CINCINNATI (AP) -Jermaine Gresham nearly bowled over Bengals tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes during his pro day workout at Oklahoma, a moment that helped decide his destination in the NFL.
Could Cincinnati pass him by in the draft? Not a chance.
The Bengals filled their biggest hole by taking Gresham with the 21st pick on Thursday, providing their offense with an ingredient that's been long missing from the passing game. Greshman is an accomplished pass catcher, as well as a solid blocker.
It gives us something we were missing last year,'' offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said.When the other guys got doubled (in coverage), we struggled a little bit.''
With one unintended bump, the 6-foot-6, 258-pound Gresham convinced them he was worth a top pick - something the franchise has been reluctant to use on a tight end. It's only the second time in franchise history that the Bengals selected a tight end in the first round. They picked Mike Cobb with the 22nd overall pick in 1977, when they had three first-round picks.
Chad Ochocinco welcomed him with a tweet: ``I am super stoked about our new tight end we picked up. Now time to get him on that McDonalds diet so we can all be great this year.''
The passing game bogged down last season after starting tight end Reggie Kelly ruptured an Achilles' tendon and backup Ben Utecht suffered a major concussion early in training camp. Both missed the season and became free agents.
The position was so depleted that the Bengals used offensive linemen in the spot as extra blockers. That made Gresham - the top-rated tight end in the draft - a top priority.
Hayes, who was a tight ends coach at Oklahoma before joining the Bengals, went to see Gresham work out at the school before the draft. As part of the session, Hayes told him to run a route across the middle of the field, then run right up to him.
Gresham was a little too eager and smacked right into the NFL coach, nearly knocking him down.
I remember I was running it, and he wanted me to run up to him,'' Gresham said, in a phone interview.It was just a reaction. I used my body against him.''
His immediate reaction: Oh no!
``I thought at first that the team wasn't going to take me because I was beating up on the coaches,'' Gresham said.
The Bengals saw it another way, interpreting it as another indication he was their guy.
Unfortunately or fortunately for us - we have it on tape - he damn near knocked me over running a route,'' Hayes said.For him to knock me over - all these different guys, none of them has come close. This kid is a powerful man.''
The Bengals' passing game has been among the league's worst the last two years with quarterback Carson Palmer hurt in 2008 and the team switching to a run-first philosophy last year. They drafted tight end Chase Coffman in the third round last season, but he was mostly a receiver at Missouri and had trouble learning to block. Coffman didn't play in his rookie season.
The Bengals managed to win the AFC North title by running the ball and playing defense. Opponents could clamp down on Ochocinco and the other receivers because there was no downfield threat at tight end or running back.
Gresham will get a chance to win the starting job during training camp.
``We're in a situation where we can add the guy and feel real good about putting things in for him and growing his role,'' Bratkowski said.
The Bengals essentially became a one-dimensional passing team last season - Ochocinco or nothing. They released receiver Laveranues Coles after his subpar season in 2009 and replaced him with Antonio Bryant, their biggest acquisition in free agency.
Still, there was no running back or tight end who could catch the ball downfield, opening things up for the receivers. Coach Marvin Lewis knew what the offense needed, and he knew who he wanted to fill the role.
Gresham caught 66 passes for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns at Oklahoma in 2008, showing up on the highlights quite often. He missed last season after surgery for torn cartilage in his right knee, but had already impressed Lewis.
``As I told him when I first met him over there in Indy (at the NFL scouting combine), I've been laying on the couch in the hotels on Saturday night for a long time watching him catch touchdown passes and wondering who this No. 18 is when he was a young player there at Oklahoma,'' Lewis said.