Friday, May 1, 2015
at Paul Brown Stadium
news conference transcripts
ROUNDS 3a AND 3b
Tight ends coach
Initial comments ...
Lewis: "About our two picks in this round ...
"Tyler Kroft, the tight end from Rutgers. We are really excited about him. He is a guy we had targeted who fit what we are looking for, and in this draft, the best of the TE prospects. We feel really good about his ability to be an all-around tight end and a guy that has a lot of ability continue to grow and have great upside both as a blocker and a receiver. He has a great feel for route running and a feel for moving away from leverage.
"Paul Dawson is an extremely instinctive linebacker, with great in-line play, the ability to make plays, an effective blitzer, a really physical type player, one that we really excited to have. He provides us another good young guy and gives us great depth at linebacker."
With Kroft, does he have that same kind of intensity as your two earlier picks at OT?
Lewis: "Both these kids have the intensity you're looking for, and that look in their eyes. We're excited about both of them that way."
Kroft was talking about how he wasn't as involved in passing game last year, but he just wanted to be a willing blocker and teammate. Was that something that set him apart, the way he handled it?
Lewis: "Again, he can't put together the offense or put in a different player in at QB for him. They have to do the best with what they got, and when he can make that opportunity, he did a nice job. When you could look at these guys from a cold view, without knowing anything about them, and then as I did in this case, you're excited to hear that the other people shared your thoughts. I think that's good."
Is Dawson gifted like Vontaze Burfict, instinct-wise?
Guenther: "Yes. When I turned the tape on initially to evaluate him, that's exactly what came to mind. He's an ex-receiver in high school, and he just started playing linebacker. Then he went down to TCU, and we know they coach him hard down there, and they run a very good scheme. One thing you can't coach is, he doesn't take many false steps. He's going to have to come in here, work his butt off, get into the locker room, do things the way we want them done. On tape, he was one of my favorite guys. I'm very particular about LBs and what I'm looking for, and he had a lot of traits that I like."
Kroft has good ball skills as a tight end?
Hayes: "Correct. There's a reason why we were looking at this kid at this stage. He's going to make us a lot better on the offensive side of the ball. He has a big catch radius, he's an elusive runner, he's an effective and willing blocker. He'll get stronger; he's got a frame that will allow him to put more on, and that's what excites you about the kid. As Coach (Lewis) said earlier, he has a great look in his eye. I worked him out, and he is a very serious young man that loves football. He has a very high football IQ, a very good feel of the game, a very good understanding, and to go back to the question before on why he didn't catch more balls in his last years ... they changed coordinators. And Ralph's going to run the ball. Ralph Friedgen came in as their offensive coordinator, and he's going to pound the ball. The good thing was that Tyler had to put his hand in the dirt and really, that helped him for people evaluating him because we don't get to see that that much any more in college football, with the tight ends. When he made the change, he did a great job, so it was a blessing in disguise."
Competing in the Big Ten, in particular playing against OSU, did you think that was a good experience for him?
Hayes: "I did. I feel that the one thing it does show you is, he's a good athlete, can stay on his feet, he has good strong hands, and he has some range to him and length. When he gets on guys he can run with them, and his feet accelerate to finish and that's what I'm looking for right now. Some of the minor technical things, we can work on and get him better at."
In respect to Dawson, was that part of the evaluation, what TCU asked of its linebackers?
Guenther: "When you're evaluating these guys, and they do something similar that you do here, it's easier to evaluate those things. He's a very good player; he's the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He had 130 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, four interceptions. He did everything for them. Like I said, he's got to come in here and learn to be a good pro and understand this is a job now for him. We'll get him going from the beginning. So he's very impressive."
Dawson has been called a clone of Vontaze Burfict. What do you think of that?
Guenther: "Vontaze came in here and he worked his butt off to get to where he is today. Paul's got a long way to go. Vontaze worked hard to get to where he is, and to come out from where he came from. So their play style is a lot alike, but if you go to that level right now, it's a little early."
Can Paul play both inside and out?
Marvin, you've been through so many drafts. Was tonight more stressful, less stressful, or did it play out the way you expected it to?
Lewis: "We felt really good that we actually got to make all four picks that we made. We're sitting there thinking, 'Whoa, at three away, we feel pretty good that we've got three good players, that we're going to get a great player; a good young guy that's going to help us move forward in the future.' And I think that we're blessed with that, every pick today and obviously the same thing last evening. So we feel good about it. Now the fun part comes and we've got to coach these guys up. But we've got four willing guys who love football. You've got to like the look in their eye, and that's going to make the football team better. Because when they get off the bus every Sunday, they're ready to play. And all they do is uplift everyone else. We've got to keep bringing in people that have that kind of desire and passion about playing all the time. And they just make you better. So if we can get better from the ground up and the inside out, we'll continue to improve as a football team."
Coach Hayes, Tyler said that you two guys really hit if off at the Pro Day. Did you feel the same way and, if so, why?
Hayes: "We're on the road for quite a while. The one thing about Tyler when we visited and had an opportunity just to talk, just sitting there talking football and listen to him articulate was just fun to be around him. He loves to play football. He has a good understanding of the game and he's a personable kid. He's a leader by example. Everyone down there really enjoys him. Mo Sanu came up to my room on Thursday and says, 'Coach, let's add another Scarlet Knight to our team.' I said, 'Well, we'll see how it leads us.' Mo's very fond of this young man too. I think that everyone's going to be happy about him because he's going to come in here on the first day, he's going to come early, leave late and he's not scared of hard work. He's from a blue collar family. He's got the right value system and he's going to be ready to work once he gets here."
In the early stage of his career, was Dawson a pretty good special teams guy?
Guenther: "You know, he did some. He was a junior college kid, so he came in there and he started for TCU his junior year about midway through. So he was playing some special teams the beginning of his junior year. And then obviously as he grew into the linebacker position, he became an every down player and that kind of waned. That's something he's going to have to do. The linebackers all know they have to. We explained it to him on his visit here, so we spent some time with that; Coach (Darrin) Simmons spent some time with him. So that's something he's going to have to learn to do and embrace. I think he understands that."
Marvin, what do you think you added today as far as character in the locker room?
Lewis: "I kind of just addressed that — that I thought we added these guys that all love to play football, and that's good. I spent 45 minutes talking with (TCU head coach) Gary Patterson about Paul. Those are the things he continued to talk about when he spoke about him. He hoped that we were able to add another Horned Frog here, and he'd be behind us 100 percent. He thought he'd be a great addition to our team. He felt this was a good spot for him and that we could continue to shape and mold as they'd been trying to do there. He (Dawson) has to understand it, and that's why we brought him in here and spent some time with him last week, so he could get an understanding coming from us what it was going to take to eventually achieve your goals."
Tight end, Rutgers
What has the wait been like for you today? Nerve-wracking?
"Yeah, it was definitely nerve-wracking, but it was worth the wait. I'm excited."
How familiar are you with the Bengals' situation at tight end and the opening there?
"I've heard that there's going to be a spot to compete there at tight end. But I know they have Tyler Eifert there, and he's a very good tight end. I'm just excited to get there and compete, and also to play once again with one of my old teammates, Mohamed Sanu. I'm excited to get back to playing with him."
How close were you and Sanu when he was there?
"We crossed paths a lot at Rutgers. We were always doing catching drills after practice. So we were actually pretty close, before he left."
Which area of your game do you feel is the strongest — in-line blocking or your receiving?
"My receiving. I try and excel and both, but if I had to point one out, I'd say I'm a better receiver."
Would you consider yourself a willing blocker?
"Yes, definitely. That's something I want to get better at. I want to ultimately be a three-down tight end in the NFL, and I know blocking is a big part of that."
The NFL Network commentary right after your pick pointed out that you weren't targeted much in the passing game while at Rutgers. Did that frustrate you at all? Were you concerned it would impact your draft status?
"Honestly, during the season I wasn't too worried about the draft. I knew going into the year that my role was going to shift, so I knew I'd take on more of a blocking role. I didn't let it affect me mentally too much. Obviously it was frustrating not being the playmaker I usually was and that I had to take on a different role, but ultimately I played hard and I can hang my hat on that."
Did you realize the Bengals had this much interest in you, to take you in the third round?
"Not really. I've been hearing everything from Round 2 to Round 5. I thought I hit it off pretty well with coach (tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes), especially at my pro day. I knew I was excited. My agent said to make sure I had my TV on when the Bengals were picking."
Have you met offensive coordinator Hue Jackson?
"Yes. I met formally with the Bengals at the combine, so I met pretty much the whole staff there."
You didn't visit Cincinnati, did you?
"No, I did not."
But they did have a 15 minute interview with you at the combine?
How relieved are you to come off the board now and not have to wait all day tomorrow?
"It's definitely a lot of weight off my shoulders. I was glued to the TV all night, so it was awesome to hear my name called."
What position did you play in high school, and how did you get to playing tight end?
"I started out as a receiver and moved into tight end as I grew into high school. Then when I got to college, I stayed as a tight end."
What weight did you play at last year?
"About 245 or 246 (pounds)."
Is that what you hope to play at in the NFL?
"I think I can get up to 255 easily. I'm around 250 right now. I think I can comfortably put on at least another five pounds and still be able to maintain my speed."
How much do you know about the Bengals and their philosophy of running the ball and using tight ends as blockers?
"I know in the past that the Bengals have always wanted a more complete guy at tight end. They don't traditionally want someone that's just a run-blocker or just a pass-catcher. I think I'll fit that role well. Like I said before, I'm a willing blocker, and I just want to continue to progress at that."
Who is the toughest matchup you dealt with when you were trying to set the edge in the running game in college?
"Joey Bosa, out of Ohio State."
Do you think the move to the Big 10 helped you progress and prepare you for playing in the NFL?
"Playing against the stiffer competition — especially Ohio State, who won the national championship — and getting that experience really helped me. I don't want to say it prepared me fully, because obviously it's going to be a whole other level, but it did give me a taste of what's to come."
How did it go for you, when you matched up against Bosa?
"I thought I played well. Of course there are plays you want to get back, but overall I can hang my hat on what I did that day."
What did you have to do in order to block him?
"I had to rely more on technique. I couldn't go in there and overpower him, so I had to continue to play low. Being almost a 6-foot-6 guy and trying to get under a smaller defensive end, that always poses a challenge."
How did you get ready for the draft? Did you go somewhere to train?
"I went down to Bradenton, Fla., and trained at IMG Academy. I was working pretty hands-on with Anthony Becht, the tight ends coach there at the time. After the combine, I've been at home. My dad actually got both of his knees replaced, so I've been back at home taking care of that and keeping myself in shape, working out all the time."
Is your dad an ex-football player?
"No. He didn't play anything professionally."
Linebacker, Texas Christian
What do you know about the Bengals, and how do you think you can fit in?
"I know the Bengals have a great defense. I know the Bengals have a great offense, with Andy Dalton running it. I know that the Bengals have a great linebacking corps that I would fit great in, as a WILL. Me, Rey (Maualuga) and Vontaze (Burfict) — we'll be a great, awesome linebacking corps, probably one of the best in the NFL."
Do you think you can play inside linebacker if you have to?
"Sir, I can play anywhere they need me to. I can play kicker if they want me to."
You may be playing for Burfict, for at least a few weeks ...
What was your visit like here?
"My visit was awesome. I had a great time meeting everybody. I feel like I connected with everybody well. Me and the head coach got along really well — we understood each other really well. ... It was a great trip."
Did you want to end up here, after you left?
"Yes, sir. I felt that me and Vontaze would be a great duo."
Somebody just tweeted that you're a clone of Vontaze. How would you respond to that?
"I don't know about that (laughs), but he's and awesome player. He makes a lot of plays, and that's the plan."
How would you describe the way you play?
"I'm a playmaker, too. I'm the most productive linebacker in this draft. The numbers don't lie. I'm just blessed. I'm ready to make plays."
Critics have said you're too slow and that your 40-yard dash time isn't fast enough. Do you feel your tape showed them differently?
"On my tape, I played at a lighter weight. At the combine, I tried to put on too much weight too fast, and that didn't work out for me. So for my pro day, I got back down to my smaller size and was back moving as quickly as I was during the season. I plan on being that size that I played at. They can say whatever they want to about my speed, but as long as I'm making plays on the field, they can't say anything."
What is your size now, and what was it at the combine?
"(I'll be) at 230 (pounds). At the combine, I was 240, but I weighed in at 235. I just had weight in places that I didn't need it."
Did you feel uncomfortable or different at 240?
"No. I just put it on too fast. I didn't put it on properly. I feel that if I'm in the right system, the right weight-lifting program, I'll be OK at 240, as long as I put it on right."
What do you weigh now?
"I'm 236. I'll be 230 at minicamp."
The other knock on you is that you're not a great film studier. How would you respond to that?
"That's funny, actually (laughs). How would I be such a productive linebacker if I didn't watch film? That doesn't even make sense. I studied film two hours a night, every night. They can say whatever they want to — I don't know where it came from — but I enjoy watching film. I'll sit there and rewind the play a million times and be there all night. Sometimes my family gets mad at how much time I put in, but I have to remind them that this is my job. I enjoy putting in film study, so I'd say that comment is nonsense."
Do you watch film of any NFL linebackers?
"Usually, when I watch film during the season, I was just looking at my opponents. I wasn't really focused on NFL linebackers."
Do you watch any on TV on Sundays?
"Yeah. Lately, I have been, just to get a feel for how things work and how defenses run. I've been watching a lot of NFL tape lately."
Is there anyone that reminds you of yourself?
"No. There's no other Paul Dawson, for sure (laughs). But other players that play like me, I would say Lavonte David from the Buccaneers, Sean Lee and Luke Kuechly — he's an awesome playmaker. And so is Vontaze — he's a great playmaker."