A day after being released by the San Francisco 49ers, rookie quarterback Jeff Driskel got word he had been claimed by the Cincinnati Bengals the same way most millennials get their news these days.
“Actually, I just saw it on the internet,” Driskel said Monday ahead of his first practice with his new team. “The internet travels faster than anything these days, so that’s how I found out. But a phone call was quickly thereafter.”
It may not be long before the University and Florida and Louisiana Tech product gets more news from the Bengals, who have not carried three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster since 2010.
“We have three today,” Lewis said. “Right now we could afford to do three and take advantage of having another good young prospect around.”
If the Bengals want to make room on the 53-man roster for another play but also want to keep Driskel on their practice squad, they would need to expose him to waivers, which could lead to San Francisco reclaiming him.
Driskel said he isn’t sure what the team’s plans are for him. He’s still trying to get adjusted to a new city, new time zone, new playbook and new teammates.
“I left (Sunday) afternoon, got in around midnight,” he said. “That’s part of the deal. I’m just happy to be here.
“We’ll have to see how everything shakes out,” he added. “(How long I’m on the 53 is) not something I’m going to worry about. I’m going to worry about learning. I’ve got a lot to learn, a lot of ground to make up in a quick amount of time. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Driskel and Bengals quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor compared the situation to what Driskel experienced in college, when he left Florida after four seasons to transfer to Louisiana Tech, where he started last year and threw for 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
“Talking to the people at Louisiana Tech, in one year coming in he really fit in well with the team,” Lazor said. “He showed leadership skills. I think the guy’s got a bright future. I’m excited to have him.”
Former Bengals linebacker P.J. Dawson went unclaimed on waivers, leaving open the door for the 2015 third-round pick to return to Cincinnati.
The Bengals have a vacancy on the practice squad, and Dawson’s nameplate remained above his locker the day after the team cut him.
Asked about bringing back Dawson on the practice squad prior to Monday’s 4 p.m. waiver deadline, Lewis said, “We’ll see. It would not surprise me if P.J. is claimed.”
The Bengals are hoping the combination of being cut and unclaimed will serve as a wake-up call for a player known to go less than 100 percent in practice and be late for meetings.
Speaking at the NFL Combine in February, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said, “When he comes back in April he has to be a different guy. He’s got to learn how to become a pro. He’s got to learn how to do it right all the time. I said ‘you’re not going into the game until I feel good about it.’ I’m going to give him hard love because I was the one that wanted to bring him here.”
NFL players and coaches like to trot out the “just another game” quote whenever a big contest or top opponent looms, but no one in the Bengals locker room is taking that approach for Sunday’s season opener in New York, not with it coming on the 15-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Everybody knows the fact that we were selected to go play in New York on 9/11 is a huge thing,” Lewis said. “We’ve educated our players on that and what it means; the significance of it, the impact of that day on the city of New York, the area, and our country. We’ll be ready to play, but it will be an emotional day for a lot of folks around them, and I wanted them to be conscious of that.”
Many of the players on the Bengals roster were in grade school on Sept. 11, 2001, and may not have the personal, visceral memories of that day.
“It has been a teaching moment,” Lewis added. “They’ll continue to be educated on it all the way through. The fact it is the opening game means we’ve had the time and opportunity to prepare that way. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been addressing it piece by piece.”