Former Cincinnati Bengals safety Chris Crocker carved out an 11-year NFL career by being a player who could play multiple positions, and his post-football work is illustrating the same versatility.
Since retiring from the league following the 2013 season, Crocker has worked as a media analyst, a collegiate official and, beginning this week, as a coaching intern with the Bengals, the team he spent parts of six seasons with from 2008-13.
“The more you can do …,” he said with a laugh following Tuesday’s OTA practice, echoing the line he often used during his playing days.
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Crocker is one of three interns working with the team — Norfolk State co-defensive coordinator Cornell Brown and Gardner Webb assistant head coach/offensive line coach Kenny Ray are the others — as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching fellowship program.
Crocker will work with the Bengals through the first few weeks of training camp before he puts on his striped shirt and whistle for a second season of officiating in the Southwestern Athletic and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic conferences.
“I’ll never say never,” Crocker said about giving up officiating to become a full-time coach. “It’s definitely something I think I have in my blood because, you know, you play the game for 20 some odd years when you add up all the high school, college, professionally. I think it’s something I possibly could do.
“But this is just an opportunity,” he continued. “Whether you look at it as an opportunity to sort of get your feet wet or to just walk through these doors. Not even college coaches get a chance to do this fellowship. Just having the opportunity to come out here and do it, I look at it as a blessing just to be able to be thought of as a guy that they see doing something like this.”
Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who coached Crocker from 2008-11 before becoming the defensive coordinator in Miami, said Crocker will have a lot of value for the younger defensive backs during his stint with the club.
“A guy that’s been out there doing it can grab a guy on the side and kind of coach him up a little bit,” Coyle said. “Quite honestly, players respond very well to former players that really know the game. And Chris is very familiar with this system having played here for so long, and he can certainly be an asset.”
But it’s not just Crocker’s experience in pads that will be beneficial. His role as an official, which is something he began training for in the offseason while he still was playing, has given him a new perspective on the game that he can impart on the players.
“I work the back three, which is side judge, field judge and back judge,” Crocker said of his game-day assignments. “You’re watching the DBs. I’m watching the same thing I watched as a player. It’s really fun to learn the game from the other side. I started refereeing before I even retired, so I sort of learned the knacks of it and what they were looking for and who was looking at me and how I could cheat a little bit more. I think it helped extend my career because I knew what I could get away with.”
The appealing part of about officiating, he said, is it’s basically a weekend gig as most officials have other jobs during the week. But coaching is more than a full-time job, which is something he’s not sure he’s ready to commit to with two young daughters, ages 2 and 5, at home.
“Obviously coaching is a lifestyle,” he said. “You can’t do both (officiate and coach), but right now I have the time and ability to do a lot of different things.”