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Andrew Billings talks lessons learned, working with coaches, padded practices

Andrew Billings is focused on making adjustments and learning the NFL game so that he can see playing time in his rookie year.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Minicamp Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Typically, rookies drafted in the fourth round don’t come into the NFL with a lot of hype. But, Andrew Billings isn’t your typical fourth round pick. Originally projected to go as high as the late first round in the 2016 NFL draft, concerns about his maturity and ability to play more than two downs caused him to fall all the way to the Bengals at pick No. 122.

Since then, Bengals personnel and fans alike have been raving about the value the team received with Billings. It has been quite a journey for him from high school to Baylor and to the NFL all in just a span of three years. But, he recently got his first real taste of padded practice at the NFL level and believes that he learned a lot from the experience.

“It went good, I got a lot of freedom,” Billings told Dave Lapham in an interview on “I really learned how to play the technique full speed, full contact. It really got me into the NFL.”

So far, learning has really been the name of the game for the young 21-year-old defensive tackle out of Baylor.

“Learn as much as I can from coach, from them, and just from notes and film.” Billing said of his mindset going into meetings with the Bengals’ ultra talented group of defensive linemen.

Billings has had the opportunity to work with and learn from long time NFL defensive line coach Jacob Burney, who the Bengals brought on after former defensive line coach Jay Hayes left to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. Burney is known as a tough, no-nonsense guy having previously worked with Bill Belichick in Cleveland, Marvin Lewis in Baltimore, John Fox in Carolina, and Mike Shanahan in Denver and Washington. So far, it has been a great experience for Billings.

“I learned the attack technique from him,” he said. “A lot of other things to help me out with this league.”

One of the major influences on Billings’ development so far in his football career has been former Baylor coach Art Briles. Briles was recently fired as Baylor’s coach in the wake of reports of sexual assault being covered up by the administration to protect certain football players. But, despite recent events in his life, he still came out to see Billings’ development in the NFL. Billings’ face lit up when Lapham asked about seeing his former coach at camp.

“It’s always great to see my coach come out here, looking good,” Billings said. “He’s a traveling man, watching his old players play some NFL ball.”

Playing in a high intensity and up-tempo program like Baylor’s in college is exactly the kind of thing that should prepare Billings to handle the way things work in the NFL.

“Yeah, like you said it’s really up-tempo.,” Billings said. “Now, it’s almost a little slower because of the huddle and stuff. I get calls way better and everything. But, it definitely helped me learn how to practice for this NFL team.”

That said, there are definitely some big differences between playing for a college team like Baylor and playing for an NFL team like the Bengals. Billings explained what the biggest adjustment for him in this transition was.

“Study habits, “ Billings said. “You’ve got to pick up on your study habits more. No class, which is a good one. It’s just really a business now. It’s all I do.”

One great part of preparing for the NFL while actually on an NFL team is having access to veteran players like Geno Atkins and Domata Peko who are willing to help a young guy like Billings along. When he was asked which veteran has made the biggest impact for him so far, he didn’t discriminate.

“All of them, really,” Billings said. “They do a great job bringing us up, all of the rookies. They always lead by example and lead by mouth and everything. It’s really the whole d-line picking us up.”

But, the most important part of the NFL is competing against other talented teams. Billings will get his first opportunity to do that next week when the Bengals hold joint practices with the Minnesota Vikings on August 10th and 11th. Billings, in particular, seems ready to get going against them.

“I always look forward to something like that,” Billings said.