Nick Vigil at work for Utah State.
When the Bengals made linebacker Nick Vigil their third-round selection a week ago, the talk among many fans was less about his impressive career at Utah State and more about his college hair style. A rat tail. The Bengals coaches, however, quickly shed some light on the little-known player with the famous doo.
"He jumps out on the tape," said linebackers coach Jim Haslett. "He can run the field. He's really good in coverage. And they play the same type of defense we play, so I think it'll be an easy transition once he learns the language. I think he's a three-down player that can play multiple positions."
Added defensive coordinator Paul Guenther: "As soon as we put (the tape) in, we said, 'This guy is a real fit for us.' He's fast. He ran a 4.66 (40-yard dash). He ran a 4 on the shuttle, like a receiver's speed."
While the rat tail met its fate just before the NFL Combine ("I didn't want to go in and meet coaches and GMs and all of that with a little rat-tail hanging off the side"), the characteristics that made him a Bengals third-round pick have shown up at this weekend's rookie minicamp.
"To see Nick Vigil out there today running the defense like he's been the MIKE linebacker the entire time was really good," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said after Friday's practice. "It was impressive.
"For some guys, it just 'clicks' and you see it. I thought William Jackson clicked today, and Nick Vigil. That's encouraging; those are two guys that can help us early in the season."
When prompted of Lewis' praise, Vigil remained matter-of-fact. "I'm comfortable there," he said. "I played inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme most of my career, so I'm pretty comfortable being off the ball and back in the middle and making the calls."
On Saturday, after the rookies' second day of on-field work, Haslett remained bullish on Vigil.
"He's really, really smart, he's really athletic and he's got great speed," Haslett said. "He's a little bit undersized right now, after doing all that traveling (for the draft) and everything, so he's got to put some weight back on. But I think he's going to be a great asset to this team. At some point, we'll need him to win some games."
And while the schemes and concepts thrown at rookies this weekend are considered "very elementary," in the words of Lewis, Haslett says the 240-pound Vigil has picked up everything thrown at him.
"Its different terminology, but they all mean the same things," Vigil said of the transition from college to pro. "So once you learn the term, then you know what you're doing.
"You're running the same coverages, it's just getting to it from a different way because I came from a 3-4 and this is a 4-3. It's all the same; it just takes a little bit of an adjustment."
While Haslett says Vigil is capable of playing all three linebacker positions, he's lined up mostly inside so far this weekend.
"I've still got a lot to learn to get my assignments down a little better so I can play a little faster," Vigil said. "I'm still thinking a little bit. But overall, it's gone pretty well."
But while his understanding of concepts and comfort level grow with each new day at Paul Brown Stadium, Vigil said there's one thing that likely won't be growing anytime soon. The rat tail.
"No, it's gone," he said, laughing. "Well, maybe one day we'll see it."
Cincinnati Bengals host rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium practice fields 5/6/2016