Initial comments:"I guess the wait is over. In Jermaine (Gresham), we were able to draft a player that we felt very, very good about where we were picking him. Obviously, he fits a position of need as we move forward. So that's good in both ways. He's a great, young talent. He's a very young guy and he has an opportunity with a lot more upside physically. He's done a great job of catching the football and running after the catch. He has a lot of area to continue to develop physically as he moves forward. We're really excited that we're able to pick him today and move forward."
Q: Was there any hesitation with picking him because of his knee injury last year?ML: "No. He will be completely ready to go. So there was basically no hesitation whatsoever, medically."
Q: How much concern was there that he might not be there at pick No. 21?ML: "Quite a bit of concern. But that's fine. That's part of the draft. Atlanta ended up picking a linebacker, which kind of worked out. I talked with Mike (Atlanta head coach Mike Smith) a couple times the last couple of days, and I know they were really interested in the defensive ends, and they went off the board. But I think they felt really good about the player they picked.
"We thought Jermaine could go anywhere from the 14 or 15 range to where we picked him. As the offensive tackles went off the board — three of the four were gone, and there were a couple surprises obviously — that helped push the player to us. We felt pretty comfortable when we got five picks away that we were going to be picking from guys that we were really excited about, as opposed to saying 'OK, we're going to be looking in this area here.'"
Q: You said you were looking at about five guys. Was it the position or the player that made Jermaine Gresham the pick you wanted?ML: "I think it was both. It was both the player and position. We come here with a good player with great upside and great athleticism. He's played at a high level of football, and he comes here basically flawless, other than missing his junior season due to injury. But as I told him when I first met him in Indianapolis (at the NFL Combine), I've been laying on the couch on Saturday nights for a long time watching him catch touchdown passes, and wondering who this number 18 is when he was a young player at Oklahoma. So it was a pleasure meeting him, and now we'll get to know him and watch him grow up."
Q: How is his blocking ability?ML: "Very good. Obviously he'll be learning more as you go, at this level. But he's had the ability to stay on blocks and finish blocks, and he's a very hard worker. He's a good finish player. He's been a very well-coached player there at Oklahoma, and they get after it, as you can see by how many guys they've already had picked today."
Q: Does he have an advantage because he played at Oklahoma in more of a pro-style offense, as opposed to a spread offense?ML: "He's played a little bit of both. He's played flexed out, he's played in line. He's done a little bit of both."
Q: Is he someone who can be a good target down the middle and stretch the field?ML: "I think he can do both. Yes."
BOB BRATKOWSKI Offensive Coordinator and JONATHAN HAYES Tight Ends coach
Q: Does this draft selection change the offensive philosophy?
BB: "It gives us more options right out of the shoot at tight end. He has the size, the speed and the ability to catch the ball. He gives us another weapon in this physical division we play in — a physical, tough guy that plays the way we like to play. That's a positive to get a guy that can be both as a tight end. There hasn't been very many of them to come out over the past few years that you think are going to be really efficient in both areas."
Q: You potentially can run the two-tight end formation with Chase Coffman and now Jermaine Gresham:BB: "Just his selection has added something to us. It has given us flexibility and some help in the red zone potentially with the tight end. He can stretch and get down the field. When the outside guys are getting coverage and getting doubled over, he can get down the middle of the field, as well as body up and move to the inside in the shorter ranges, and rebound-position some of those guys and get the ball."
Q: After losing two tight ends to injury early last year, was this a situation where you couldn't pass on Gresham once he was available?BB: "You go through the whole process and you try to determine, as you get near that spot, who's available and who's there. We felt he certainly deserved to get picked in that spot. He's certainly someone who can give us something. He added something to us, so we felt really good about the pick."
Q: Who does Gresham remind you of if you had to pick someone in the NFL over the years?JH: "Originally when I went and worked out a couple of their (Oklahoma's) guys a couple years back, I got to visit with him and got to know him a little bit. As his career went on, I followed him. He's powerful — a big, strong powerful guy. He has some suddenness to him. He's still young and developing; that's going to be the fun part with this guy. He has the tools and he's shown a lot of productivity. He has a lot of promise. Those are the things Brat and I talked about with this guy — that you look forward to coaching him. He's a hard-working guy. After talking to Bob (Stoops) and some of the coaches back there, the kid is a gym rat. Guys that love football — guys that love to compete — that's what this guy does. He's just going to get better and better because he's going to work at it. And he's not scared to work at it. He's been a productive football player at Oklahoma, where he averaged a touchdown every four catches. If he does even half of that here, we're getting a lot more productivity out of our position."
Q: Do you see him potentially as a legitimate offensive threat like Dallas Clark?JH: "I think he blocks better than Dallas does, even now."
Q: What kind of receiver can he be?JH: "He's a strong, powerful, physical guy with big, strong hands. He can get in the seam. You've seen him make plays in the seam on tape. Those are going to be his strengths to start off with. He's still a little raw in his route running. The good thing about him is he will work very hard at it. I think he will become a good player as long as he can stay healthy and continue to improve."
Q: Are you penciling Gresham in as the starter at tight end?BB: "He'll certainly be given that opportunity. What happens from that point on is up to him, but we're going to get him in there. He's going to get his feet wet really fast. We'll just judge his progress as he goes along. The hope would certainly be that he contributes quite a bit next year."
Q: Is Gresham more NFL-ready than Coffman was last year after playing in pro-style formations at Oklahoma?JH: "The good thing about Jermaine is that he has played a lot on the line. Let's face it — he missed a year. So, by the time we get him in here, it's going to be about a year and a half since he's played football in a group setting. We know that. Like Brat said, we're going to get his feet wet. We're going to get him going. The transition for him is getting down in a three-point stance and going through all those fundamental things. I had to revisit with Chase because he'd never done it, where this kid has done it — and he's done a lot of it — so it's not something new to him where all of a sudden he's thinking about it constantly. He can put his hand on the ground and just go play. He's done it, and that's going to give him an advantage when he gets here."
Q: How big of a factor is the program Gresham came from in selecting him?JH: "Their program has done a good job. They've done an excellent job in nurturing players and getting them to the next level. Obviously, when you win as much as they've won, even nine wins is a down year there. They still have good athletes there."
Q: Will there be more of an emphasis on the tight end position in the passing game after drafting Gresham?BB: "We've always had those things in there. We probably just went to and featured T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) when we had him and Chad (Ochocinco) and others. Those guys were getting the majority of the balls. Now, we're in a situation where we can add this guy and feel really good about putting things in for him and bring him along and continue to grow his role through it. So, tight end is going to be a factor for us. He gives us another weapon. He gives us another option when they're doubling our guys outside. He gives us something we were missing last year. When the other guys were getting doubled, we struggled a little bit. I think this is going to help us."
Q: You've never really had a tight end like this before:BB: "I can't say that I have really, and who knows what he'll turn out to be. I coached Kellen Winslow in college, so back in my college days I had one. That was about it."
Q: You had a few options at No. 21. What tipped the scale for Gresham over others?BB: "I don't want to go too far into that other than to say the qualities that Gresham has in terms of work habits — in terms of the aggressiveness and the energy he plays with on the field — was a really positive factor in his favor. As coaches, we talk about a guy finishing the play. This guy doesn't have a time clock where he says, 'OK, I'm going to block my guy for two seconds and then kind of see what's going on.' This guy is pushing his guy down field until he hears the whistle. Those things tipped the balance in his favor. The quality of kid he is, the work habits he brings, the love for the game —those were positives in his favor, along with his ability."
Q: Is there a chance of bringing Reggie Kelly back to mentor Gresham and Coffman?BB: "I think that door might still be open. Reggie's very special. I know that a lot of people didn't quite see the value in Reggie. I know more than once, Rex Ryan has complimented Reggie in that he said he's never had an answer for him. He was the one guy, when they played us, because of what we did with Reggie in the pass protection and the run game, he's given that compliment to Reggie. We think highly of Reggie, and other people do as well. I think that door still may be open. If it is, great."
Q: Did you have any inkling you might have ended up here in Cincinnati?JG: "I didn't know. I had a good vibe when I met the coaching staff when I came on my visit, and it went well. So I knew this was definitely one of the places I could land."
Q: How tough was it missing last year with the injury?JG: "It was really tough. I mean, watching my guys play and not being able to go out there and help them, it was tough for me. But I found joy watching those guys compete and give it their all, so they made it a whole lot easier for me watching from the sidelines."
Q: How is the knee?JG: "It's 100 percent. I'm ready to go."
Q: Did you worry that the knee was going to cause you to fall down the draft?JG: "No. I didn't think about it at all. I was going to be the best player I could be."
Q: How do you describe yourself as a player?JG: "I find a way to get it done. It's that simple. I'm going to compete 110 percent, and I'm going to find a way to win. Whatever it takes."
Q: Were you aware that they were looking for a tight end here in Cincinnati?JG: "Yes. I talked to Coach (Jonathan) Hayes, and they said they wanted someone to come in and help the offense out with a great quarterback like Carson (Palmer). I kind of had an idea that they needed a tight end that fit the scheme."
Q: Coach Lewis said he had been watching you on Saturdays. Do you remember that conversation?JG: "Yeah, I remember that conversation. He said when he was laying down, getting ready for bed and getting ready for the game on Sunday, he would catch a glimpse of SportsCenter and he would see Oklahoma and see some of my highlights."
Q: What did you tell him when he told you that?JG: "I said it was just me playing ball, really. It was just me playing out there and going hard."
Q: Do you know much about the Bengals? Have you followed them?JG: "Not too much, but I know they're a great team. They play in a tough division, a smash mouth division. They like to run the ball, and they need to run the ball. So I know that much about it."
Q: You could have come out last year and possibly been drafted in about the same position. Why did you stay for another year?JG: "We all came back to win a national championship. We lost that game (2009 BCS Championship Game against Florida), and we didn't like the taste in our mouth, so we wanted to come back the next year and have a better chance of doing that. So we all came back the next year with the common goal of winning a national championship."
Q: What's it like to see all the Oklahoma players getting drafted in the first round?JG: "It's great. We came in the same year. More than anything, it shows that the hard work pays off for us. At Oklahoma, we worked really hard, and the hard work is paying off for us."
Q: Does the Bengals division fit your style?JG: "Yes. Anything does. The NFL fits my style. I'm a winner. I'm going to come out there and win. So whatever that is, I'm going to fit the scheme and we're going to do that."
Q: Is there a tight end playing in the NFL today that reminds you of yourself?JG: "Yeah. There are some tight ends who can catch. But I don't want to be one of them, I want to be Jermaine Gresham. I want to be the best tight end in the NFL. I want to come in and get the culture, put in the hard work, watch the film and become a great player. So you guys can ask the next tight end, 'Do you compare yourself to Jermaine Gresham?' I'm not knocking the other tight ends, but I just want to be in a league of my own."
Q: How would you assess your blocking?JG: "It's something I need to improve and work on."
Q: Coach Jonathan Hayes said that he worked you out during your visit, and you were running around and almost knocked him over. Do you remember that?JG: "I do remember that. It was a crossing route and I was supposed to come across, look for the ball, shake, and come back. I remember I was running it, and he wanted me to run it off of him. So it was a reaction, I ran it and was trying to get separation, and I used my body and it just happened."
Q: What did you think when you almost knocked down an NFL coach?JG: "(Laughs) I thought the team wasn't going to pick me because I was beating up on the coaches. But it worked out well for me."
Q: He said it impressed him: JG: "(Laughs) Well I'm glad I did it then."
Q: Is he strong, or was he a little soft?JG: "He was pretty strong. He's a pretty solid guy. He has great size to him."
Q: Is it easy to relate to a guy like that who played in the NFL for 12 years?JG: "Most definitely. Just sticking to him, being around him. I can definitely relate to him. I think he coached here at the University of Oklahoma, so he knows a lot of the coaches here. I'm pretty sure I can relate pretty well to him."
Q: The tight end position is pretty wide open here. Do you think you can start immediately?JG: "That's not up to me. I'm going to come in and compete 110 percent and give the team what I can do. Right now, I'm battling to make the team. That's my mindset. Do that first, and come in and bring a competitive nature to the team."