Initial comments ...
“Practice No. 1 of the rookie camp is in the books. As you all may have seen, it was primarily individual (drills), just to get a chance to get out there. We won’t be doing any 11-on-11 in the time out here. You get a chance to watch those guys in individual (drills) doing some agility work early on and evaluate those guys. It was a good, competitive day. You could tell with guys there was some anxiousness and nervousness getting out there. This afternoon will probably be a little bit sharper of a practice, but it was good to see those guys compete. A lot of those guys — 95 percent of them — are stepping on an NFL field for the first time, so it’s an exciting day for them. I’m looking forward to making some corrections with them and getting back on the field this afternoon and getting ready to go again. So, I’ll take any questions you have.”
Did you open with a team meeting with these players? If so, what was your message to them?
“Last night, we met with them and established some of the culture things we’ve talked about with the rest of the team. We congratulated them on getting to this point — it’s exciting for a lot of these guys — and just let them know they represent the Cincinnati Bengals now and they have to protect each other. The first thing we really hit them on was, ‘Let’s be great note-takers when we’re in that first meeting.’ About 80 percent of them had their notebooks and pencils out, and the other ones were a little bit unprepared. But we’ll get that corrected. We just let them know there’s no more school anymore and that this is their job now, so the approach is going to be different in everything that we do.”
Does it excite you to find a guy that goes undrafted that is an underdog in this process?
“Yeah. There’s plenty of guys that are here that maybe we had draftable grades on. We’re excited, because you don’t get a chance to draft them, and then no one else does, and you bring them into the camp and you feel you might have something there. We’ll continue to evaluate these guys the next two days and see what we’ve got with some of those guys that weren’t drafted.”
Is there anyone that stood out and caught your eye today?
“I’m not quite ready to say that yet, but it was good to get chance to evaluate each position in those individual drills. We’ll go back and watch the tape to zero in on some of them. A little bit of it is when I’m watching, I’m not trying to jump to any conclusions on some guys. Again, there’s that nervousness, especially when we’re competing in seven-on-sevens. There’s guys running routes for the first time, guys playing in coverage for the first time, so you don’t want to jump to any conclusions. You really gain a little bit more right now in the individual drills as they’re moving full-speed on air with some confidence. That’s really the best chance to evaluate them right now.”
What did you see in how rookie QB Ryan Finley carried himself today?
“Confident. I thought he had good command in the huddle. I was pleased. One time we broke the huddle, and it was a poor huddle and we weren’t on the same page, and he got them back in there. Those are the things you want to see — that leadership and intangible stuff — from the quarterback position. Day 1, that’s a good start for him, showing those qualities and showing a good command for calling the play in the huddle, which is not always easiest thing at this level.”
When you brought in QB Jake Dolegala as a college free agent, what did you like about him?
“He’s a big, tall guy (with) a strong arm. He had a good career there at Central Connecticut State. We’re excited to get a guy like that in here and get a chance to evaluate him in person.”
Do you see some guys being too tentative or too aggressive, because they’re trying to impress the coaching staff?
“It is. It’s a little bit both ways. That’s the one thing we tried to hammer home. I had (senior defensive assistant) Mark Duffner, who has a lot of experience, talk to these guys last night. It’s one of the things he pointed out. Guys are so excited, but we’re not going full-speed trying to knock people out. The guys that are athletic enough at this level should be in position to show us what they’ve got athletically, but then also be able to pull off and protect their teammates at the same time. We did make that point to those guys. Today, for the most part, I didn’t see any issues with that.”
Did the wet and slick practice fields impact some things today?
“Obviously it’s not ideal when it rains your first practice. The fields have really held up well for us. I thought the guys did a good job. Again, you get to see a little bit of the athleticism with the guys that control their bodies and can play underneath themselves. So there is a whole different evaluation aspect to it at that point.”
You didn’t draft any wide receivers this year, but you brought in some interesting college free agents. Did anything strike you today in the wide receivers group?
“Yeah. You see some raw talent there. We signed three free agents (Charles Holland, Stanley Morgan and Damion Willis), who all had great college careers. Certainly, they’re three guys that could have been drafted, but they didn’t. You’re encouraged about what you see in the individual period, but those are some of the groupings I am talking to when they are running routes for the first time and having to work releases. There’s a little bit of that uncertainty there, but we’ll get that corrected and get those guys playing full-speed. But in individual (drills), I thought those guys all showed good traits.”
View images from the first rookie minicamp practice at Paul Brown Stadium on May 10.
What did you want to see out of the offensive linemen today? Is this a time when they get to show their feet and their hands?
“No question. And being coachable as well. Sometimes there’s some techniques they weren’t taught in college. It’s the first day on the grass listening to Coach Turner (Bengals offensive line coach Jim Turner) and Coach Martin (Bengals assistant offensive line coach Ben Martin). You do get a chance to see how coachable are they and how quick they can make those corrections, because in this league that’s critical at that position. Same goes for the D-line, I enjoyed peaking over there at the D-line. That group certainly looks the part. The three guys we had over there today working with Coach Eason (Bengals defensive line coach Nick Eason) and Coach Chatman (Bengals assistant defensive assistant Gerald Chatman), they are three good looking dudes. I know one of them is on our roster and one was a draft pick and the other we bought in, but it was a good-looking group over there as well.”
Rookie DT Renell Wren certainly looks the part…
“Yeah. He will lead us out of the tunnel with J.B. (James Brown) (laughs).”
For rookie HB Rodney Anderson, who is not fully healthy yet, what do you want to see from him right now?
“He’s a guy that we thought highly of, with the stuff that he could put on tape when he did play in college. He’s in the rehab phase, and we knew that when we drafted him that he wouldn’t be practicing this offseason. He’s in there with Coach Singleton (Bengals running backs coach Jemal Singleton) getting the mental part of it down. I have no worries that he will be able to do that and continue with the rehab, and so when training camp rolls around we’ll see where he is at that point.”
What is your philosophy for rookie minicamp? Do you throw a lot of information at them, or break them in slowly?
“A little bit of both. Again, we want them playing fast, just like the other guys in the voluntary minicamp are doing. You try not to overload them, but at the same time you introduce them to this offense because they are three weeks behind at this point. You can’t just spoon-feed them there. You have to give them some stuff so that on Monday when they show up with the veterans they’re ready to go and can jump right in. It’s a little bit of a mixture there.”
What are your overall thoughts on rookie minicamp? Some teams essentially don’t even bother doing it, while others make it pretty extensive.
“What you probably saw 10 years ago was the full three days with two-a-days and all that stuff. It was a full 11-on-11, and getting your money’s worth. Some teams have now gone the total other direction, and really it’s just a tryout for the undrafted guys. We’re kind of in-between, as you’ve seen. We’ll get two days of work tomorrow morning and just find that balance in-between. You won’t see any 11-on-11, but it’s more than a tryout because you get a chance to see those guys compete against each other. So we’re right there in the middle.”
You basically eliminated one full day, right?
“Almost a full 24 hours.”
How different is it for you as head coach this year to oversee the entire practice, instead of just worrying about one position like you have the last few seasons?
“It’s good. When you’re a coordinator, you’re kind of doing this on one side of the ball and walking around to those positions. It’s been nice to get over there and hang with the defense and see those guys get to work. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed these last couple weeks.”
Are you still trying to find a rhythm with the coaching staff, in terms of planning practices and all of the other stuff that comes along with a new staff?
“I have been on a lot of new staffs in the last 10 years. I feel like I’ve had a lot of these phases, so it’s not that uncomfortable for a lot of us. We’re used to a new staff and a new way of doing things. You’re always trying to find your rhythm and make sure everyone is on the same page, but it’s flowed very easily for all of us because I do think we have a great group of coaches and it’s easy to communicate. I feel like we really hit our stride and are in good shape right now.”
Have you already seen these rookies’ love for the game and their football acumen?
“Absolutely. These guys are really sharp. They do have a high football IQ. These are guys that were very eager today to get started, and you could tell their excitement. There probably wasn’t as much nervousness from the guys we picked (in the draft), because there is a lot of confidence there. That is what happens when you draft team captains — guys who are about the right stuff and have high football character. That’s not to be unexpected when they walk in the building on the first day.”