Twitter?
GB: “I saw that he saw my film, and he said he thought I would be a good fit in the orange, black and white. For me, that’s just a blessing. As someone who has already been through it to say that about a guy that’s not even in the league yet. It’s definitely a blessing.”
So he’s already given you his blessing, even before you were drafted here?
What do you bring to the table?
GB: “Just a guy that’s a well-rounded running back. A guy that, wherever he needs to be, that’s where he’s going to be. You can put me in any type of situation, plug me in any type of offense, and I’ll execute. I’m a smart guy, a guy that’s going to hit the playbook and understand what he is going to have to do. And I’m a guy that is going to accept his role, whatever that role is.”
Do you have any idea what that role is going to be?
GB: “No sir, I don’t. I don’t really have much of an idea. But once I get it, I’m going to take it on full speed and be ready to go.”
Did you do both punt returns and kickoff returns?
GB: “I actually only did punt returning. That was the first year I did punt returning. I never really did kick returning in a game before. I did it a couple of times in high school, but nothing that was a season long, like my punt returning this last season.”
What made you decide to leave college early, after your redshirt sophomore season?
GB: “It was just following a dream you have from growing up. One of the guys I always admired was Cedric Benson. He obviously played in a Bengals uniform. So for me, it’s just going in with an open mind. I’m just excited, I’m thrilled right now. My family is all behind me going wild. I’m just ready to get this thing going.”
What made you think you were ready to come out of the draft?
GB: “It was just the dream in front of me and the opportunity to play in the NFL. It was hard to pass up on. In college, you have the opportunity to really go play in the NFL, which is something you’ve worked for all your life. It’s really hard to pass up when you have the opportunity in front of you.”
Did you see the news that the Bengals today re-signed T Andre Smith?
GB: “No, I did not. I’ve been so kind of alienated from what’s going on around the draft process. I try to stay away from it as much as possible, just because there’s so much that goes on day-to-day. I’m kind of relaxed now, knowing that I’m on a team, and I’ll try to get everything going from there.”
How do you see yourself working in the backfield with Green-Ellis? Complimenting each other? Sharing snaps?
GB: “Honestly, it’s all up to Coach Gruden (offensive coordinator Jay Gruden). At the end of the day, wherever they want to put me, I’ll try my best at that position. Whether they want me in the slot, I’ll do that. Or if they want to put me in the gun seven (yards) deep in the pistol. Whatever it is, I’ll take that role and run with it.”
For a long time, the Bengals have needed a running back who can run pass routes, and it appears you do well. Is that because of the systems you’ve been in?
GB: “It’s a little bit of the systems I’ve been in, as well as the coaching. I had a chance to play in a pro-style offense my first year, then it switched up to the spread offense this past year. So with all of those, I’ve been able to get a feel and a mixture of all different types of coaching. Obviously hard work comes into it. And watching the receivers and how they run their routes, then adding that to my game.”
How does it feel to be another in a long line of NFL players from your high school (St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale)?
GB: “I know, right? It’s insane. I’m another in a long line of St. Thomas alums. Coach (George) Smith just texted me about 20 minutes ago. Awesome coach, awesome program. I’m just really thrilled.”
Do you know
GB: “Yeah. He actually left the year before I got into St. Thomas, but I know we’ll pick up like we’re classmate buddies. We have that bond that we both when to St. Thomas.”