While fans love to think they know all of the dynamics in a professional sports organization's locker room, sometimes things just aren't what they seem. Case in point could be Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham, a former first round selection slated for free agency in about a week and a half.
There have been peaks and valleys during Gresham's star-crossed career in The Queen City, ranging from being one of the most statistically productive tight ends in franchise history through his first five years, to inexplicable drops and penalties at the most critical of times.
Unfortunately for Gresham, the fans seem to choose to focus on the negative plays more than his positive contributions in the form of becoming "Twitter Tough Guys", AKA slinging insults at a professional athlete behind the safety of a computer screen. It wasn't as bad as a certain Bengals quarterback getting trash strewn across the lawn of his home, but it did cause Gresham to label himself "The Villain" on his Twitter account because of the hatred spewed his way.
The Gresham saga took many turns in 2014. Aside from "The Villain" comment, he sat out games that coaches thought he'd be playing in causing The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner, Jr. to report that some coaches want nothing to do with him going forward. That report was spurred on by the injury situation and a subsequent verbal spat with radio play-by-play man, Dave Lapham. Bengals.com editor Geoff Hobson also made the early conjecture that Gresham probably wouldn't be back in Cincinnati in 2015.
Yet, despite it all, Gresham says he wants to be back in Cincinnati. In appearing on Sirius/XM NFL Radio on Thursday, Gresham sounded like a guy that wants to be a Bengal for most, if not all of his career.
Jermaine Gresham: My heart is in Cincinnati, I wanna stay there but its up to them. I know its a business so its up in the air right now.— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) February 26, 2015
As if the previous roller coaster ride with Gresham wasn't enough, Bengals coaches had differing stances with the tight end when speaking about him at the Combine. Head coach Marvin Lewis said that he "needs to figure out what he wants to do" while in Indianapolis. Well, if we're taking Gresham's statements as the truth, it sounds like he knows what he wants. Additionally, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson noted that Gresham "has a place here".
Can both sides swallow their pride and get a deal done? That's the question. For Gresham, he might need to take the hit to his pride, in terms of both funds and playing time with Tyler Eifert still around and Ryan Hewitt emerging as a TE/FB hybrid player. For the Bengals, they'll need to get past Lapham and injury issues, while also knowing that these previously-seen errors might still occur with Gresham if he's back.
Oh, and those "changes" that Lewis keeps harping on this offseason? Could moving on from Gresham be a part of that plan? Buckle up, Bengals fans. This one is going to be interesting.