The following is an interview conducted February, 2013 by former staff member Vance Meek.
The turnaround of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise can be attributed in large part to solid work in recent NFL drafts, and then the hard work and development of those players. Many of the players who have been instrumental in the success of the team over the past few years are the product of great drafting and dedication. One of the weaknesses of the 2011 playoff team was the offensive line, which struggled mightily, and needed upgraded. One of those upgrades was 2012 first round draft pick Kevin Zeitler, who immediately took the right guard position by the horns and never let go.
Stripehype.com spoke to Zeitler after the draft last year, and now he’s kind enough to be back for a follow up after a tremendous season in which he proved he was absolutely worth the 27th pick of the draft. It looks like he will be starting in Cincinnati for years to come, and after his play this year, that’s definitely a good thing.
VM: How would you rate your first NFL season, and how did it compare to your expectations coming in?
I would say my first NFL season was decent. I did some things well, but also made some stupid mistakes. It was a bit easier than I expected.
VM: At the draft, Bengals fans were enamored with David DeCastro. Do you feel any extra competition between the two of you as a result?
David is a great player, and I know he’ll have a strong season next year when his knee is fully healed. I wouldn’t say there is any extra competition with us. I do consider myself to be competing with all other guards in the league though.
VM: You said last time that your biggest weakness was your hands. How much did you work on that, and do you still feel like it’s your biggest weakness?
I worked very hard during OTAs and throughout the season on hand placement. I feel that I have gotten better with it, but there is always room for improvement
VM: You received a lot of praise all season long from both fans and the media. Do you pay any attention to that stuff, either good or bad?
It’s fun to hear sometimes, but I try not to take it seriously or believe it. I know how to judge my play by watching film and that’s what I pay attention to.
Yes. I feel like the O-line takes it as a compliment. We’re vital to an offense running smoothly. So long as everything is working, we know we are doing our jobs well.
VM: Was there any particular player you faced this season that you felt like you struggled with in particular (Geno Atkins excluded)?
Geno was definitely the defensive tackle I struggled with the most, but since he doesn’t count, I’d say Haloti Ngata in the first game.
VM: The Bengals had a bad stretch of games early in the year, then went on an amazing run to make the playoffs. What do you think sparked the turnaround?
I feel like the Broncos game was when things started to turn around. Our offense started clicking in the third quarter, and even though we did not win, I felt that we started to get back on track.
VM: The Bengals have been a ridiculed franchise for a long time. How does it feel to be a part of the group that is turning perception around?
The Bengals have had a rough reputation in the past, but all I’ve known since I’ve been here is making the playoffs. The past can’t matter to us anymore. The culture is changing and it feels great to be a part of it.