Because Marvin was there, an increased Cincinnati media presence showed up as well. I got a place right up front ready to fire my questions away. My first one was about the anemic passing game.
"There's no question we have to be more productive in the passing game. We were able to go in and frankly change the face of our football team, which I think was dramatic. With that being said, we also took some hits on some things that we've adjusted and we continue to adjust to get better. On a positive side, one of those things we have to improve on is our ability to make chunks plays down the field," Marvin said.
At this point in his answer, he noticed John Thornton sitting in the crowd and said hello. Then he went back to the answer.
"And that's a point we really look to improve in. And we're excited about that, just like we were excited about some of the revisions we made last year through the offseason—both personnel and scheme, [and it is] the same thing going into this season," he finished.
You see, I get the same answers as anybody else. He says a lot, but shares a little.
My next question had a much shorter answer but perhaps more actual content. I asked about the depth concerns at safety.
"Safety is an area that we would consider looking at in this draft," he told me.
Questions raised by the others had to do with Rey Maualuga's arrest ("He's making big strides to correct that"), Laveranues Coles' impact last year ("Laveranues added professionalism and maturity that that room severely needed"), and the supposed expanded role of Jerome Simpson (We're going to really, really take steps to keep him on that road to development."). He did say that this draft is especially deep at linebacker, but that is a position that it is "not an area that we would focus on very early". He also likes how the line grew and "came up out of the ashes last year" and is encouraged that Andre Smith will continue to improve. Nothing too shocking.
He didn't sound too excited about this year's tight end crop, pointing to the injuries of the top prospects at that position. He wouldn't talk at all about TO because he still technically belongs to the Bills and wouldn't go into the new CBA because he said that he simply isn't allowed to do so. And that was the press conference.
I felt somewhat satisfied that I interacted with the coach at all. It had always been something of a personal goal to talk with him, and technically I had. I even thanked him as he left the stage and he said I was welcome. He really doesn't seem like a bad guy.
Afterward, I was really thirsty and wanted to buy some water. I walked upstairs where no one was supposed to be. I didn't find any vending machines, but I did find Geoff Hobson, James Walker, Joe Reedy, Scott from CNATI, and some Channel 19 folks. I introduced myself to Hobson and he asked if we weren't piling on him too much on Cincy Jungle. I told him of course not, with only a seed of guilt for lying (Editor's Note: Just kidding Geoff, you know you're our favorite!) Then he asked me if I was sticking around for this, pointing to an empty table.
"What is this?" I asked.
"I don't know; a little Marvin press conference," he told me.
"Then yes, I'm sticking around for this."
Sure 'nuff, here comes the king himself flanked once again by Jack Brennan. Marvin sat down and Brennan looked me over dubiously. I beat him to the punch.
"Clifton Burke, Cincy Jungle," I said and extended my hand.
"You're a local guy," he asked shaking it.
I could tell it still made him uneasy. Then, unprompted, Hobson stuck up for me.
"He's from Cincy Jungle; he's okay."
Brennan nodded, Marvin then looked me over, and I was welcomed into the circle. It was a rite of passage of sorts. Then the questions began again.
The first one was about Bobbie Williams and Marvin said without hesitation that he wanted him back.
"Bobbie has beaten the averages as far as age and had a really productive football season for us."
Then I asked him if this year's draft preparation would be any different in regards to the uncapped season next year and the uncertainty the year after that.
"I don't think it will affect the draft at all. The draft is an opportunity to improve your football team for the future, and you really have to look at it from that point. To me, it's not as important in the draft to fill every seat, but fill every seat with the best football players because every football team is put together a little different (sic). When you draft by need, you take a lesser player, and when you take a lesser player, two years later, they're still a lesser player. He doesn't maybe get better. You want to take the best players you can take and do the best job to fit the other guys around him and coach the entire group to really upgrade the talent level of the entire football team, and not just be pleased that I have 11 players."
Wow. Never did I think I could prompt Marvin to say that many words, but that is what happened.
Other guys asked him more about tight ends and he stuck with the answer that a tight end has to block first in the AFC North. "It takes a man to play divisional games," he said. He also said more potential NFL-caliber tight ends are playing basketball in high-school instead of football.
Another question from someone else was about the passing game and he said he wanted a player who can contribute earlier in the season.
Something else was asked about the pass rush, and he answered that Odom got his feet wet at being a star and that Fanene impressed him with his rapid development.
Then it was over. As I walked off, Scott from CNATI introduced himself and asked if I was getting around the city alright, not having a car and all.
"You're a reader!" I exclaimed. He laughed and nodded. I explained to him that my hotel shuttle has actually worked out pretty well, which caught James Walker's attention.
"First combine?" Walker asked.
I nodded, did a quick introduction and explained to him that it was a big deal for Cincy Jungle to get credentialed at all and they each wished me luck. It was a great experience.
The rest of the day was easy. I listened to Tony Pike explain how he is getting bigger (225 lbs.) but still isn't heavy enough in his mind. I sat through Mike Holgrem's presser, Super Bowl ring and all, indicate that he wants an offensive linemen this draft. Holmgren also said that he's looking for any trades that are out there, and expressed that he feels the future of the league will require more defensive backs. He hasn't made a quarterback decision and he intends to make it difficult for other teams to obtain Jerome Harrison.
Then a voice came over the loud speaker, and it said "some guy named Tebow is at Podium C," and the rat race was on. For a guy who doesn't play in the NFL, he is easily the most famous person in football right now. A press member actually had him autograph something; a very amateur move that could actually result in that person being barred from the future. Nothing at Tebow's presser was interesting. Nothing.
I then listened to Dez Bryant struggle to speak. That guy is not bright outside of the football field. Each answer consisted of eight words or less.
A player I was entertained listening to was Golden Tate—the smallish Notre Dame receiver. Even though most of the questions were about Jimmy Clausen, the guy had a good sense of humor and said he models his game after Steve Smith because of his size. I liked Tate's attitude and would welcome him in Bengal stripes if Cincinnati were to draft him.
Lastly, Jeff Fisher spoke. All I wanted to know from Fisher was what the Competition Committee had in store this offseason. Predictably, he said player safety was of the highest priority. The defenseless player will be the focus in talks regarding player health this offseason and into the future, Fisher said.
I waited and waited for Mardy Gilyard to show, but I never saw him. He wasn't paramount in my coverage, but he would have been interesting to see how he handled the press. My hunger got the best of me and I left 30 minutes early; sue me.
That was today. Can it get any better tomorrow? Only one way to find out. Stay tuned.