The Cincinnati Bengals begin organized team activities this week on the riverfront, but only so much can really be done this time of year to address their biggest weakness.
Or so I thought.
While new offensive line coach Frank Pollack called day one rusty both for coach and players alike, he was enthusiastic about what he saw from the big guys up front even though they weren’t in pads.
“Playing fast, knowing your assignments, adjusting fast, getting into your fit violently and then when we’ve got to pull up, we pull up,” Pollack said of what linemen can do in shorts and t-shirts. “You can still play fast, play with your hands violently, play with your feet violently. Just keep your head out of the play. That’s good technique, so I kind of like this because it forces guys to play with the right technique fast.”
PHOTOS: Bengals get back to work
Pollack’s starting five might take a while to determine, but that’s OK. He wants his linemen to be familiar with every spot and a master of one — if not two.
And wherever they go, Pollack’s guys need to take a certain attitude.
Judging by a five-minute conversation with him in the middle of May, motivation shouldn’t be a problem.
“Football’s aggressive. We’re not out here playin chess, I know that,” said Pollack, launching into one of the most-offensive-line-coach speeches ever.
“Last time I checked, in football you’ve still gotta kick the guy’s ass across from you. Nothin’s changed. You might be dissecting and looking at it as a chess match with the Xs and Os, but someone taught me a long time ago it’s the Johnnies and Joes, not the Xs and Os. You’ve got to be in position to play fast, be physical and dominate the opponent, the guy across from you.”
He wasn’t done.
“Broken down into those individual one on ones, football has not changed. I don’t care what we do to the rules, what we look to change, at the end of the day, it’s a physical, violent game,” Pollack said. "I’ve gotta defeat the guy across from me, so I take that approach. You’ve got to be mentally tough to do that. I could get a lot of drunk frat guys out here to just start fist fights, but that’s not football. That’s mentally weak, so I try everything I can to help develop that.”
And finally: “At the same time, I’m developing their skills.”
How long until the season starts?
Listening to Pollack get rolling could make anyone ready for a few collisions, but the rules still say no contact — for reporters or players.
“There’s still a number of things we can get done,” veteran lineman Clint Boling said. “It’s easy to sit in a room and learn a new system and make calls, but to do it in a short period of time between huddle and snap for the first time I think is really important. There’s a reason we do have these restrictions and that’s just the way it is. We make the best of it, but even though we can’t hit, there’s a lot we can get done.”
That even goes for Billy Price.
The rookie center from Ohio State, who was taken in the first round of the draft in April, is limited as he recovers from pec surgery, but he took part in some drills and soaked up as much knowledge as he could.
“He’s dialed in,” Pollack said. “He’s excited to be out here getting mental reps.
“He’s still learning, but he’s learning a lot. He’s a hell of a guy.”