Initial comments ...
"It was a good first day. It was a lot of fun to be back out on the football field and actually doing real football. Seeing offensive players work up against defensive players was really good. It was good to get the young guys out there and get them moving around. I thought from the meetings this morning, to the walkthrough, to coming back in the afternoon and being able to practice things that were installed in the meetings, both this morning and the afternoon — I thought the guys did a good job. The normal iron out from this morning — the center-quarterback exchanges — we got those ironed out and fixed for the afternoon, so I was pleased. We will install more this evening, tomorrow morning, and then have at it again two times tomorrow."
From all the years you have been coaching, has there been any player who has stood out in these rookie minicamps?
"I've been fortunate to have two or three that have done it. One played for about 15 years and won a couple of Super Bowls."
"Yeah. And I thought Vontaze (Burfict) did the same thing in his time here. Odell Thurman, a linebacker, seeing him do that as well. Those are guys that I have been blessed to coach. It's a little different now — I'm looking at 50 players now."
Were there some guys out there who showed good football IQ?
"Yeah, I think from all the coaches (have good IQ players). (Special teams) coach (Darrin) Simmons has all of them in his special teams meetings — he has a good feel for the entire team because he is spending time with all of them. He can install (plays and schemes) and then go out there and watch them perform, which is good. Everybody on the coaching staff is pleased with their group of young players and how they've been able to take the concepts from the classroom onto the playing field."
Did anybody in particular stand out today?
"I think they all stand out. I think Josh Malone did what we drafted him to do. I thought Mason (Schreck), our tight end from Buffalo, did a nice job today as a receiver — to me, he was in position to make some plays catching the ball one-on-one. That was good to see him do that. I was pleased with what the linebacker group did — Carl (Lawson), Jordan (Evans) and young (Hardy) Nickerson, the way they moved around. It was good. (Also) Jordan Willis, the defensive end. And then we have the nine guys who were on the practice squad last year. I think they showed their experience, having gone through this already once."
Is it frustrating that quarterback Jeff Driskel can't participate, despite him not seeing any time on the field in his career?
"Yeah, but it's one of the rules of the league. There's going to be a standard established at some point. Even a first-year guy who (doesn't) get an accredited season (can be) unable to participate in this. AJ (McCarron) was away last week, so Jeff got great work with us with the offense, so that was good."
So where does Lawson look as far as being in a couple of the squads?
"He's a linebacker. He's playing SAM linebacker. He had a good first day."
In terms of Nickerson, have you ever had an opportunity to coach a father and a son before?
"(Laughs) No. I hopefully don't get that too many more times. It's been good. (Geoff) Hobson told me I was old officially there when I said 'hello' to Hardy yesterday. I told young Hardy that I wouldn't be here likely without his father. His father tested me as a coach, to be right. He was an outstanding player — smart. And his son shows those same attributes here, after just being around him for a day and a half. He was a great, great football player, and he's become a very fine coach. I was blessed to be with him even if it was only one season, but he taught me a lot."
Would John Ross have been able to participate if he was healthy?
He can't participate in OTAs?
"He won't be back here for a bit. I think he graduates on June 10 at Washington."
Are there rules as to what he can do and can't do if he hasn't graduated yet?
"No, there are no rules. It's just that the American Football Coaches Association would like the young guys to stay in school. We had a kid taking finals yesterday. Some kids have rearranged their finals — to take them on Monday — (because) they decided to come here this weekend. It's just a matter of the latitude of the school with that. But most of the semester schools are finishing up either last weekend or this weekend. It doesn't affect many schools, just the quarters schools. Just a few of those are left. We used to have same thing with UC (University of Cincinnati) and Ohio State until they switched to the semester system."
Is minicamp after June 10?
Any shot he will be ready to participate then?
"He won't be fully cleared then. He'll do (the same thing) he has been doing — he'll be in the huddle, run out the huddle, go out and line up, and go through it all mentally. But he won't be fully cleared yet."
You have a lot of players to watch out at practice. Do you try to watch more of the high draft picks? How do you figure out who to concentrate on?
"It's easier to see some of the guys that are somewhat out and away — the skill guys. I've got to watch the tape. J.J. Dielman is not fully participating yet and fully cleared, so there's an interior lineman that when we go against the defense, he's not participating. We don't want to risk him in injury yet. But yeah, you can see more of the skill-type of players, like Brandon Wilson — those kinds of (guys), with their movement and so forth. We talked about Carl Lawson already. I was pleased seeing him today, with his ability to pick things up as quickly as he did. So that's good."
Joe Mixon seems to stand out on the field because of his size. What did you take away from the way he looked today?
"That he spent too much time traveling around visiting (other teams); he needs to get in shape again (laughs). A lot of guys go through that. That's one of the things that, when they come here to visit, you always encourage them that for the next week and a half to get back on their training routine, because they've spent the last two or three weeks traveling and visiting teams. I think Joe visited half the teams in the league. So they've got to get back and get after it, and get back to work to get their conditioning level and their running back up (to par). And then it's a different kind of running when you're doing football, as opposed to basically the combine training these guys were doing."
What about some of the guys out there who were with the team last year on the practice squad? How did they look?
"They've been here working with us, so they're fine."
How long does it usually take a player that's been in that situation to get back into shape? Weeks?
"No. He'll be ready to go when he gets back here."
Are there any restrictions to how many pre-draft visits a player can take?
So a player could theoretically visit all 32 teams?
"Theoretically. One of the kids, I think, had 20."
Someone who didn't get drafted?
"No, he got drafted."
But he didn't go to the combine ...
"He didn't go to the combine, yeah. That's a lot of plane rides. But hopefully you're able to set them up as they're traveling, which is what everybody tries to do. We all try to work together. If a kid is in Indy and we want to get him too, the agent says, 'Hey, the Bengals want him to come visit,' so we just send a car to come get him. Or vice versa. We're able to do some of that as much as we can, but it can be a trying thing. The big kid from Villanova (Tanoh Kpassagnon), he had to have a wisdom tooth removed and a root canal done. It happened while he was in Jacksonville, and then he had to get back up to Philadelphia, so he delayed his visit to come see us. (That type of thing) happens a lot.
"But I thought this year, for whatever reason — maybe it's my fault because we're picking too high —- more of those guys were visiting multiple, multiple teams."
What did you think of Josh Malone today?
"I thought he did a nice job today. I said that early on."
What would you want to see out of Harold Brantley? Obviously to get here is near miraculous, but you brought him in to give him a workout. What did you see on his tape, and what do you hope you can see out of him here this weekend?
"Originally, he was a good prospect. He's had some injuries and things to overcome, on the field and off the field. (Defensive quality control/defensive line coach) Marcus Lewis (spent) time evaluating him. I don't know if he visited the school this year, but that was one of the guys he recommended that we bring in for a tryout. That's what you're looking for. We've had some success with some of these players. Ryan Brown came in here last year unsigned, and today he looks like the guy we invested in for over a year. He's grown into a grown man, from what he looked like at rookie camp last year, when we decided to sign him after, when he was one of the tryout players."
How did Bryson Albright look today?
"He's been working with us (the last few weeks), so those guys are a little bit ahead because they've been here and in meetings for three weeks now. But he can run and do things. He got some snaps last year in the NFL, so this isn't his first rodeo."
Former Bengals kicker Shayne Graham was out there today. Was he working with Jake Elliott and Jonathan Brown?
"No, he's not. Shayne's coaching now. It was raining, so I think Darrin (special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons) gave him a jacket (laughs). But Shayne's coaching at Central Michigan. He wants to get into coaching, and he's kind of spending a weekend here observing with Darrin. It's good experience for him. Shayne's a very bright young man, obviously. He's been involved in those meetings, and now it's all the other nine or 10 guys that you're responsible for too when you're a special teams coach."
There's been a light-hearted buzz around town, with talk of a John Ross race against Billy Hamilton ...
"Yeah, that'd be very light-hearted."
Would you ever approve of John racing against him?
"John's not a circus act or anything. We're good. John's a football player. And Billy's a fine baseball player and a great guy, and he's having a good season. Hopefully one day they'll be able to meet and have a laugh about it, but I don't think either one of them needs to risk their careers in some kind of race."