BENGALS HEAD COACH MARVIN LEWIS
As you watched the draft unfold last night, did it feel a little like playing chess?
ML: “Chess might be a little bit more exciting in some instances (laughs). But you obviously can’t control those in front of you, and who they pick and why. As I said last night, we had targeted three or four players that we felt like should be there when we picked, and we felt like they all would hit us in great areas of improvement to our football team. Tyler was one of those players, and we were fortunate enough to get him. We didn’t have to necessarily stockpile at another spot. So that was good. But all the linemen going early was actually an aid to us. We knew it was going to push some of the position players down to the positions that we felt would really help us right away.”
Did D.J. Hayden (cornerback, Houston) going early also help your draft board?
ML: “I don’t know. Obviously a trade was made and so forth. D.J. was a player that we felt was a great prospect, it’s just a matter of how things come out and end up for him medically, way beyond football.”
Were you surprised that no running backs were taken in the first round?
ML: “I’d probably say yes. I’d agree with that. But as we get into this a lot of times, there is probably a consistency of a consensus of how everyone feels about certain things. Everybody has certain needs, which also has an effect on when guys are drafted, or positions are drafted, or a run of positions. We saw that at the top of the draft. I think, obviously, this will be the running back day, today. Like you said, there weren’t any picked, and I think everybody feels like there’s some good value there at running back coming into this second day in the draft.”
Sharrif Floyd (defensive tackle, Florida) was considered a “slider” yesterday, as a lot of people thought he would go very high in the draft:
ML: “You guys say ‘slider,’ but those people that do a lot of talking on TV, I don’t see them affiliated with many clubs that way. Or, a lot of them don’t even watch tape. That’s the thing, too much gets carried that way. There’s a lot of research and everything that goes into these players on the field, off the field, etc. — medically, mentally, all of those things. And it has to be a correct fit. We felt like he was a good prospect. He was obviously one of the guys that went right away after we selected Tyler, or two or three picks later.”
What was the read you got on Eifert from Brian Kelly?
ML: “Very good. I was at Notre Dame two weekends ago. He (Kelly) was glowing in talking about Tyler, and what Tyler meant to their football team — and their offensive football team — and how he was able to use him since he’s been there as the head coach. He really felt like he was able to use him in a lot of ways in a mismatch against the defense, and that he would give us a lot of flexibility. He was definitely a guy that Brian Kelly felt very, very strongly about.”
Do you feel good about where you stand with your picks coming up tonight?
ML: “We do, we really do. We feel good about where things are — I think we pick in five picks. So we’re going to feel good about the next player. The next two players we pick, we’re going to feel really good about ... We feel like we’re going to get two other guys that have an opportunity to add depth and compete with guys that are currently on the team.”
Did Tyler make a pre-draft visit here or was your contact all in South Bend?
ML: “No. He was not one of the guys we had here. A lot of the time, coming here is to do further work mentally and physically, so that’s why we try to use a lot of those in that fashion — do more research on mental aptitude and learning football and those kinds of things. We had no doubts that way with Tyler, and there were no medical things. So there was really no need to bring him further. But Jay (Gruden) and Jonathan (Hayes) both went to his pro day at Notre Dame and they thought he did a nice job. As I’ve said, these guys get themselves drafted with what they do in the fall. There’s little that they do after the season that has much bearing — it’s confirmation one way or another. If the college players pay more attention to what they do in the fall, they would raise their stock much more than all this stuff after the season in underwear and shorts. You don’t play football that way.”
BENGALS TIGHT END TYLER EIFERT
TE: “Yeah, I knew a little bit about it with Chad Johnson — or ‘Ochocinco’; I don’t know what it is now — and all his touchdown dances.”
Did you follow his Johnson’s career here much at all?
TE: “I didn’t follow it, but I would watch him when he was on (TV), and obviously there was always a lot of attention around him. I knew about him from that.”
Was your heart pounding when the call game last night?
TE: “Yeah, it was pounding pretty hard. I was pretty calm the whole time until teams kept going by, and things started going through your head. I was pretty excited.”
Are you a native of Indiana originally?
TE: “Yes. I’m from Fort Wayne.”
Have you followed the Bengals? Have you seen their offense?
TE: “Yeah, a little bit. I grew up a Colts fan, being in Indiana, but, yeah, I followed it.”
Your dad played basketball at Purdue. Do you get your athletic ability and your hops from your dad or your mom?
TE: “Definitely my mom. I get my height from my dad.”
Your mom is an athlete as well?
TE: “Yeah, she’s athletic.”
What did she play?
TE: “She didn’t play anything in college, but I can go out in the driveway and she can compete. I can throw a baseball, pitch to her. She’s pretty athletic.”
Is that one of your main attributes — your competitive nature? Coach Hayes was saying that you’re a really fiery competitor:
TE: “When I was in fifth grade, I used to cry when I lost. It nagged at me and bothered me. I don’t care what it is. If it’s rock/paper/scissors, or a race to the car. I’ll do what I can to win.”
Growing up as a Colts fan, is Dallas Clark one of your favorite players and someone you tried to model your game after?
TE: “Yeah, I grew up watching him a lot — him and Peyton (Manning).”
Did you ever go to any of the games?
TE: “Yeah, I was at the game when Peyton Manning broke the touchdown record a while ago. Then someone else broke it but I was at that game and it was pretty cool.”
Coach Kelly obviously prepared you for your experience in the National Football League using you as many ways as he did. Do you think you are prepared to take the next step and transition easily?
TE: “I do. They asked me to do a lot of things in the offense this year and that required me to learn every position on the field. Although it’s a new offense, I think I’ll be able to pick it up pretty well if I put the time in. I don’t think picking it up will be any problem at all.”
I think you were already in there talking to Jon (TEs coach Jonathan Hayes). Any kind of first impressions of what he was going over?
TE: “We were just going over very basic stuff; just making sure we were on the same page with some basic things.”
You mentioned briefly last night that (Minnesota Vikings tight end) Kyle Rudolph has been a mentor. What did you learn from him?
TE: “Lately we’ve talked more about just the life in the NFL, how it’s a lot different than college, how the locker room is different. It’s not a locker room full of college guys. Some guys might be married and going home to their families; so just to be ready for the adjustment and the transition.”
By the time you got to Notre Dame, Rudolph was probably pretty much NFL ready, whereas you needed to gain weight and get stronger and so forth. When you saw him, did you think ‘If I want to make it, this is what I have to try to be?’
TE: “I did. He came in his freshman year ready to play. I came in at 210 pounds and just happy to have a scholarship. I obviously knew there was a lot of work I had to do.”
The way you run routes, were you a wide receiver that just kept growing and grew into the tight end position?
TE: “I was a wide receiver and safety in high school.”
You really run great routes. You sink your hips and all that good stuff don’t you?
TE: “Yeah, that’s something that we work on.”
How much did Kyle help mentor you in 2010, because he had the season-ending injury that kind of forced you to come along?
TE: “In camp he also had the hamstring that was nagging him, so I kind of took a lot of reps in the fall. It was a little overwhelming at times because I was a little weak and undersized, so he helped me through that time, and when he got hurt we were roommates for every game. He still traveled and it was just good to have a guy like that to go to, someone that’s been there and been experienced to help me out.”
The 50/50 balls or contested catch, whatever you want to call it, seems to be a big strength and forte for you. You always seem to catch it at the high point. Is that just a knack, is that a gift from God, is that something you work on?
TE: “I think the high point of the ball is just a gift. There’s not really a way to teach it, I don’t think. It goes back to basketball a little bit and rebounding.”
What’s your vertical?
TE: “At the combine it was 35 and a half.”
The scrutiny that you’re under at a program like Notre Dame, does that prepare you for another level of scrutiny?
TE: “It does. At the combine I got asked a lot, ‘Are you ready for the spotlight to be on you?’ It was on us every single week. It’s actually on us year round. They’re always looking for something around South Bend. Playing on national television every single game, and I think every game we played in last year was sold out. I definitely think that’s prepared me for the next level.”
What was it like experiencing all that craziness around Manti Te’o last year?
TE: “During the season, I didn’t know anything about it. I was down in Florida training with him when the news broke, and we saw what happened from there, but I was pretty much with him the entire time.”
Was that difficult for you, what he was going through? Being a teammate he probably leaned on you some:
TE: “Yeah, he did. I don’t know what else I would do besides help. That’s what I would expect someone to do for me. I was there for whatever he needed. I can’t imagine going through something like that with the entire nation talking about you in that way. I was just there, whatever he needed. He handled it great and it’s pretty much blown over by now.”
Coach Kelly talked to Marvin about you. Did you talk to Coach Kelly at all about Marvin and the Bengals?
TE: “Not yet. I’m planning on talking to him since he was here for a while. But no, I haven’t yet.”
As far as blocking is concerned, the other part that a tight end has to do. How would you rate yourself in that category? Do you feel pretty good about your blocking abilities?`
TE: “I feel very good about it. I’m obviously not where I want to be. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but I also made great improvement at Notre Dame getting better in that area. With Coach Hayes, we’ll work on that and it’s something I’ll get better at and I want to put the work in. So there’s no doubt that I’ll get better at that.”
TE: “He texted me last night, just saying ‘Congrats and happy you’re part of the team.’ He said hopefully he’ll be over here so we can meet.”
Kyle Rudolph’s obviously from here. Have you talked to him since the pick and has he tried to sell you on things about his hometown?
TE: “He said ‘Welcome to the ‘Nasty Nati,’ or something like that. He was telling me places to hang out. His parents live here so if I need anything ... I told him I might just rent from his parents and stay in his room.”
You talked about being happy to have a scholarship as a freshman. When did you start seeing being a first-round pick as a realistic possibility?
TE: “The dream was always to play in the NFL. I was going to work hard to get there. I just didn’t know if I had everything it took. But probably my junior season, having a good year, improving my blocking, catching a lot of balls against some good teams. That’s probably when I thought I could make it here.
If all goes according to plan, you’re going to make your NFL debut on your birthday, a couple hours from your hometown. (Bengals open regular season Sept. 8 in Chicago.) Have you allowed yourself to fantasize about what that day is going to be like?
TE: “Someone brought that up last night already. That would be pretty cool. I’ve grown up in Fort Wayne. I went to college an hour-and-a -half away, and now I get to come here close to home. I’m sure there will be a lot of people at that game.”
I know that Brian Kelly tried to recruit you when he was here. Did that go anywhere? Was that ever a possibility in your mind?
TE: “I wasn’t very highly recruited, so everything was an option for me. I didn’t take a whole lot of visits. I really only took my official visit to Notre Dame. Once I got the offer, it was kind of a done deal.”
What was it like seeing Notre Dame’s program going from where it was when you entered to playing in the national title game?
TE: “It’s pretty exciting. It feels good to be a part of that. The guys that have come and that have kind of set the bar at Notre Dame for what it is today, or what it should be today, and for us kind of bring it back to where it should be and to be a part of that forever will be pretty cool.”
I’m sure wherever you went, you would say you were very excited to be there. But being in the Midwest and staying in this area, does that feel like kind of a natural fit for you and make a little extra excitement?
TE: “It does. Like I said before, I haven’t been too far from home my whole life. I’ve got a huge support from my family and friends. At the Notre Dame games, we’ve had 50 to 100 friends and family at our tailgates. They love to come and support. It will be good to be here so they can come and see me play.”
What did you study at Notre Dame? Are you going to graduate on time?
TE: “Management consulting. I had all my credits finished after the fall but I haven’t graduated officially yet.”
What excites you about this offense? I know you’re not into the playbook or anything, but knowing the players and (offensive coordinator) Jay Gruden and all that, what excites you about playing in this offense?
TE: “There’s obviously a lot of playmakers on the field, with