Six Points With Eric Ghiaciuc

When longtime veteran center Rich Braham was sidelined early this year with a season-ending knee injury, Cincinnati turned to Eric Ghiaciuc to step in and work with Carson Palmer. Ed Thompson caught up with Ghiaciuc to learn more about him and about his first year as a starter in the NFL.

Ed Thompson: How tough was it to be thrust into the starter's role so unexpectedly in just your second year out of Central Michigan?

Eric Ghiaciuc: It was definitely challenging, but it was a great experience and a lot of fun. There were times when it was really stressful, but also times when it was very rewarding; like when you pull out a game knowing you had a direct impact on it. Looking back on it, I have a lot to be proud of and a lot that I really enjoyed.

ET: What's the most challenging aspect of playing the center position in the Bengals' offense for you?

EG: A lot of people call the center "the quarterback of the offensive line" and that's very true. The center sets pass protection and calls blocking schemes. If the center sees something the quarterback needs to know about he has to turn around and tell him and he needs to alert the other linemen.  For me, part of that challenge was alerting the offensive line and keeping my eyes open, watching the linebackers and in some cases even the cornerbacks and the safeties. The offense has to know what I'm thinking about and what I see, so conveying that to my teammates was a challenge at first and as the season went on, our offense picked up tremendously and we got back to where we should be.

ET: Do you think the average fan understands the chemistry amongst offensive lineman and how the insertion of a new person anywhere along that line can really throw off timing and rhythm?

EG: Not to upset any fans, but not really. It's hard for a fan to be inside the meeting room, be inside the locker room, and be on the practice field where so much goes on behind the scenes. And it's hard to understand the camaraderie that is extremely necessary between offensive linemen to succeed. If you just throw a new guy in, it's going to take them a while to gel; it takes a while for the guys on each side of the center to feel their way around because there are certain communication things we do that take time to develop; and the best time to do that is obviously the offseason, but we didn't have that privilege this year.

Eric Ghiaciuc gets ready to snap the ball to QB Carson Palmer (David Maxwell/Getty Images)
ET: For the offense to click, the center and the quarterback have to develop a pretty strong relationship. Tell us about what you and Carson Palmer have worked on together this past season.

EG: Well number one, Carson is a great quarterback. I think that he makes the whole offensive line feel really comfortable because he's going to stand in the pocket and he's going to wait until he can throw the ball to get it to a receiver. And he's going to take a hit if it means completing a pass. We might give up a sack, God forbid, and he'll get up and shake it off and say "hey guys don't worry about it, let's go play."  Having good communication with him is key. As the season went on our communication improved tremendously and he and I felt more comfortable with each other.  I kind of picked up on how he likes to do things and he kind of picked up on how I like to do things, which was very important for us.

ET: You've faced some pretty talented defensive linemen this year. Off the top of your head, who are some of the guys that were the toughest challenges for you?

EG: Kris Jenkins from Carolina he's one of the best in the league. Jamal Williams from San Diego he's a very good nose (guard). Vince Wilfork [New England] is another one of those guys who is quick off the ball and solid with his hands. Casey Hampton (Pittsburgh) is difficult to block because he's very smart. And usually, the smarter the defensive lineman, the harder they are to block.

ET: What do you like to do to relax or for fun?

EG: I like to hunt and fish as much as I possibly can. During the season it's kind of hard, but I find a place to hunt here and there. I hunt white tails and I like to bird hunt. I'm from Michigan so I enjoy some outdoor sports and as much as I can.  I also like to go ice fishing. My family runs a charter fishing service on Lake Huron so I like to do that and pretty much anything I can do outdoors.

Check back on Tuesday for a Q&A with Eric Ghiaciuc where he talks about the Bengals' turnaround this season, provides more insight on Carson Palmer, and much more in a subscribers' feature.

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