UFA Q&A: John Thornton, Part 2

Former Bengals defensive lineman John Thornton talks about a nearby team that could be a good fit for him, how much longer he sees himself playing pro football, the likelihood that he'll be returning to the Bengals, and much more in the second half of this exclusive Scout.com Q&A with Ed Thompson.

If you missed the first half of this exclusive interview, click here.

Ed Thompson: With your ability to play both defensive tackle and defensive end, combined with your skill level against the running game, a nearby team that I could see you fitting in with is the Indianapolis Colts. They've struggled a little bit on shoring-up the middle of their line. Would that be a good situation for you, especially in light of how you are very entrenched in the community there in Cincinnati and how it would keep your family in that region?

John Thornton: Yeah, I actually said something to my wife about that. I've been throwing the names of teams out to her because I'm going to let her have more of a say in it this time. We built a house here and it's pretty much where we want to be for a while, even if I go somewhere else. Indianapolis is only an hour and a half up the road, so I wouldn't have to get an apartment up there. And it's a winning program and a good situation. I like the way they play their line, so that would be a good fit. I would think the next place I go, I would play a little more defensive end on first and second down and then move inside on third. I don't think I'll play tackle full-time, just because I don't think a team would invest in me as a starting tackle being a ten-year guy. Most teams have younger guys, but I could be wrong. I don't know how people view me out there, but I would like to play both positions.


John Thornton wraps up NYJ running back Thomas Jones.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Thompson: I think that could be an interesting team for you because they've rotated some young defensive tackles into the lineup. And they've rotated bigger guys in for Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on obvious running downs. 

Thornton: Yeah, they have Raheem Brock from Temple out there. Brock plays a little end as well. I'm kind of familiar with those guys because we watch them on film, I've see what they've done. They all play fast. They're not the biggest guys, but they hurt people with their team speed.

Thompson: Let's talk a little bit about what the other factors are going to be in your decision. Any certain coaching style? Would it be ideal to find a team that plays indoors? Anything buzzing in your head like that?

Thornton: No, not really. I just want to be excited about the next place I go to. I just want to have that same feeling that I had when I signed here. I would retire before I played somewhere just because of the money or just because that's the only placed that offered me. I want to really be excited about the situation and excited about where this team is going and that I'm a part of it. Being a ten-year veteran, I'm not doing the six-year deal like I did last time, so it's going to be a little different this time—this team has to be a good fit for my family, where I fit in on the team, how this team deals with veteran players. I'm not the youngest guy, but I can still run and move around. I think a lot of that is going to be a factor. They are going to be thinking about how much a ten-year veteran has left. They are going to be calling Cincinnati coaches and figuring out how I practice and things like that. 

Thompson: As long as you continue to feel healthy and you get the right fit with another team, how much longer can you see yourself playing this game? Do you still have the passion for it that you can see yourself going another three or four years at least?

Thornton: Yeah, like I said, as long as I'm excited about it, I can do it. My body feels good, but the only thing that I've noticed is as you get older, your body doesn't recover the same. You may not be able to go every day in training camp. Once you hit that age, you can go hard in this practice, but the next one it's harder to get warmed up. Or you play hard Sunday and come back to practice Wednesday, and then Thursday you may be sore. It's little things like that, and I think some coaches around the league really understand that. 


John Thornton puts a hit on Jaguars QB David Garrard.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Thompson: John, I know you've been pretty candid with the media in regards to your assessment of your future in Cincinnati. From a numbers perspective and based on all the young guys that the Bengals have on board, you don't seem to see how you're going to fit into their plans for next year. Is that pretty much a done deal? Have they given you any indication if they'd be interested in bringing you back?

Thornton: They said they would be, but that's all talk. If you're somewhere for six years—and I feel like they should know who I am and I know who they are—and if they really wanted me back, they would've signed me to an extension towards the end of the season when I was playing well or even after the season. I don't know how all that works, I don't know what their thought process is. I can't sit here and speculate on what they're going to do because all I know is my contract is up and that's how it's probably going to be. If that changes, it changes, but just looking at it from a reality standpoint, I'm unemployed. But I had a good six years here and I really respect the organization. I don't have any bitter feelings about this. They signed me up for six years, they gave me all six years and I gave them all six years. That's very rare in the NFL where somebody completes their contract and gets every dime and every penny of their contract. I respect them for that and I thank Mike Brown for that. So I don't have any hard feelings and I will always say positive things about the organization.

Thompson: Is there a little part of you that is also excited as you look ahead and think about having an opportunity to meet some new players, work with a new coach, and work out of a new playbook?

Thornton: There are coaches out there that you've always respected, and if those guys want you to become a part of their team, yeah, you're going to be really excited just like I was when I came here. That's the feeling I want to have. I've always been a team-guy first. When I was in Tennessee, I always did the player caravans and did stuff in the community and never got in trouble for anything. I've always respected the organization. Anywhere else I go, I would do the same thing.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter for NFL updates and insights. And you can contact him by email through this link.


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