For several minutes after the Bengals first practice of this three-week period of OTAs (organized team activities), two offensive linemen could be seen doing additional drills with no coaches present.
One of them was undrafted free agent Larry Black, but it wasn’t the rookie’s idea to put in the extra time.
“I asked him (to stay) because I figured he was a young guy and wouldn’t say no,” said Kevin Zeitler. “When you have a lot of young guys around, they’re willing to help, so I grabbed Larry Black and got some work in. That’s what I feel you have to do because you have to outwork the competition.”
“Kevin’s always one of the last guys to leave because he’s always doing something extra and working on something that maybe he didn’t do as well,” said Marvin Lewis. “He’s very conscientious that way.”
“He’s about as dedicated to that as anyone I’ve ever seen,” said my radio partner Dave Lapham of Zeitler. “You’ll see skill position players out there after practice with the quarterbacks working on timing and that sort of thing, but very rarely do you see offensive or defensive lineman out there doing extra work – particularly a starter. I think he’s going to have a banner year.”
Zeitler’s rookie year certainly lived up to expectations if not exceeded them. The 27th pick in last year’s draft started every game at right guard and was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 12th-best guard in the NFL.
“Very rarely does an offensive lineman start every snap for his team as a rookie and Kevin was able to do that,” said Lapham. “Now I expect a major leap in his play from year one to year two.”
“I guess it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be,” said Zeitler. “I felt that as the season went along I got better. Still, every time that I watch the film there are so many things that make my stomach cringe. That’s another reason why I do the extra work – I don’t want those things to ever pop up again.”
One of those cringe-worthy moments occurred at practice on Tuesday.
“It was the first day – some things went well and some things were rough,” said Zeitler. “On a reach block, Geno blew me back today. Yeah it’s Geno, but who knows, there are no defensive tackles better than Geno but there could be somebody close. So I have to make sure that it doesn’t happen in a game.”
As a result, he pulled aside an undrafted rookie and did additional drills.
“He wants to be great – not good – but great,” said Lapham. “He wants to be a Hall of Fame type guy. That’s a coach’s dream and I’m sure that (offensive line coach) Paul Alexander is thrilled to death to have a guy like that. The longer he’s around, the more his work habits are going to spill off to the other guys too. He’s a great example that there are no shortcuts to success.”
“You should want to be your best every day and try to be perfect,” said Zeitler. “If you strive toward perfection you can hit excellence.”
“Football is an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes you hate this game so much that you wish you never played it and other days like today, I was running around the field thinking, ‘finally…it’s time to get better!’”
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