Initial comments ...
“It was good to be out there this afternoon with the young players. I thought we had a good start to the weekend. When you have roughly a team and a half, we were able to get the number of plays we need to do a lot more teaching. (We were able) to come together and get some good 11-on-11 work for evaluation purposes. Literally, this camp is to try to move the draft picks along mentally as quick as we can — to give them a jumpstart to playing NFL football mentally.”
How big of a difference is what you see in scouting college players vs. what you want to see once they turn pro? Is their college experience similar to what you’re doing, or do they have to learn and unlearn what they’ve done previously?
“I think it depends on the position. That matters. Technically, how close he’s done what you do (matters), as do his skills athletically. You’re trying to judge that — seeing them on an NFL field (vs. envisioning) them as NFL players is the most important part.”
Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was talking about it’s the first time the staff has been on the field with the players. What was your take on that with the offense, and also on defense with new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin?
“Well, they’ve been on a field together, but not where there actually are people on the other side of the ball. It’s good.”
Are you ever surprised by a new assistant coach’s teaching style? You probably try to find out as much as you can before you hire them, but a lot of them you haven’t worked with before.
“I think you’re able to research a lot of that. That’s important. If you have not had direct exposure to him, it’s part of the hiring process to talk to people who have and to get their viewpoint of a coach’s style. (Once they get here), they’re going emulate the direction of the offense or defense and myself anyway.”
What type of teacher is Teryl Austin?
“He’s been very good with his ability to instill in the defensive players (a sense of) what he’s looking to see them do. His ability to coach the coaches from the front (of the room) to the back is really important. A key part of that coordinator position is having the understanding of what you want to see done footwork-wise from the front (of the room) all the way to the back end. Teryl has that type of experience. You see it out there. As we prepared to get to this point — as we prepared to get to phase 2 with our own players, and talked about the particular drills and other things we’d be doing on the field — that’s a great strength of his and I’m excited about that.”
What type of teacher is Bill Lazor?
“Bill has been able to start from scratch (as offensive coordinator this offseason) and shape things offensively. He’s done a great job with it.”
At this stage in rookie minicamp, which is more important to you in what you see in the young players — retention, or how they’re performing?
“It’s hand in hand. The retention part is always in process. Some always are going to be better than others. That’s going to be important for them in order to have a promising career in the NFL. It’s important that a player can retain knowledge from day to day. We’re giving them things (now) that will help build a solid foundation in all three areas. Those (here at rookie minicamp) who will be staying here (after rookie minicamp) will have an opportunity to practice with the veteran players and hopefully not look like they’re totally out of place a week from now when we start phase 3.”
You have four players here at rookie minicamp from Ohio State. Are there any common traits you see in those guys?
“We drafted two of them (C Billy Price and DE Sam Hubbard) and signed one (college free agent LB Chris Worley) after the draft. The long snapper (tryout player Nick Seme) shows ability, and we have the chance to evaluate him and get to know him. The two draft picks and the college free agent — we felt really good about them as football players throughout the whole evaluation process. (We also felt good) about how their coaches felt about them — not only what they did on campus there, but how bright their futures were.”
Certainly you’re bringing guys in that help your football team, but do you like it when it works out when you can bring guys in from Ohio State and perhaps win over some crossover fans?
“The goal is to get the best football players ... We were pleased we were able to draft a couple of guys from Ohio State.”
The fact that LB Chris Worley wasn’t drafted surprised some people. Was that nice that you could land him as a college free agent?
“We were able to sign a couple of guys who really have an opportunity to compete for spots on the roster. They were very productive players at a high level in college, and they have an opportunity to come in here and compete. That’s important that we can continue to give guys those kinds of opportunities and have that competition.”
The NFL’s Pathway Program gave you guys TE Moritz Bohringer ...
“You don’t have a choice (of which player is assigned to you in the program).”
What do you like about him? Do you like him?
“The players are assigned, so we’re just getting to know Moritz. You have no choice in the program. But Moritz has obviously had some NFL experience. He’s trying to convert to a new position, and it’s hard to do that until you actually do it. It’s not going to be an overnight process, but he has a long time to do it. That’s the good thing — there’s no rush.”
Were you able to find out anything about him when he was assigned to you, based on that previous NFL experience with the Vikings?
“They were here (for a game and joint practice in 2016 preseason) and practiced against us, so I was able to observe him when he was here. He’s now shifting positions. NFL football is not for everybody, so this is a hard transition to make.”
You had Quinton Flowers playing some different positions today. Is it important to not just see if he can do running back things, but also put him in those different situations to see what else he can do?
“We’re giving him an opportunity to make the football team. The more opportunities you have to do that, (the better). That’s what he was promised when we signed him as a college free agent — that I would do everything in my power to give him the opportunity to make the football team. He was a tremendously productive player down there (at South Florida). You watch the tape, and he had some amazing plays. And it wasn’t only running. He had some big-time throws. He didn’t throw it out there today as well as he threw it in college — I don’t know why, he must have been nervous — but he really had some big throws in college as well.”
It seems like most of the guys you drafted are versatile and can play multiple positions, as well as special teams. Does something like that not only increase a guy’s probability of making the team, but also help you evaluate what all you can do with them?
“You really hope so. Obviously when you talk about the NFL roster and then the Sunday game-day roster, you’re only talking about 46 players. You have to have some cross-training and some overlap. Obviously with most of the guys here, if you play certain positions, you have to be a contributor on special teams in order to have the opportunity to stay around and suit up on Sundays.”
Do you foresee Bengals safety Jessie Bates getting a chance in the return game?
“We will see as we go.”
It seems Flowers had some resistance to making the switch from quarterback to running back. He went to the combine and his pro day as a quarterback. Was his willingness to make the change part of your negotiations to bring him here?
“There wasn’t a lot of negotiation. He didn’t get drafted, but he wanted an opportunity. (Bengals running backs coach) Kyle (Caskey) offered him an opportunity, and he accepted it. I spent time looking at him on tape the next morning. We got very excited about him and called him on the phone. Of course he didn’t answer the first time since he didn’t know who it was. I told Kyle, ‘I just tried to call Quinton (and he didn’t pick up), so tell him it was me and to pick up the phone.’ But I used other words (laughs). We had a good conversation (once he answered). As I said, I was really impressed with him and what he did at South Florida — 50-60 yard runs were commonplace for him.”
You’ve been doing this for a while now in the league, not only as a head coach but as an assistant. As opposed to 20 or 30 years ago, is college football, which is like a farm system for the NFL, better in the development of players?
“In some positions. As you look at the spread of college football, you now have the lower I-A divisions of football playing big-time football. They are also playing a brand of football where a lot of positions transfer well to the NFL. These guys come in here with an understanding and have demonstrated skills in some areas. Obviously they need to continue to hone and develop those skills once they are here.”