Bengals' Gresham thinks he is 'villain' TE

CINCINNATI -- Tyler Eifert is the good, athletic fan favorite among the tight ends on the Cincinnati Bengals' roster.

Jermaine Gresham is the other guy. The one everybody loves to hate. The villain.

At least, that's the way Gresham sees it.

"People want certain things to be a certain way and when things aren't a certain way, they don't like it and they voice their opinion," the fifth-year tight end said, speaking to reporters Thursday for the first and possibly last time this season.

Gresham is a private person. He doesn't like the attention that comes with a professional athlete's lifestyle. He tries to stay out of the spotlight. The main way he does that is by avoiding talks with those of us who are curious to hear his thoughts on playing in two-tight end sets or shouldering additional responsibilities with other playmakers lost to injury.

While he doesn't seek the attention that's bound to come his way regardless if he catches a touchdown pass or commits a false start penalty, Gresham does go out looking for what's said and written about him. He's probably reading this story right now.

It's his Achilles' heel. He's curious to know what people think about him. If it's good, he makes a mental note. If it's bad, he keeps track of that as well. He doesn't mind being hated, but he also wouldn't mind something else.

"I would like to be loved by a lot more people, but that's just the nature of the sport," Gresham said. "It comes and goes."

The good vibes fled Gresham completely on Sunday. During one second-quarter sequence, he likely had Bengals fans hurling more four-letter words at their television sets instead of throwing their hearts his way.

A quarter after Eifert went down with an elbow injury that eventually placed him on the short-term injured reserve -- the earliest he can play again is Nov. 6 against Cleveland -- Gresham frustrated many when he stopped at the end of a route at the goal line. With quarterback Andy Dalton moving to his left and throwing to a wide open space near the end zone, all Gresham had to do was continue his route another two steps before catching the ball and easing in untouched for a crucial goal-line score.

It didn't happen. The ball floated by as Gresham sat down on his route, expecting to set a block to free up another receiver.

"I'll take blame for that," Gresham said. "It was a concept that I read wrong. I should have kept going and it would have been a touchdown. I owe Andy one."

According to Gresham, he owes a lot more to his critics.

The people who he says are quick to point out that the Pro Bowl star next to his name comes with the "alternate" asterisk, are the same ones who want him collecting more yards and touchdowns than is feasible in the Bengals' system.

In his mind, fans want him to be a Jimmy Graham-type of tight end who goes "for like 1,300 yards, 20 TDs."

In an offense where A.J. Green is the star, Gresham might never even see a 1,000-yard, eight-touchdown season. While he actually isn't as bad as he might let on, Gresham isn't going to be an elite pass-catcher in this offense because there are too many other players who have to touch the football.

Still, he thinks that when people look at other class of 2010 tight ends like Graham and Rob Gronkowski, they believe Gresham could accomplish more.

But aside from those two no other tight end from the draft class has more receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns than Gresham. Since 2010, he's among the top 12 tight ends in the league in each of those categories.

That's still not enough for him.

"I kind of accept the villain role and just try to be a leader to guys like Tyler who are learning on the way," Gresham said. "As long as my teammates love me, I'm good."