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Hayes News Conference Transcript

Saturday, May 2, 2015
at Paul Brown Stadium

Cincinnati Bengals
news conference transcripts


Tight ends coach
What stood out about Uzomah that made the team want to select him with its pick in the fifth round of this draft?
    "The thing that you see on tape about C.J. is his athleticism, how he moves. He's a young man who's going to be on the rise. He's got size, and range you need in the AFC North. The people that we're going to be blocking, you've got to have considerably long arms and be able to stay on your feet and be able to get into people and finish. We're trying to get more and more guys that are willing to do that.
    "He's a very smart guy, high football IQ and he'll come in and be able to compete and have an opportunity to get better. He just needs to be a little stronger in some areas, but we liked what he showed on tape."

Is his strength as a blocker at this point in time in his career?
    "We think his strength is his versatility. He can run, he can get downfield and stretch the seam. Those are the things that you're looking for at this position now and possibly creating the mismatches with his body size, his catch radius and just continuing to get him to grow into the position. Obviously, because Auburn ran more of the spread offense, he's going to take a little more time to grow, but I think he'll be a quick study and be able to pick it up fairly quickly."

What are the areas he needs to improve in?
    "Probably the one that you want to see him get stronger is in the weight room and be able to transition it onto the field. It's one thing to always say a guy needs to get stronger, but it has to translate onto the football field. I think when he does that, you know, his limitations are going to really shrink down and he'll be able to expand.
    "The good thing for C.J., too, is — and you've got to recognize and understand this — he played in a spread offense. He never really had a tight ends coach. He would go with the receivers coach when they were working on the passing game and he would go with the offensive line coach or running backs coach when they were working on the running game. So he never got individual coaching. I asked him how he liked the experience he had at the Senior Bowl, and he said, 'I finally had a position coach to tell me how to take this step, how to move this way and where to put my hands.' We all take these things for granted, but when you've not been coached to do them , then things show up on tape — and I think he understands it — that he would rather have back. That's why we liked him so much.
    "We knew that he has a good understanding of what he needed to do, they just weren't articulated to him and I think that now when we get him here it's going to be fun."

Does he have any bad habits he will have to unlearn?
    "I don't think he had the bad habits as much as he just didn't know. Now, we'll be able to work with him and do things the way that we do it. Whether he's coming from wherever he's coming from, we will re-teach a little bit because have been taught certain things a certain way. But I think the exciting thing about C.J. and (third round pick) Tyler (Kroft) is they're both young guys and they're both just going to get better. They're big, they're athletic and can stretch the field. They've got a big catch radius — guys like this, when you get guys like this, it's exciting.
    "And when they love to play football ... I can't say this enough — I said this last night and I'll say it again — guys that come early and stay late, understand the game, work hard at the game and not just worry about the end result, but being about the process, (you love). Going through the grind and understanding that you have to grind in this league to have success and going through the process of that grind (is important to understand)."

Why was it important for you to select two tight ends in this draft this year?
    "I think we're just trying to strengthen our team, and when we were having this conversation upstairs, we felt this was a good way of doing it. These guys, the way we have them ranked and all those things , it was the best fit for us."

What attracted you to C.J. the most? His play? His personality?
    "It was both. You know when you're around someone and you meet them and they have that look in their eye and you can tell he's a focused young man. He wants to be good; he just wants someone to show him how to be good. The Auburn coaching staff holds him in very, very high esteem. Their one downfall, they said, was they didn't do a good enough job of featuring him in their offense, and they said it repeatedly at the workout and made a big point of it. His numbers show he is very athletic. He moves around very well and we're excited about having him."

What went through your mind when the Auburn coaching staff said they didn't do a good job in featuring him?
    "Well, you know, you can look at it two ways. The coach is obviously trying to push his guy, and that's what a college coach should do. But when you go back and look at it because of the scheme that (head coach) Gus (Malzahn) brought to Auburn — and they were trying to run a similar scheme with the guy before — but Gus is really just true spread. I think that they felt like the kid is a great team player — that was the one point they made. The second point is he's a very tough kid. He played against Alabama with a slightly separated shoulder and he played the entire game. You can see on tape that he is a tough kid. The thing that you realize, though, is he's raw, and he has to be brought along. That's what's exciting with him. He's going to push the guys in my room and it's going to help us all get better and that's what you're looking for."

How is his shoulder now?
    "He's fine now. He's cleared everything. It's good to know that people see him in a good light (with) a very good football IQ, very high football IQ. As you guys know, when you're a second or third guy, you don't get the reps that a first teamer gets, so you have to be a smart guy and have an understanding of what we're trying to do and how we're trying to do it so you can go out and function. That's what made Ryan Hewitt such a valuable part of our offense last year and Kevin Brock (as well). Those guys had a great understanding of their assignments and the things we wanted to do and how even though they didn't get a lot of reps at times, they still came in and executed at a good level."

You went into a playoff game last year without your top two tight ends — what does it mean for you to have replenished the position?
    "Well, you see me sitting here with a big smile on my face since last night. You know, it's exciting for me. With Alex (Smith) walking out the door and Jermaine (Gresham being a free agent), we had a transition. We're making a new transition and we appreciated those guys' work and everything they did for us, but we're going to continue to move forward and (former Bengals player turned radio analyst) Dave (Lapham) knows this as well as I do, this ship stops for nobody. If you're not going to be on board, it's going to set sail anyway. That's the thing about it in this league. It's constantly changing and that's the only consistency in this league: It's change."

Was this a good spot for him to be selected here in the fifth round? He couldn't fall to the sixth or seventh because of the raw physical gifts?
    "In our opinion, we felt that this was a good place to take him and this is where we wanted to take him and that's why we took him in the fifth."

Tight end, Auburn
How do you pronounce your last name?

How much of a transition will it be for you going from a spread to a pro-style offense like the Bengals' offense, which uses multiple tight ends? Are you looking forward to that transition?
    "Yeah. I'm looking forward to it a lot. I know I'll get great coaching there. Like you said, I wasn't a conventional tight end in college, so I didn't get the fine-tuning of the mechanics with a traditional, pro-style tight ends coach. I'm looking forward to getting after it."

It sounds like you and tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes hit it off pretty well. Is that right?
    "Yes sir. He's awesome. I talked to him and his brother, who's obviously on the opposite side of the ball. I like the fact that they will be competing, and that they expect the same from us. So we have to step in and prove that we're the dominant side of the ball."

What does it mean that, considering your position and situation, you can step in and play for a tight ends coach who played tight end in the NFL for 12 years?
    "It's huge. I know I'm going to get the best coaching possible. With him, he knows everything there is to know about the tight end position. Like you said, he played the position for 12 years in the NFL, and I know he's going to teach me great things."

Coach Hayes said that you played vs. Alabama with a separated shoulder. Can you explain that experience and decision to play through it? Is that characteristic of your toughness?
    "It was the Iron Bowl — one of the biggest games for us at Auburn. It was a (big) game to me. It was something I put my body on the line for. I knew the implications, and I knew that, with the treatment I would get afterward, I'd be fine. But at the same time, I feel like I was in the position to make plays, given my shoulder. I still made two catches after I injured it, and we were able to win the game. There's no way I was going to miss a game like that. I knew what the implications were, but at the same time, I knew that I had to put myself in a position to help this team win, and I did."

At this point in your career, what do you consider your biggest strength, and what's your most glaring weakness?
    "My biggest strengths would be route running, separating from defenders and being able to catch the ball. A weakness would be hand-down blocking, but only because I haven't been accustomed to doing it. I haven't been around a system that utilizes a pro-style tight end. That's a weakness right now, but it's something I can definitely work on."

Did you play special teams at Auburn?
    "Yes I did."

Were you on the field for the 'Kick-Six' in 2013 against Alabama?
    "(Laughs) No, I was not. That's was the most unbelievable thing in the entire world. We just had a big defensive unit out there. I wish I could have been on the field for that, but no, I was not."

So you were on the sideline going nuts?
    "Yeah. I was on the sideline holding my breath, looking away and turning around to see everyone jump on the field."

The Bengals played their playoff game last year without their top two tight ends, so there's been an effort to stock up at that position. Were you aware of that situation, and did you think Cincinnati would be a logical landing spot as a result?
    "Yes I was. Because I visited Cincinnati, I looked at the roster and investigated on my own, and I knew that they — that 'we' (laughs) — were in need of a tight end. So yeah, I definitely did my research and found out that Cincinnati would be a great place to be."

A tight end like you, who tries to create mismatch opportunities, probably studied tight ends like Jimmy Graham quite a bit. Are you going to study the hand-on-the-ground tight ends as well?
    "Yes, sir. That was something that I looked at because, like you said, Jimmy Graham is utilized similar to how I was in college. I was trying to adapt that to the college game. But I'll have to get in the film room today, tomorrow and the coming few days to jumpstart that transition. I've already been doing that — knowing how that's how I'll be utilized at the next level — but it's something I'll dive into more now."

What will it mean to you to have another rookie tight end (Tyler Kroft) going through the same adjustment?
    "It's going to be great. We're going to be competitive with each other and get after each other, and we'll be going through similar things. We'll be leaning on each other and getting through this rookie minicamp. I think it'll be fun. I'm really looking forward to it."

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