Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis met the press after Friday's first practice of rookie minicamp:
Opening comments …
"It was good to get outside with our draft picks and college free agents, our young players and get started today. I think it's a good introduction to them: offense, defense, special teams, and they'll kind of get immersed in the team next week as most of them will be here throughout the rest of the program the rest of the spring."
You talked a lot during the draft about guys who have good physical skills and the ability to process information. In such a short window like this camp, are you looking for guys to be able to pick up a playbook and learn plays in a day and within hours execute it?
"Yeah, you obviously get a very good feel for who can process it quickly and so forth, from the installations this morning and the walkthrough into practice, and who's best able to go out on the field and execute it. The rest of what we're trying to do is really get a fundamental base of offense and defense, so when next week they're sitting in the meetings, that they're understanding the language the coaches are speaking.
"They're at a remedial level as far as most of our nomenclature. Some of the guys have had material and were able to come in and take stuff home with them. Another thing is, we'll be set up to spend a lot of time with the rookie players from now on and try to get those guys caught up and get them back to the advantage they have with things."
Over the years have you found that you can assimilate these rookies even faster and with more information. Does it seem like their football IQs are expanding, or is it always the same?
I think it varies from player to player, school to school, the background they've been in and so forth. As we go, the installation is one installation each day, and that's all they have to do, be able to keep track of those things and stay on course."
Your process has stayed the same over the years …
"The process doesn't change, so they just have to stay on track with the installation each day, and what they know is what they know, and that's all they need to be concerned with."
Cedric Ogbuehi can only rehab at this point, but is there anything you're looking for from him as far as improvements this week?
"We're not looking for any improvement in him other than what he's doing physically with the PT (physical therapy). There's no timeline, there's no race and so forth, but he's able to stay up to speed with the things mentally and watch the techniques and so forth. He can't go out and execute them on the field right now, but he'll be fine when the time comes. He just has to go through the steps. It's our first chance to put hands on him and see where he is in the rehab process, and a lot of times where we think they are and where they thought they were are two different things. We'll get him ready to play football as soon as he proves to be ready."
Terrelle Pryor came here last year (in-season for a tryout). So what's different about this time?
"Yes, we brought him for a tryout during the season, just to look at him when he was released. He's getting an opportunity right now, and we'll see how things go."
Did you see anything about of him today that caught your eye?
"Terrelle has a presence. This is not his first rodeo. He's been through things and he's been with Hue (Jackson) before. He has a calmness about him. He's a great role model for the six or seven other veterans; to watch how a guy who came into the NFL in 2011 is looking to try to get an opportunity, not even make the team yet, but get an opportunity on a team. There's an urgency in his step. I think that's a good role model for these young guys to observe, and some even are guys that have been around a couple of years here, who are participating in this weekend. He has an urgency that they need to learn. He shows how important this is to him."
That urgency you talked about, and guys trying to get that chance, is that an energy you and your staff feed off of?
"It always is, with these guys and the energy and youthfulness they bring. We're committed to help them become the best players they can be. That's why we're here and that's what we tell them from the very start; that we're lucky to have them here, and to know that we are in their corner to help them become the best player they can be. As long as they bust their tail, if it's not here, it will be somewhere else. We will help them get it done and they'll get an opportunity. Terrelle Pryor is a great example of the value of opportunity and what it means."
Drafting is one phase, and another phase you get credit for is developing players you draft. It starts with days like these, correct?
"Yes it really does. You try to get a sound enough foundation where you're not lost. You know that, Dave (Lapham), from being a former player. It was done differently then. You were given a book and told 'go learn it.' We don't do it that way. It's day-by-day, and that's all that matters; what day one is, and then you go to day two. It's our charge to make sure they get it down. We're trying to make sure they don't get lost, where then nothing makes sense. They have to have something they can grab on to."
Josh Shaw and Derron Smith were both profiled in the draft as players with a high football I.Q.; did you notice any of that out there on their first time out?
"I noticed Josh a little more out there today because of the position he plays. He's going to be good. He's going to be ahead of the curve that way, and that's a good thing. I feel good about that. We just need to teach him to play the game as an NFL DB and not a college DB."
What's the difference?
Mario Alford's speed is undeniable. What other traits are you looking for as a kick returner to be successful at that spot?
"Your best returners, year in year out in the league, if you look at them from the waist down, have a running back's build. They have the big butt, thighs and so forth. Not very many guys that are built slim last long or do those things very long. It's also the ability to cut and read the return. You must have the speed and athleticism, but also make that cut and then have the burst to finish it. All of those things; it's the catch, the read, and the athletic cut to make it happen. Their larger lower body is somewhat the stature, regardless of their size. That's why you have big returners and small returners, but every returner generally has that bigger lower end."
You also need trust from that returner to catch the ball. He hasn't returned punts in some time. What do you need to see from him there?
"Well, Darrin (Simmons) will have him returning punts like he's been doing it his whole life. I don't think we will have any problems with that. We have had a lot of guys around here that could never return a punt, and then Darrin has turned them into good catchers of the football. Then, it's the trust factor all the time. Getting lined up and making the correct decisions all the time. All of those things go into it."
Was Josh Shaw's tape as a gunner as impressive as Dre Kirkpatrick's?
"I don't know, supposedly."
Was he a standout in that department?
What did you think of Mario Alford's gold shoes?
"Well, we tell the kids to bring their own shoes, because we don't want them to go out here for three days and put on new shoes that aren't broken in. So we tell them to bring their own, and they will work their way into new shoes."
Sometimes it takes guys a little longer to pick things up in the National Football League. How do you feel overall with things?
"I thought we did a pretty good job today. I think we started with the walk through and learn that and they got it quicker than most. There's a maturity level with the group that's pretty good."
You talked about some of the veteran guys that are sprinkled out there among the rookies. Did you ever think about having AJ McCarron out there, getting some reps and throwing a little bit?
"He's not eligible. The guys that are eligible are out there."
What are the guidelines on that?
"You can't have a (pension-) credited season in the league."