With the NFL Draft a breathless 75 or so hours away, now is a good time to re-visit why the Bengals drafted West Virginia defensive end Will Clarke in the third-round.
First, he fit the physical requirements they have been seeking at that spot the last several years, such as 6-7 Michael Johnson in 2009 and 6-6 Carlos Dunlap in 2010. But the 6-5, 270-pound Clarke also fit the blue-collar test as the only three-time winner of the "Iron Mountaineer," for weight-room excellence in Morgantown.
So it was no surprise that the no-nonsense Clarke returned to Paul Brown Stadium for voluntary offseason workouts last week at 290 pounds. There were no faraway destinations or long cross-country trips on his agenda. Clarke, a Pittsburgh native, spent most of his offseason in Cincinnati working out at Power 3 Fitness under strength coach Jim Riggs.
After Clarke played just 61 snaps last year, one thing we know about this year is he's going to get more chances to play.
"I thought it would be more convenient for me to stay here. I wasn't really into going anywhere far and training," Clarke said. "I made a couple drives to Pittsburgh. I'm not one to really get caught up in going to a certain place to get specific work. If you do the right stuff anywhere, you'll be ready."
No one told Clarke to come back at 290, but he figured it out. When he arrived last May, he says the only thing defensive coordinator Paul Guenther advised is to develop his lower body.
"I just took it upon myself to take control of the offseason to gain some muscle. Try to fill into my body. Core strength always helps," Clarke said. "I just wanted to add more strength. I thought that would help make me a dominant player."
Clarke's recipe for gaining 20 pounds isn't much different for losing 20 pounds.
"I didn't cut back foods or anything like that, I just cooked a lot more," Clarke said. "That was the major thing. Making balanced meals along with balanced snacks and not just the cheese crackers or stuff like that. I drank a lot more water and tried to cut out a lot of the sugars and fatty foods."
Clarke says he's stronger, but he says he still feels 270 when he runs. He can't give you numbers, but he knows how he feels.
"As long as you stretch right and do the proper speed techniques, you shouldn't lose any quickness," Clarke said. "I didn't have any (goals) I was trying to reach. Go as high as I can. The sky's the limit. I was looking for overall strength. Not just bench max or squat max, just all over.
"It's funny, sometimes I don't even look as though I'm 290 and then I step on the scale and I'll see 290 there … When we were out there running, it felt good. Through the training process I ran a lot, a lot of speed stuff, conditioning stuff. So it (the weight) sat on me the right way."
If he sounds like a low-maintenance guy, he is. As he recalled last year's draft, he knew there wasn't much he could do about it. Which is another reason they drafted him.
"I'm not a control-freak guy, so it wasn't that big of a deal to me. But a lot of people are control freaks who like to be on top of everything they're going into," Clarke said. "It was a little frustrating to not know if I would go as close as Cincinnati or as far as San Francisco or something like that. It's a bit frustrating, but it's all a blessing. Just to get drafted is amazing at the end of the day. My family's only four hours away, so that's always good."
DRE SEEKS NO. 1
Cornerback* *Dre Kirkpatrick, who made a pitch to start this season with last year's strong finish, says they've opened the door for him and he's ready to walk through.
Asked if he's going to shut the door, Kirkpatrick said, "The door is already shut."
As he heads into his fourth season, Kirkpatrick says he's had his best NFL offseason ever simply because he figured it out.
"A lot of the going out had to stop. A lot of the staying up late had to stop. It's pretty much putting everything in line," Kirkpatrick said. "I feel like I did a great job. My trainer did a great job. My trainer is up here right now. We're going to be doing a little extra work in the offseason before going into OTAs, do little extra work after practice some time.
"I want to be the best. I don't want to just be a starting corner. I want to be the best. I want to be the No. 1 corner in the league and that's what I thrive."