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Lewis, Alexander Draft News Conference Transcript

Friday, May 1, 2015
at Paul Brown Stadium

Cincinnati Bengals
news conference transcripts


Head coach
Initial comments ...
    Lewis: "I guess good things came to us today. We're really excited about Jake. Jake Fisher just plays with great attitude, just tremendous energy, passion … that kind of guy. Obviously after taking Cedric (Ogbuehi) yesterday, he was, we felt, the best player we had ranked and just couldn't go by him. It's take the best player and find a way to fit him in. We obviously have two very good tackles and Eric (Winston), who we signed to come back. This guy really is a good player and has a great future for us."

Does he have position versatility? Can he play guard?
    Jackson: "Yes he did play guard."
    Lewis: "He did play guard. He played right tackle. So he can play a number of different spots. He's what you want and is from right up the road. It's exciting to have him, and it'll be good."

Did he start as a tight end initially and then they beefed him up? So he's got that kind of athleticism?
    Lewis: "I think he's played different spots. I think he committed to Michigan and ended up going to Oregon, and going from there."

You always say, "Take the best player on the board." Was this instance more challenging?
    Lewis: "No ... he'll be suiting up on Sundays. He'll have an opportunity to play. We've got ways to get him in the game and get him going. But he really certainly comes in behind two very good players. We continue to get better."

Is it easier to ease Cedric Ogbuehi back into the offensive line mix now that you've drafted Jake Fisher?
    Lewis: "Well, we're not thinking about all that. We just took another good player and we'll make it happen."

Were you guys surprised that he hadn't been taken yet?
    Lewis: "Well ... yeah, we're surprised. We'll prove ourselves right with him."

Offensive line coach Paul Alexander was pretty excited last night. Was he too excited to come down tonight?
    Lewis: "He doesn't have another suit. He sweated through the one last night (laughs). So we thought we'd let Hue (Jackson) come down. So if you have any questions for Hue."

Is Fisher similar to Chicago Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long, a kid that played tackle in college and is now playing guard in the NFL? Can he do that?
    Jackson: "I think he can; he's very athletic. Like Marvin said, 'It's another good player that we added to the stable' that I think can do a lot of different things. He's very athletic, he's tough. He understands how to play the game. He likes to play it the way we'd like for him to play the game. So it's exciting. We've put two very big people that are offensive lineman and we've added them to the stable that we already have. So we feel good about where we're headed."

Is there a conversation you feel you might need to have with Cedric Ogbuehi about this pick?
    Jackson: "No."
    Lewis: "No."
    Jackson: "Not at all."
    Lewis: "Ced hasn't earned any stripes here."
    Jackson: "At all."

Hue, you obviously want to protect the quarterback. How big is it for you guys to set up the line and reinforce the depth there?
    Jackson: "I think it's huge. The most important thing is, we put who we thought were the best players on our football team when we had the opportunity to draft. And they ended up being two offensive linemen. So we think these guys are going to help us. Obviously we love to run the football. We love the throw the ball. And we just added two very big bodies who are very athletic to what we have. So we have a chance to be good up front; we really do. And that's how we feel."

How about the guys who have earned their stripes; how do you approach that from a coaching standpoint?
    Lewis: "They're pros. They want us to have the best team we can have in the National Football League. So we've got to add good players to it all the time. They understand that. They went through the process when they were picked. So they know how that works. We want to have the best football team. They're out front; they can continue to prove that."

Competition breeds excellence. That's going to be a competitive room in the offensive line room ...
    Lewis: "Well it's a room that's got a great mentorship and great leadership in there with Whit (Andrew Whitworth) and all the way down in how Andre (Smith) has emerged and done what we've expected from him. Clint (Boling), (Kevin) Zeitler and now last year with our center. So it just continues to grow. It's a good thing. There are other guys in the room. We added some other guys. We've got a couple or three veteran backup players who are in there. We've got to get better. We're trying to get better as a football team rather than staying complacent."

What does this offseason say about your philosophy of building through the trenches? You obviously bring in players on the defensive line and now with the offensive line, you keep getting beefed up ...
    Lewis: "From the time I started here, I told people we needed to be strong and physical up front. That's what you want to do. When I got an opportunity to be a head coach, I remember when I first went to Pittsburgh and you looked at the offensive front group and the defensive line. You want to have big, strong physical people because they set the tempo. This group continues to set the tempo; we want to build it that way. The defensive line, the offensive line have brought the energy through this building and they'll continue to lead the way."

Hue, Fisher's personality — you and Marvin seem to be drawn to that. Does he have a mean streak?
    Jackson: "Yes, he does. He plays the game that way. Obviously there are so many characteristics that drew us to him, but obviously that's one of them. He plays with a mentality that you like your offensive lineman to play with."

You talk about rotating defensive players in and out. If you earn snaps, why can't you play on the offensive line, too?
    Jackson: "There's no reason why you can't."

It's not just five guys that need to play the whole game, you know?
    Lewis: "I'm sure you (Dave Lapham) didn't think that way when you were playing (laughs)."

Paul Alexander said last night the minute Cedric Ogbuehi is healthy, he would be the big tight end. Does Fisher figure to be the big tight end right away?
    Jackson: "We'll see. We'll give him a chance to play."
    Lewis: "Paul doesn't need to make calls like he did last night (laughs). That's why he's not down here today (laughs)."
    Jackson: "That's the head coach's call (laughs)."

Is that what happens when Paul puts a suit on?
    Lewis: "That's right (laughs). You can dress him up, but you can't take him out (laughs)."

Was drafting Fisher in the discussion last night?
    Lewis: "Oh yeah; yeah he was."

After drafting two offensive tackles to start off, what are some of the next biggest needs for you guys?
    Lewis: "The best player sitting there left to be picked."

Did you at all envision taking offensive tackles with your first and second picks?
    Lewis: "Mike Brown and I had spoken about that, that this could happen that way. And we said, 'Are we prepared to do that?' For him, it was staying with the conviction of it. 'This is the guy that we all ranked highest, so let's let it flow.' But he and I talked about that at some point earlier this week. I said, right away, 'We'll find a way to make it happen.' Both guys have the flexibility — they've played other positions — so that was the perfect scenario."

Can you explain the philosophy of picking the best player available?
    Lewis: "If you go for another position and don't put quite the value on that player, you're overshooting your thought. And then you're somewhat disappointed, and you've allowed a better player to go elsewhere. We can't tell what happens with the football team, with injuries and so forth, so we want to fill up the seats (in the position room) the best we can, and then move from there onto the next one, and then the next one. And if you bypass one and you leave one sitting there — in your own minds, because everybody has done the work — valued at a different grade, then how does your system ever work? Why go through the exercise, if you're just going to hodge-podge around and choose willy-nilly. You have to trust your system, trust your board, and go with it. These guys come off the board basically the way we've had them ranked. There's always going to be an outlier, one way or another. But we've got to trust our own conviction and go with it."

Your offense has used a lot of different line formations and unbalanced lines. Does this allow you to go into the laboratory and do more in that way?
    Jackson: "That's the beautiful part — we get to pick and choose how we want to attack teams, based on what we think is best for us to win that game. The fun part is that we now have some pieces that can do a lot of different things up front. It gives us the flexibility to do things like that, but at the end of the day, we're going to find out what these guys do really well and give them an opportunity to do it."

Coach Lewis, you've had prospects you've really liked, in terms of makeup, come through here in past years, but for whatever reason they didn't land here. Did that weigh on your mind with Fisher available?
    Lewis: "This is one of them. With the second round, we can talk about (Packers wide receiver) Jordy Nelson or (Packers wide receiver) Randall Cobb — guys like that who we spent time with and had what we deemed special qualities, a special energy about them, and they've come into the league and proven that. And we didn't quite get to them — they went a little bit before we were picking. It proves the exercise. Take those kids that have the passion and look in their eye, who on Sunday you want to put in front of your football team. Andrew Whitworth has that. We have guys like that on this football team who we feel good about in that way. (Russell) Bodine last year was one of those guys for us. Gio (Bernard), Jeremy (Hill) — when you put those guys in the room, that's what you want to have. As I said before that, we're fortunate that we can continue to add guys that fit that mold throughout the team."

Are Ogbuehi and Fisher athletic enough to do some different things with them, like use them as an eligible tackle?
    Jackson: "We'll see. As you guys know, we'll do whatever we think it takes to win the game. We'll let them do what they can do best, and then find out the other things they can do to help our football team."

You've now picked two offensive tackles — two protectors — for Andy Dalton. What kind of message does that send to him?
    Jackson: "It sends one to the whole offensive unit that we're going to be physical, we're going to protect our quarterback, and we're going to run the ball the way we think we know how to run the football. That's where it starts for us, and it's going to end there too. I think the message is well-sent."

DT Jordan Phillips went one pick before you. Was he in the discussion as you approached the pick?
    Lewis: "It was a discussion, yes."

Was the thinking that, either way, you're improving yourself up front?
    "They were the two guys we had ranked the highest that were attainable."

What if your highest-ranked player at your next pick, No. 85, is an offensive tackle?
    Lewis: "I hope somebody's ringing on the phone (laughs). Yeah, we'd hope somebody's calling. I think we've done enough there. We've got some other needs now, and hopefully there are some other players (in different positions). There's been some other guys go that we liked for later in the draft as swing guys, which is good. In other words, we were good on the grades with some other teams — we agreed with them. There have been a few guys go that we felt were good swing guards and backup tackle-type candidates who could possibly even slide inside and back up at center. So, I think we feel good with the grades in that way."

Was there any consideration given to moving up?
    Lewis: "Not really. As the things came off the board and a couple people went (in spots) with a little lower grades than we had, we knew we were good with our rankings and that we'd get one of those guys we felt good about — particularly when we went through the first 10 picks, we knew that we would get one of the next 11 guys we had ranked. We felt good about that."

It seems this year like more teams' evaluations of players differ by a few rounds from other teams — so one team will have a second-round grade on someone, but another team will have a fourth-round grade on the same player. Do you agree?
    Lewis: "I don't think it's that. I think it was, were there 32 true first-round picks? Everybody had the rankings, and some of the guys we had as high second-round picks went at the end of the first, and so forth. And there are guys who have gotten somewhat disqualified lately, so I think that makes a difference in people's thinking. The draft process is a continual thing. It's not a one-and-done operation, it's a whole process. I think everybody sees things pretty consistent in that way."

Was Randy Gregory in your conversations at all?
    Lewis: "We talk about a lot of guys."

Offensive tackle, Oregon

Jake, congratulations. Were you surprised to see the Bengals? Or were they a team you thought might have interest in you?
    "They're definitely a team that I had contact with through the whole time. I'm very blessed and very thankful that they picked me up."

Did you notice that they had taken a tackle, and think that would maybe have ruled them out?
    "A little bit, but you never know what happens. God has a plan, and he knew what was going to happen. I'm just happy to be a part of the Bengals organization."

They said they were talking about you in the first round. Were you surprised at pick No. 53, and nothing yet?
    "I was getting a little anxious. That's how we all are; sitting out there waiting for our names to be called. But it's more motivation to go in and work hard."

Where are you now?
    "I'm at home with my family and friends."

Traverse City?
    "Traverse City, Michigan."

So you stay home in the Midwest ...
    "Absolutely. That's what I was really hoping for, and what my family was hoping for as well, so we're very thankful."

How comfortable have you been moving around, whether its guard, right tackle, left tackle. You've done all of it?
    "Absolutely. Since day one as a young player, I've played multiple positions, coming into high school and coming into college. I love the challenge, and I love to play football, so anything that I have to do to help my team win is what I will do."

Marvin Lewis and Hue Jackson were saying they loved your style, that you can be a little nasty if need be. Is that inherent; is it a switch you flip? Where does it come from?
    "It's just how I was taught how to play football and how I like to play football. I try to control the mind of the players around me, and my teammates as well. I try to keep them going and keep the positive energy at all times. With that comes leadership and comes other things off the field. And I have to put the switch off when I'm off the field and on when I'm on the field."

The Bengals have two established tackles in Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith, and they took a tackle ahead of you in the first round. Do you wonder what your role is?
    "My role is just to be a teammate and a guy off the field that people can rely on. That's what I'll come in as a young player doing and stay focused on that and stay focused on earning respect and earning my job."

Were you thinking Philadelphia might be interested?
    "I really had no idea, to be honest. I was hoping for an opportunity, whether that is in the seventh round or the first round. They are going to get the same player no matter what happens."

Are you surprised it was the Bengals, considering who they took in the first round?
    "A little bit. Speaking with the coaches and things like that, I knew that I was high on their board. I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff and what they do, and I really like their system. When they took a tackle, I didn't necessarily count them out, but I knew that they wanted to draft a tackle, and just kind waited to see where things happened after that."

I think they see you as a five-spot guy. Are you pretty confident can you play tackle and guard?

How about center?
    "If coach wants me there, and that's what he wants me to do, then that's what I'll have to do. I'm not opposed to snapping the ball. I haven't done it very often, but that is what hard work is all about."

When was the last time? Did you ever do it in a game?
    "Joking around in practice. No, sir."

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