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Fun Facts With Margus Hunt

Posted by Dan Hoard on July 28, 2013 – 2:36 pm

Margus Hunt is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing rookies in the NFL.  The 26-year-old native of Estonia appeared to be on his way to the Olympics as a shot put/discus thrower before moving to the United States and switching to football while attending SMU.

The 6’8”, 280 pound defensive end has only been playing football for four years, but earned first-team All-Conference USA honors last year after finishing with eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and an INT.  The Bengals selected him in the second round (53rd overall) in this year’s draft.

Margus Hunt at camp (440x302)

His unusual background made Hunt a perfect candidate for a “Fun Facts” interview for the Bengals radio network pregame show.

What is the name of your hometown in Estonia and describe it for us.

It’s called Karksi-Nuia and it’s a really small town.  We don’t even have a traffic light.  Everyone knows everyone there and when I was growing up, I walked everywhere because it was so small.

If you hadn’t been a professional athlete in the United States, what do you think you would have done back home?

I would have kept my track and field career going and seen where it took me.  I would have also definitely gone to college and got my degree.

What do you consider to be your most impressive athletic achievement so far?

I don’t really know.  It’s been a blessing to go through all of this and stay healthy.  Winning gold medals in track and field in international competition was definitely a special feeling because you get to stand on the podium and hear your national anthem.  Right now, football is the most important thing in my life and I’m trying to get that on track.

Where are all the gold medals and trophies?

All of them are back home in Estonia.

Who was your favorite athlete growing up?

His name is Virgilijus Alekna and he’s a Lithuanian discus thrower.  I actually was able to work with him in 2007.

Is he famous in track and field circles?

Oh yeah absolutely.  He’s a two-time Olympic winner and a two-time world champion – just an absolutely tremendous discus thrower.

What were some of your favorite places to travel during your track and field career?

China was really great.  Turkey was unbelievable – it’s a crazy culture over there.  South Africa is an absolutely beautiful place.  Spain is really cool as well.

Have you ever been to an NFL game?

No.  I’ve been here for five years and never really had an opportunity to go to a game so I’m excited to take part in one.

Are there still football terms that you don’t understand?

No.  I know the words – it’s just a matter of learning the game.

Is the United States roughly what you expected or is it very different from the notions that you had growing up in Estonia?

Watching “frat boy” movies back in Estonia you definitely get a skewed overview, but I eventually put that behind me and focused on why I came here.  It’s been working out well.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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Eifert Catching On Quickly

Posted by Dan Hoard on July 27, 2013 – 2:45 pm

In the Bengals first two practices of training camp, rookie tight end Tyler Eifert has stood out for catching everything thrown in his direction.

Well almost …

“He missed one with alligator arms – don’t forget about that one,” said Adam Jones with a laugh.

“I did drop one the first day – it drove me nuts,” said Eifert.  “If it hits your hands you’re supposed to catch it so that’s what I try to do.”

Eifert training camp (440x326)

The Bengals first round draft pick out of Notre Dame has more than compensated for the lone drop by making numerous catches including a few where he was well-covered.

“He one of those guys that if you find a way to put it around him, he finds a way to bring it in,” said Andy Dalton.  “He’s definitely going to help this team.”

Although I have not kept statistics, it seems likely that Eifert has had the most receptions of any Bengals receiver in 11-on-11 drills.  Is Tyler surprised by the number of passes coming his way?

“Maybe a little bit,” Eifert told me.  “I don’t really know how it normally works or who gets a lot of balls, so I’m just trying to get better, make sure I know my assignments, and make the most of my routes.”

“He’s got a great feel for the game,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.  “The big thing is getting him introduced to the route concepts and the route tree and let him run them from different spots.  He’s making the most of his opportunities.”

Eifert is quickly earning the respect of the players attempting to cover him.

“He’s got a different skill set from a lot of tight ends as far as the way he runs routes,” said Terence Newman.  “He’s a big guy but he moves like he could be a big wideout.  It’s kind of like the 49ers and the things they do with Vernon Davis.  He’s versatile so he can do a lot of different things.  He can beat you when he’s attached to the line and he can beat you when they flex him out.  He’s going to be somebody to be reckoned with this year to be sure.”

“It’s going to be hard for linebackers to match up with him,” said Jones.  “His ‘shake-ability’ is unbelievable and he’s great at getting in and out of breaks.  It’s almost like Andrew Hawkins but a little bit slower.”

It’s only been two days and the players haven’t started hitting yet, but Eifert appears to be developing good timing with Dalton.

“I think our chemistry is good,” said Eifert.  “I think we’re still developing that trust, but for how early it is, I think that the trust factor is moving along pretty well and he can trust me to do what I’m supposed to do and be in the right spots.”

“That’s very noticeable for the quarterback when he keeps being in the right spot at the right time,” said Gruden.  “Andy feels very good about him and very confident with him already.”

“He’s done a good job,” said Dalton.  “The way that we’ve been drawing stuff up will make him one of the focal points and he’s one of those guys that seem to catch everything that comes their way.

Almost everything.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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A.J. Green Says No Structural Damage To Knee

Posted by Dan Hoard on July 26, 2013 – 12:27 pm

If you nearly had a panic attack when you heard that A.J. Green went down with a left knee injury at the Bengals first training camp practice on Thursday, you’ re not alone.

“It was scary for me,” Green said on Friday morning.  “But I felt (my knee) and everything felt intact.  I got up and walked off so it’s fine.”

AJ injury (440x330)

The two-time Pro Bowl receiver said that an MRI showed no structural damage and compared the injury to a hypertension of the right knee that he suffered against Pittsburgh as a rookie in 2011.

“That’s what it is,” said Green.  “It’s just not as bad as the one in Pittsburgh.

“It’s like a little bone bruise.”

Green injured his left knee about 90 minutes into practice on Thursday when he attempted to make an acrobatic catch on a deep ball thrown down the sideline by Andy Dalton.

“I was awkward so I was trying to keep my feet in and then I got off-balance,” said Green.  “I don’t know if something was under my foot like a rock or something, but it just went back and I slipped.”

Although it was the first day of training camp, Green has no regrets about making an all-out attempt to make the catch.

“That’s how I’m programmed man,” said Green.  “That’s all I know.”

Green, who turns 25 next week, said that there is no timetable for his return to practice.

“I don’t know – whenever they say I’m ready,” A.J. told reporters.

Bengals fans would undoubtedly be happy if Green is back in time for the regular season opener, but A.J. wants to be back on the field as soon as possible.

“You know me, I need my reps,” said Green.  “I love to get all of my reps, but we’ll see what happens.”

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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Mike Brown on Andy Dalton: “I Expect Him To Get Better”

Posted by Dan Hoard on July 23, 2013 – 7:15 pm

Mike Brown was a good enough college quarterback at Dartmouth to be mentioned in the pages of Sports Illustrated in October of 1956, but he is reluctant to share his thoughts on where Andy Dalton needs to get better in his third season.

“I’m an old quarterback and I like to pretend that I never threw a ball that didn’t go exactly where it should have,” joked Brown.  “But I know how lousy I really was, so maybe I should shut up on this one.”

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While the Bengals president chooses to avoid providing a detailed critique of his current QB, it’s hard to find a preview of the 2013 team that doesn’t focus on Dalton’s room for improvement.  For example, on Tuesday morning the headline on ESPN.com’s AFC North Blog read “Make or Break Year For Andy Dalton?”

“I think that Andy Dalton is a very good quarterback and I guess there has to be something to talk about,” Brown told me.  “If you’re a quarterback in this league, people are going to question everything you do in every game that you play.

“I know this; we were good enough to get to the playoffs for two years in a row with Andy Dalton as our quarterback and that is saying a lot.  Do I expect him to get better?  I do.  I expect him to get better and I think he expects to get better.  He’ll have more experience, maybe he’ll be able to make certain throws a bit better – we’ll find out.  He’s our quarterback.  He’s a good leader, he’s a solid passer, and I’m glad that we have him.”

Mike Brown interview (440x330)

Brown has been studying quarterback play since he was 11 years old when his father became head coach of the Cleveland Browns.  This week at the Bengals annual preseason media luncheon, I asked Mike to share some thoughts on the greatest quarterbacks he’s been associated with in Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Otto Graham:

“He was the greatest quarterback ever in my book,” said Brown.  “Otto had an intuitive sense about him.  He made plays when they needed to be made.  He took that team to the league championship game in ten straight years.  They rode his back all the way.  He was very athletic – he played in the NBA as a guard.  His throwing motion was not pretty.  The ball didn’t come off his hand in a dead spiral consistently, yet he found the open guy and made plays.  He anticipated and made things happen that weren’t drawn up.  If I had a quarterback to pick in all of the time that I’ve watched pro football, he would be the one that I would put at the top of my list.”

Ken Anderson:

“Kenny was very accurate,” said Brown.  “His throwing statistics are better than most of the quarterbacks that are in the Hall of Fame.  It’s an injustice that he’s not in the Hall of Fame.  I think if you were listing who was the most important player in Bengals history, Kenny would be the one.”

Boomer Esiason:

“Boomer was a powerful passer,” said Brown.  “He was up-and-down some.  Sometimes when the ball left his hand, I’m not sure that even he knew where it might be going.  What he had that set him apart was leadership.  The players believed in him and he made them better.”

Carson Palmer: 

“Carson was a beautiful thrower,” said Brown.  “He could throw the deep pass as well – or better – than anyone I ever saw.  I used to enjoy just watching him in practice.  Things happened here that weren’t all in his control and some things didn’t work out the way that we wished.  That weighed him down and he decided to go where he thought the grass was greener.  I liked him personally and I still like him personally.  I wish he hadn’t done what he did, but we bounced back from it and I wish him well.”

After running through that list, I asked Brown if he sees any of those traits in Dalton.

“Andy is different in style from Boomer, but he has that same leadership quality about him,” Brown told me.  “The players like him and they respond to him.  As a passer, I don’t know that he would rank at the top, but he doesn’t rank at the bottom either.  He ranks with the good ones that we’ve had.  His future has to play out.  We’ll see – he might surprise some of his critics.”

Does Mike Brown think that Andy Dalton will be the Bengals quarterback for the next 10 years?

“Right now, I’m planning that he will be,” said Brown.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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