Robert Geathers is entering his ninth year with the Bengals and is now the most tenured member of the team. He was drafted in the same class as Chris Perry, Keiwan Ratliff and Madieu Williams. He’s been a member of all three of Marvin Lewis’ playoff teams, seen the high times and low, but has rarely been in the spotlight. That’s pretty much how he likes it.
As the Bengals prepare for Marvin Lewis’ 10th season at the helm, CityBeat caught up with the 29-year-old defensive end to talk about his role and what’s changed during his time as a Bengal. While Geathers is not one to every create headlines with his words, this discussion made it clear that there are some distinct differences between these Bengals and the teams with which he started his career.
CityBeat: Does it seem weird that you’re the longest tenured player on the team?
Robert Geathers: It is weird, but it’s a blessing to hang in here this long.
CB: What changes have happened around here in your nine years?
RG: Obviously the locker room — I’m the last guy from when I started. It’s just the group of guys we have now, everybody’s on the same page, we’re all on one accord. The only thing that matters is winning and playing for the guy next to you. It’s just one focus instead of everyone being everywhere, you know?
CB: It seems much calmer in this room than in years past.
RG: It is, it really is. I think what they’ve been able to do is get a group of guys, a group of leaders. I’m the only guy left from when I started, and then you have (Domata) Peko and (Andrew Whitworth). And Nate Clements and some of the guys they’ve brought in, they’ve done a good job of being, not rah-rah guys, but more lead-by-example guys without all the blabbing off or saying what they can do
CB: You look at the group, and it’s so low-key.
RG: Yeah, we’re low-key. The chemistry we have, we have great chemistry, we’re getting some stability of guys playing together for a while and developing that chemistry. That’s big when you want to do great things in this league.
CB: You weren’t here for Marvin’s first year, but you were the next year. How has he changed?
RG: He’s grown a lot as a coach. The biggest thing is the way he communicates with us and gets things translated through the leaders on the team. He’s able to come to us and communicate with us and make things happen. We’re all on one accord, because we’re in this thing together.
CB: There seems to be a group of guys that have been here for the last couple of years — you’re never going to see them in trouble, you’re not going to see them going out and making themselves the story. You, Domata, Whitworth — are you the group that this team is trying to build around and the identity they want? Even the younger guys: Andy Dalton’s not boisterous, A.J. Green’s quiet.
RG: He is, I’ve known him since he was in high school. It’s just the character guys we’ve got here. It’s been night and day from when I got here. We had some characters, and for the young guys we draft to come in under that leadership, the older guys in those positions show the way. That’s how you build a foundation.
CB: When you got here in ’04 you were building for the big season in ’05 and then there were ups and downs and ups and downs. Do you think there’s finally a building of a steadiness?
RG: Finally. You’ve got nobody from my class or the class afterward, and you have Whit and Domata from ’06. We’re finally getting from ’07 and ’08 we have guys that are here for a long time and buying into the system. We finally have a system that guys believe in.
CB: So you could be replaced at any minute...
RG: Yeah. Any moment. That’s how it is — that’s part of the league. When you get to a certain place, you have to buy into your role and not fight it. We don’t have that on this team — we’ve got guys who accept their roles. That’s how you last a long time in this league. When you get beyond yourself and don’t accept yourself, you find yourself out of the league. We’ve got a lot of guys who are doing that, older guys, Nate Clements, doing whatever it takes. Me, playing wherever they need me.
CB: It seems the tent poles — you, Domata, Whitworth — there’s a common thread there, don’t you think?
RG: You’re right. I think that comes from our backgrounds. You talk to Whit, Domata — they work hard. They have the foundation from their family, that’s important to them. That speaks for itself and that’s what we’re building here.
CONTACT C. TRENT ROSECRANS: letters@citybeat or @ctrent