6-25-04, 12:30 a.m.
Bengals starting defensive tackle John Thornton, who stuffs cyberspace with team news, took time out from the web to talk to net counterpart Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.
You and I have been getting kidded by some of the guys because I write for Bengals.com and you're doing a great job over there at the web site you created, bengalscentral.com. Kevin Hardy is calling me, "John Thornton." I hope no one is calling you, "Hobson."
JT: Oh yeah, they are.
GH: Sorry about that. I don't mind because it's the first time I've swapped identities with a pro athlete. But you probably don't like to be called me.
JT: It's OK. It's funny. Usually when we're stretching, I usually hear something about the site from the guys. I respect what you do. It's a tough job. I don't think a lot of people realize how tough it is. Everything you write, not everyone is going to agree with. But it's like the talk show hosts. They throw something out and 50 percent are going to agree and 50 percent aren't, and that's what makes sports fun. The conversation.
GH: You've got to be the only player in the NFL who writes and runs a site abut the team and not himself. You not only list about 20 links people can get Bengals' info, but you do interviews and write about news. How were you able to do it the last six weeks or so with the coaching sessions three times a week and the minicamp?
JT: It was tough because I'm doing the writing, too. I've got a guy helping me, but I was able to post about three times a week. I'll probably do it about once a week now that there's nothing going on. But I like doing it. I'd be going to my favorite sites anyway because I love to surf the net. That's why I wanted to do it. So me and everyone else could go to one place to get everything about the Bengals.
GH: What is your favorite part of the site?
JT: Interacting with the fans (on the message board) and hearing what they say. When news breaks like with (Daryl) Gardener and (Jason) Gildon, people are all over the place. It's fun.
GH: From what you can tell, what are the dominant themes now with the fans?
JT: Everyone is excited. Everyone wants a big defensive tackle.
GH: We're getting the same thing. I guess that kind of hits close to home, given you're the 300-pound athletic type.
JT: That's something the fans get from the media. The size of defensive tackles is overblown.
GH: People are looking at games like the 180 spot some running back named Lee Suggs put on you guys in the last game. But Marvin sided with the athletes right away in his first free-agent flurry when he signed you instead of a big, anchor guy like Sam Adams that he had in Baltimore on that Super Bowl defense.
JT: It's just not me, there are probably other factors. The fact I'm younger, I think, had a lot to do with it. You don't have to be big in the middle. That's not the only way to go. That year the Baltimore defense set all the records, the defense we had in Tennessee was No. 1 in the league and we finished third in rushing yards, and we didn't have anyone over 295 pounds.
You look at other teams around the league. The new coach in Chicago, Lovie Smith, is talking about guys not much over 280. Tampa Bay and St. Louis have had good defenses with guys like that. And we do a lot of moving around here in Cincinnati.
I'm just saying it's not automatic that two big guys make you good. Even that Baltimore defense, you didn't have just Adams and (Tony) Siragusa. They moved around (the smaller) Rob Burnett a lot and used Lional Dalton that way. A lot of it is playing with technique. I played with a guy named Josh Evans in Tennessee (280 pounds), and he knows how to use his hands and he's powerful.
GH: With Gardener apparently not coming in, some are worried about the depth behind you and Tony Williams. No one has played very much and you may be missing Oliver Gibson and Glen Steele. Are you concerned?
JT: Both those guys played a lot and started, so you really can't compare them with the younger guys. At some point, the young guys have to get an opportunity. Greg Scott can play tackle and end, Langston (Moore) is quick. Matthias (fourth-rounder Askew), you don't know until he gets in there. All these guys, we have to see how they play. I would be comfortable with these guys in the rotation. I think all of them work hard and play hard. They're fine.
GH: To a man on defense they say you're going to be better because everyone now knows the scheme in its second year.
JT: We can't get much worse. I just feel we're in better sync team wide. In pressure situations, you tend to fall back on the things you've been doing for the last four, five years. Now we've had enough time to learn what these coaches want.
GH: Did you have a tough time adjusting coming over from Tennessee?
JT: I had to learn how things were being done. It was tough for me. I know what happened. We all took turns messing it up. You can't pin it on one position.
GH: The schedule looks so tough. In half the games, you play teams that won at least 10 games last year.
JT: Half the teams won't be as good as they were. That happens every year.
GH: You've got to be thinking about that game in Tennessee on Halloween. A revenge factor?
JT: No. I've still got a lot of friends there, so it will be fun to play down there. I learned a lot down there.
JT: Coach (Jim) Washburn taught me a lot on the D-Line.. How to play hard and study film and break down offensive linemen. A lot of good times. I learned a lot of tips, and I feel like I can take it further here.
GH: So you don't want to show (Titans general manager) Floyd Reese he made a mistake in letting you go?
JT: No. If you look at it, they never keep defensive tackles. Just this year, Robaire Smith signed with Houston. Even before I got there, Gary Walker had one sack and they let him go to Jacksonville and he got 10. I've got no hard feelings toward Tennessee. I'm in a great situation here. It worked out perfectly for me.
JT: Just my personality and the style of this defense. I'm a team player. I play better in a team situation. I had my best season last year as far as statistics (six sacks, 60 tackles), but I don't worry about stats. Marvin is always stressing, "I don't care about tackles." You're supposed to be in your gap. I had my share of tackles for loss, but I'm not a guy who is going to make a bunch of those and then turn around and give up two 20-yard runs. My personality is a better fit for Cincinnati.
GH: When you go to Tennessee, it's going to have to remind you of your NFL debut, that '99 opener when your Titans came back to win on a last-second field after trailing by nine in the fourth quarter. You guys came of nowhere to go to the Super Bowl that year and then became a perennial contender. Do you see any similarities here?
JT: I felt last year we'd be a playoff team. I was surprised we didn't make it. I think we were kind of like that Tennessee team. We snuck up on teams, and I think we could have done that if we made the playoffs.
GH: I guess the difference was you guys got off to that good start, and last year you went 0-3.
JT: Yeah, we won our first three games by a total of 19 points, and we just gained confidence. The next year, we started 8-1. We knew we were good. I think this team is getting that kind of confidence. Guys have to continue to work hard, but I think we're developing that confidence.
GH: You've played for two defensive head coaches with Marvin here and Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. Any similarities?
JT: Both guys are great game day coaches. They do it differently during the week, but I think both are excellent. I think Jeff probably delegated more to his coaches in practice. I know I didn't see him much on the defensive line. But Marvin hits all the positions and adds some coaching to it.
Marvin is really in sync with his coaches. When they say something, you know its coming straight from him. He's more involved with the players than Jeff during the week, but during the game, Jeff is more personable than he is during the week. Like I said, both guys have great track records.
GH: When Marvin decided to replace Jon Kitna at quarterback with Carson Palmer, did that send a message to the team that they were willing to sacrifice the playoffs this season? Can a rookie quarterback take a team to the playoffs?
JT: Yes, we expect to go anyway. The big thing around here is just doing your job. We can't worry about Carson. We can't worry about Jon Kitna. I'm trying to do what I can do. I think if we all do our jobs, it will easier on Carson and Carson will do better. I think Jon Kitna is a professional. A good guy. He's still going to do his work, and if something isn't right, Kitna can step right in and it won't be a problem. But we all just have to worry about what we're doing.
GH: What do you do when you're not surfing the web or working on the web site?
JT: Watching "The Young and Restless."
GH: Right, the soap opera. Big in our house, too. Sorry. I just realized we're doing this interview during YR.
JT: It's OK. I've got Tee-Bo, it's taping right now. A lot of times I tape them and watch seven or eight in a row. I've been watching it since '96.
GH: Your man is Victor Newman, right?
JT: Oh yeah, he runs the whole show. You know those days he's wearing black that something bad is going to happen.
GH: What happened to Sharon Newman? Last I knew, she was driving around with a frozen guy in her trunk.
JT: Good character. She's doing all right. She's coming around to the good side.
GH: Let's get back to the site. You do a lot of Q and As like this one. Who was your best interview?
JT: The strength coaches, Chip Morton and Ray Oliver, were good. They answered every question in detail about the weight room and I learned some things I didn't know. They got into about how you can't peak too early because your body has time to recover before you get to training camp.
The article with Willie Anderson I liked. You talk to a guy like that all the time, but you find out things you didn't know. He was real passionate. Real loyal. He never wanted to leave here even when they weren't good. He always believed it would turn around. I knew him playing against him. We (the Titans) thought he should have made the Pro Bowl a long time ago. It just goes to show you when you talk to somebody like that, you're going to get to know him better.
GH: Does Marvin ever give you a hard time about something you write? Like he does with me, sometimes?
JT: No. One time when we were up in the huddle after practice and Marvin was talking about how to deal with the media, somebody looked over at me and said, "What about him?"
And Marvin shook his head and just said, "No, he's doing a good job." The way I see, it's more like community service. I put up plugs for fundraisers, like one up there now for (former Bengals Pro Bowl safety) David Fulcher's golf tournament. Hopefully, that will help him get the word out. And it's a good place for the fans to come and talk. That makes it fun.
GH: I guess we'll see you in cyberspace.
JT: There is plenty to go around. Everybody wants to know now.