Jermaine Gresham is a big man. The 6-5, 265-pounder towered over head coach Marvin Lewis for the obligatory jersey photo at Thursday’s news conference at Paul Brown Stadium.
As he sat down at the news conference table, someone said, “The center of attention.” He said, “No, I’m just a piece of it.”
After a meet and greet with a VIP draft party of team sponsors and suite holders, a relaxed Gresham met the media in a dress shirt, powder blue tie, and a Bengals baseball cap.
“I hate to lose,” he said.
Asked if he’s talked to quarterback Carson Palmer yet, Gresham said he hadn’t but he could know why Palmer will like him.
“Easy to find. Big target,” he said. “A catching machine.”
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Jay Norvell says we’re going to be surprised when we get our first look at Bengals No. 1 pick Jermaine Gresham, the Oklahoma tight end expected to meet the Cincinnati media for the first time at about 5:30 p.m. Friday at Paul Brown Stadium.
“He always surprises people when they meet him in person. He’s a big, big man,” said Norvell, the Sooners passing game coordinator. “When he got back from the combine, I asked him, ‘They were surprised at how big you were, weren’t they?’ He just smiled and said they were. He’s easily 265 pounds and 6-5 and he’s got those big rangy arms.”
The Sooners may have had three of the top four players taken in Thursday night’s first round and two of them were quarterback Sam Bradford and tackle Trent Williams, but it was Gresham that Norvell says “changed us as an offense.”
“We were a spread offense and he gave us the flexibility to go double tight ends and run the ball more,” Norvell said. “Yeah, we had the quarterback and some great linemen, but Jermaine’s versatility allowed us to be so flexible and yes, no question, we were able to go more no-huddle because of his ability to give us heavy formations and he could also split out and be dominant in the matchups with linebackers and safeties.”
Norvell should know. He coached NFL tight ends for six seasons, four with the Colts and two with the then AFC champion Raiders from 1998-2003. He is not comparing Gresham to future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, but only comparing his style since he saw Gonzalez for two years in the AFC West.
“He’s a classic power forward type of athlete,” Norvell said. “He can run the two routes that separate tight ends in that league. The down-the-field seam routes and deep corner routes. There aren’t many guys that can do that and in-line block.”
Tags: gresham, norvell
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This is why Reggie Kelly is so admired around these parts.
After finishing a workout on a field near his Northern Kentucky home Friday morning, he returned a phone call and immediately praised the selection of the guy that at some point is going to end up taking his job as the Bengals No. 1 tight end.
“It was a smart move, honestly, and I applaud the Bengals for making it,” Kelly said of Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham. “It was a sound business decision and I wish the young kid nothing but the best. I don’t know much about him, but from what I’ve heard he plays tough.”
That doesn’t mean Kelly is ready to hang them up. At 33 and coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, he believes he’s got something left to give and he wants to give it to the Bengals. After the draft, the plan is to talk with Jimmy Sexton, his agent, to see what the next step is. He has had some feelers from other teams (“I don’t want to give the number,” he says), but his first choice is to return to a locker room where he has been held in high regard for the last seven seasons as their spiritual leader.
On Friday, “The Reverend” acknowledged that Sexton and the Bengals are talking and said that money and length of the deal are probably the two things that have to get hammered out.
“When you get long in the tooth and coming off a crucial injury like this one, teams are going to be hesitant,” he said. “I realize that. They’re not sure if you can hold up for an entire season. I think if I can get my foot in the door, I think I can show people that I can still play.”
Kelly has said he worked out for the club the first week of April and felt he showed his repaired Achilles is stronger than his healthy one.
“Money isn’t my main thing,” Kelly said. “If I were to leave Cincinnati, it would have to be the right fit because I’m comfortable here and my family is comfortable here.”
Gresham couldn’t have a better mentor for his first year or two in Kelly, a deeply religious man who plays with the heart of a gladiator. Kelly’s physicality as a blocker has always been an X factor in protecting quarterback Carson Palmer and springing the running game.
“There’s the fun side of football and then there’s what I do. The dirty work,” Kelly said with a laugh. “But I like the excitement, too. I watch SportsCenter, too, and I like to watch guys catch touchdown passes and make big plays like this kid. I would play a backup role and be a mentor, but my mindset would be that I can still start. I’ll always have that mindset that I can start.”
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With teams flying all around them again in a trading flea market, the Bengals stayed put Thursday in the first round for the sixth straight year, and for the fifth time the guy they wanted dropped right to them. In 2008, they would have been happy with Sedrick Ellis, Derrick Harvey or Keith Rivers at No. 10. But in the other years, David Pollack, Johnathan Joseph, Leon Hall, Andre Smith and Jermaine Gresham were the guys they targeted.
But it would have been interesting if Gresham had been gone. USC safety Taylor Mays was still on the board. So was cornerback Kyle Wilson of Boise State. And, yes, Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant seemed to be leering right at them.
But none of those guys were as enticing as Gresham or Idaho guard Mike Iupati, gone at No. 17 to the 49ers. When Mays’ college coach had a chance to take him at No. 14 and took another safety instead (Texas’ Earl Thomas), that had to make the league wonder.
The Bengals didn’t take Bryant off their board like a lot of teams, but he seemed to be a polarizing figure. He had some vociferous supporters but not enough to carry the day. Probably just as well given the track record, but there are those here that think Bryant was treated by the media as unfairly as any prospect in the last 10 years.
Bryant is the kind of guy that makes you say you don’t want him and then in the next breath makes you say you don’t want to play against him, so it was nice he went to Dallas. And while the Ravens didn’t get Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas, either, they fleeced Denver so badly for draft picks in the Tim Tebow trade they may end up being the AFC North favorites after Saturday’s fourth round. Giving Ravens general manger Ozzie Newsome more draft picks is like giving time Kate Gosselin more TV time. No good can come of it.
The reason the Bengals don’t trade up is Friday, when they get three picks in Friday night’s second and third rounds that begin at 6 p.m. Since they did meet a need with Gresham, maybe they can unbutton their shirt a little bit with the driver and take a run at a developmental guy in the second round at, say, safety or wide receiver.
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The Bengals didn’t say goodbye to tight end Reggie Kelly Thursday night. But it was just a few speeches short of a testimonial.
They made it quite clear that while they want to re-sign him it is going to be more as a mentor for rookie Jermaine Gresham. A few weeks ago Kelly said he had no problem mentoring a rookie that everyone expected the Bengals to take at some point but he also felt like he had plenty of juice left to start.
So it will be interesting to see if Kelly re-ups. The Bengals need him to go between Gresham and Chase Coffman on the depth chart to provide aid and comfort to two guys that haven’t played an NFL snap between them.
“He’s going to add a dimension to us,” said tight end coach Jon Hayes of Gresham. “We all know Reggie’s been great for us. He’s been a great player for us and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I commend him for that, but Jermaine will give us a different dimension. We’ve got to get ways to get better in this business because you guys know if we don’t we’ll be out the door next.”
If that doesn’t say Gresham is the starter, what does? But the Bengals still need the 33-year-old Kelly’s calm and brains at the position. Who’s going to show the kids? Of the four tight ends on the roster (Gresham, Coffman, Dan Coats, Darius Hill), only Coats has taken an NFL snap.
If anyone knows the value of experience, it is Bratkowski.
“Reggie’s very special. I know that a lot of people didn’t quite see the value in Reggie,” Bratkowski said. I know more than once, (Jets head coach) 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.”
If anything, the Bengals need Kelly for the rematch with the Jets. “Jermaine, let me show you how to protect Carson from Rex,” Bratkowski said.
Tags: kelly, reggie
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