Updated: 3:40 p.m.
Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham hasn't said much since his three drops in last season's Wild Card loss in Houston, but before Thursday's practice he said plenty:
» He still remembers the play call of the three drops and still feels like he let down his teammates and fans.
» He's watched 2010 classmates Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap secure a combined $95 million in extensions, but Gresham says he doesn't deserve one because he hasn't produced like they have. » He said he was happy when the Bengals picked Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round because it would help everyone on offense. Not to mention spice up the tight ends room: "It was getting old in there. Somebody new to talk to."
Gresham, heading into the fourth year of a five-year deal, says he's not expecting a new deal.
"I haven't earned an extension. More so Geno, those guys earned that. They definitely earned what they got," Gresham said. "They deserved it. I'm not going to lie to you. I don't deserve it. Not right now. I've got a lot to prove. I haven't done a lot. I've got a lot of making up to do to people around the city and for the organization, so I don't think I deserve it."
Leave it to Gresham. He rarely talks, but when he does it's always a soul-searing event and Thursday was no exception. The Houston game was at the forefront. He's having his best preseason and is clearly fueled by the disappointment. But he says that last game wasn't career-altering.
"I wouldn't say career but it was definitely something that I learned from. Something that I will get better from," Gresham said. "It was a rough game and it cost my team a chance to win the game. I let a lot of people down, the organization, fans, the people that still doubt me I gave them a reason to keep doubting me. It was tough. I've got no one to blame but myself. It was definitely eye-opening."
Gresham, a first-round pick from Oklahoma who grew up near the Texas line in Ardmore, says there's a reason he won't duck the mistakes, but he also says that game is a reason he's looked sharp.
"I wasn't bred like that. Where I'm from, I ain't going to run from a situation," he said. "I made those mistakes. I did that. Every bit of that, I did. My team, they were there for me. They didn't feel like I let them down but I want to be held to a higher standard. I don't want to be a guy who lets his teammates down. I thought I played the same this preseason, but I can say I'm definitely more in-tune with what is going on around me and knowing what's expected of me."
When Gresham is reminded he's been to two Pro Bowls, he replies that he went as an alternate. When he's reminded no Bengals tight end but him has had three straight seasons of 50 catches, he's also thinking about three.
"Everything you said, the only thing I can hear right now is I had three drops in the playoff game, to be honest with you," Gresham said.
Gresham isn't sure how the new diet of two tight ends is going to help his game. But he liked the Eifert pick, even though some wrongly concluded the Bengals were trying to get rid of him. He admired for so long the tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in New England and he can see what this duo might be able to do.
"That's somebody else they can bring to my room and somebody else I can talk to because it was getting kind of boring in there," Gresham said. "It was getting so old in there, so when he came it was somebody I could relate to and talk to. It's been a party since then. I enjoy being around him. He makes plays, he's helping me make plays. It's fun.
"At the end of the day we're just playmakers. Put us on the field, put the ball in the air and let us go make a play. I think with us two on the field we'll have that and definitely within the end of the season we'll have the aspect of being able to stretch the field and pounding it and just being diverse and being able to do a little more."
Last year at this time Gresham flogged himself for not putting up the numbers of those 2010 tight ends in the draft. He says he's trying to get away from that, but there always seems to be a Jimmy Graham around the corner.
"I think I need to do a better job for my team and being able to complete our team more than worrying about those guys. But those guys have had excellent careers so far," Gresham said. "I'm a competitor, but I need to do what I need to do for my team and not worry so much about other guys. That's the main thing I need to do."
Hernandez is in jail. Dennis Pitta is out for the year. Gronkowski is dinged up badly enough he didn't practice all preseason. But Gresham doesn't look at it like he's closing the gap on that '10 class. In fact, when the Bengals play the Pats at Paul Brown Stadium on Oct. 6, Gresham is hoping Gronkowski is there.
"I wish Gronk the speediest recovery in the world. It doesn't matter who you are, you enjoy watching the dude play. He's a bleeping beast," Gresham said. "He is what he is. Call it what you want. I enjoy watching him so I hope he has a speedy recovery and comes back and keeps doing what he's doing for tight ends. I just want to do what I can for our team to get us better."
Gresham has never met Gronkowski, but he says, "But I'm a fan."
The way Gresham has been playing, he'll get some more of those, too.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Backup left tackle Anthony Collins isn't saying if he'll play in place of Andrew Whitworth (knee), but before Thursday's practice he said he's preparing like he is. In preparation for a joust with Hall of Fame pass rusher Julius Peppers, Collins said he improved over the offseason watching tape with Whitworth.
Head coach Marvin Lewis likes his players to at least practice twice the week of a game, so that would take out Whitworth. Affter not participaing Wednesday, he warmed up in the Thursday team stretch without a jersey. Also not working were the two guys out Wednesday, cornerback Brandon Ghee (concussion) and offensive lineman Mike Pollak (knee). Everybody else went full go.
» With rookie Bears head coach Marc Trestman next on the agenda, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is 3-2 on Opening Day against first-year head coaches with that team with wins over Romeo Crennel (2005), Herm Edwards (2006), Pat Shurmur (2011) and losses to John Harbaugh (2008) and Josh McDaniels (2009).