Initial comments ...
"You all have met Paul Ackerman. Paul will be representing the Bengals at the draft this Thursday evening in Dallas by helping Commissioner Roger Goodell present the Bengals jersey on stage for our number one draft pick. Paul has been a season ticket holder since 1978, and we really appreciate his support. We're excited to have Paul represent us this year at the draft."
"Obviously a lot of work goes into the preparation of the draft and comes to a culmination over Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A lot of work has been done by (Director of Player Personnel) Duke (Tobin) and his staff. All of their work and the things they have done since last April, May and June from the previous year, all the way through the fall — their reports, evaluations, all of the cross-checking and everything that goes into it. It's an exciting time for personnel people for it all to come to an end — the combination of it with the ability to select new players, add to your roster and develop those players. That's where we as coaches get excited — the ability to add players and the development of players as we move forward. This year, with as many changes on our coaching staff — they have an ability to become part of the process and in some cases, go hands-on with some of the prospects both physically and mentally, which is very good in order to provide a viewpoint and their input in the process. Again, we're excited for that. As coaches we get excited, because now we are getting closer to doing football, which makes a huge difference for us. It is an exciting time. The moves we've made this offseason have kept things wide open for us, which is good, and that's what our anticipation was in the moves we made previously in the late winter/early spring to get us to this point. I'm excited about that, having had our players back in the building for a little over a week, which has been good."
Is this draft almost as tough as any have been in a while, in terms of trying to project who will be available?
* *"I don't try to project. The one thing that is true is that it's been awhile since there's been four quarterbacks talked about going in the first round. I don't think that's happened in a while. It fits well for teams looking for quarterbacks."
You talked about how you have a lot of new coaches. Specifically with your two coordinators being different from this time a year ago, what kind of mentality do those guys bring, and how is the approach different?
"It's a new and different mentality, because their experiences are new and different. They have the ability to put their influence into the process, with how they see things with their input. That's going to be important. (Offensive coordinator) Bill (Lazor) has been here for two years, so he has a little bit of an idea. (Defensive coordinator) Teryl (Austin) is brand new in being here. It starts with the things that are important for me first off, and then we go forward from there."
Are there different types of players that different coordinators would rather have?
"It starts and stops with me first, and then it goes from there. So I think we are aligned that way. Guys we feel are smart enough, fast enough and physical enough are going to come into this building. Those are the values that are important to us."
Some organizations give coaches a voice in the draft process — some more than others. Do new coaches appreciate the type of voice they have in this process?
"Everybody has a little bit of a voice. Some are heard more than others. We do want to give them a chance to have input. You feel good when you do the work and the evaluation, and to have input in the process is important. What I try to instill in them all the time is that it's important we get the right kind of player and the right guy here. It is important they feel valued in this process."
With which positions is this draft deepest? Where is it skimpiest?
"We've gone through a process with the evolution of college football where linemen are way different. The offensive linemen are way different than they used to be. Contrary to that, the defensive players come here with a different mentality and ability to play open-field football more often. I'm not sure there's as many highly ranked defensive backs (this year), compared to recent years. Everyone sees things differently. The prospects are who they are. There are going to be the 300 or so players drafted, and we are going to go from there."
When you came in to the NFL in 1992, the NFL linebacker was different than what it is now. What are the challenges in evaluating that position, compared to 1992? How has it evolved, and what is the toughest thing about trying to pick up a linebacker who's going to be one of the 46 players who can be active on game days?
"The evolution of the linebacker now is that, of these guys that are better athletes, the premium ones are the guys that grow and have both size and speed. Back in the 1990s, there were more guys who didn't run as well as some of the guys today, but played for a long time. Nowadays, those guys probably get sifted out more as time goes on. That's probably one of the changes that has occurred in football, with the substitution and specialization of positions. If you look at the evolution of offenses, you compare it to how few times you'd see two running backs and a tight end, or two running backs and two tight ends on the field back in the early 1990s when I started in the NFL. You're looking at the guys we've added lately, such as Nick Vigil and Jordan Evans, as opposed to back to 2004-2007, with (former Bengals LBs) Landon (Johnson) and Caleb (Miller), who were those 215-220 pound guys. These guys are topping out at 250, where those guys were topping out at 230. That's what we're looking for to play defense in our division as well, because it's important."
There are guys who are not only used to playing in the open field, like you said, but spread offenses in college run 80-90 snaps. Guys probably struggle with that a bit, right?
"Again there are more snaps in college football, and that plays a little different to the development of the lineman and what body types they are using to play those positions."
Can you believe anything you hear this time of year?
* *I don't hear anything. It doesn't really matter."
Are teams more close to the vest and secretive now than they used to be, or has it always been this way?
"I don't see what advantage you would ever have of saying anything as a club prior to the draft unless you are picking first."
Did things used to get out more?
"I don't think so. It makes no sense to do that. People are very secretive about their things. And, obviously, unless you're picking first, if you desire a certain player and you're envious of a certain player, and another club is as well, maybe they're more motivated to move in front of you to pick that player, if that player is one they covet so much as well. So, to me, it doesn't make much sense. We go through the process, do the evaluations, stack the board and continue to pick the player. If (you end up with a list of) a smaller number of players, then maybe there's an urgency to move up and get a certain guy. But other than that, you are going to let things fall the way they may."
One of the things you wanted in returning was to have more say in personnel ….
"No, I've never said that. I don't know where you got that from. I've had a lot of say in personnel since I got here, so I've never voiced that or inferred that to anyone."
How have you seen what you talked about in your contract negotiations play out in the draft process?
"I didn't talk about anything in any contract negotiations. We knew we had to make changes. We've made changes. We've added new players. Those are the things that were important. Everybody (here) was on board and in line with the same things."