4-8-04, 4:10 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Let the mocking begin.
At least in some of the mock drafts in circulation, the Bengals are going to get a top player at two of their biggest needs in the draft, cornerback and defensive tackle.
Pro Football Weekly has them taking Virginia Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall with the 17th pick, while Jerry Jones' The Drugstore List tabs South Carolina cornerback Dunta Robinson. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., opts for Oklahoma defensive tackle Tommie Harris while Ourlads' Scouting Service takes Ohio State cornerback Chris Gamble.
There is some concern that there won't be much defensive help available with Hall, Robinson, Harris and Miami defensive tackle Vince Wilfork possibly all gone by No. 17. But there is going to be defensive help in the second round, where Kiper has them taking Michigan cornerback Jeremy Leseuer.
Ourlads' has the Bengals taking Virginia Tech center Jake Grove in the second round, but both Kiper and Ourlads have such defensive players available at No. 49 as Maryland tackle Randy Starks, Iowa safety Bob Sanders, and Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman.
The 17th pick may depend if they secure a free-agent cornerback such as Denard Walker before the April 24-25 draft, but his agent couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.
HOLD THE GRANOLA:** The Bengals have added a weekly yoga class to their off-season regimen but, wait a minute, it's not what you think.
"I was afraid they might think it was going to be like our parents' yoga," said Jen Damaska, the non-hippie instructor. "The granola, flower child stuff. That's not what we do here. There's no meditation or chanting."
And there hasn't been much eye-rolling, which slightly surprised Damaska, who teaches yoga at Cincinnati County Club.
"I've been pleasantly surprised at their willingness to try something new," said Damaska of her first class with a sports team. "These gentlemen are so strong that the flexibility doesn't come up to match the strength in yoga terms. Generally in yoga you build strength and flexibility at the same time. But the approach has to be changed just because they're so strong and can do a lot of things, but need the flexibility."
Strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton has set aside three 45-minute sessions on Wednesdays for the classes and was never concerned that players would blow it off as not very serious.
"This is a straight-ahead, athletic version of yoga without all the other stuff. A lot of guys have already been exposed to it, and some other teams already use it," Morton said. "It augments work on the abdominal and low back areas. Core strength and a lot of it has to do with flexibility in the hips and thigh area. It's very important and good for the hips."
Damaska says there is some introspection involved, but it is an agenda with an athletic emphasis. Safety Marquand Manuel admits that five years ago he wouldn't have been caught dead in a yoga class because, "it seemed a little feminine," but once his body started talking to him, he understood. He took some classes of his own in a gym back home in Florida just after the season.
"It's an opportunity to work muscles you don't normally work on," Manuel said. "It lets you work on uscles yu need to relax. Back. Quads. Hamstrings. Anything that's different is good. We work so hard, it's good to work flexibility. Anything I can do to better my body I see as a positive."
Bengals linebacker Brian Simmons also sees the benefits rather than the old-school way of thinking.
"It's mostly for me about stretching and flexibility," Simmons said. "You do those things and it helps you stay away from injuries."