Ask Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham if he feels he deserves an extension to his contract that runs out after next season. His answer might surprise you.
Most players, when posed such an inquiry about whether a longer-term contract or more money should come their way might start nodding their heads vigorously. And if they're Pro Bowlers, too? Their necks might start cramping from all the nodding before the end of the question is even uttered.
But not Gresham.
"I haven't earned an extension," the fourth-year tight end said Thursday. "Not right now. I've got a lot to prove, and I haven't done a lot. I've got a lot of making up to do to the people around the city and for the organization."
Some in Cincinnati still haven't forgotten what Gresham did -- or more accurately, didn't do -- on the first Saturday of this calendar year.
That day, in a first-round AFC playoff game at Houston, Gresham didn't just drop one pass, he dropped two. They added to his career-high total of seven for the season.
The Bengals ended up losing to the Texans, 19-13.
While Gresham contended he has moved on from the disappointing effort, he still believes that until he gives fans other reasons to believe in him, he will be known more for his failures than his successes. That said, his successes have actually been really good ones. In just three years, he has been selected to and played in two Pro Bowls. He's also been the first Cincinnati Bengals tight end to ever register more than 50 receptions in three straight seasons.
"Man, you made it all sound good," Gresham said when a reporter pointed out the positives on his resume. "But out of everything you said, the only thing I can hear right now is that I had three dropped passes in the playoff game."
From a numbers standpoint, drops aside, 2012 was Gresham's best season in the orange and black. He caught 64 passes for 737 yards and five touchdowns. He also set a single-game career record when he had a 108-yard receiving day against Denver.
Gresham also held his own among other NFL tight ends last season. He ranked seventh in the league in receptions by tight ends. Dallas' Jason Witten ran away with the lead in receptions (110) and yards (1,039), but Gresham kept pace with most of the others. He was one of three tight ends who caught more than two passes longer than 40 yards, and one of nine who had more than 700 yards receiving for the season.
Among third-year tight ends last season, he had the second-most receptions, third-most receiving yards and fourth-most touchdowns. Gresham also was one of two members of his elite tight end draft class (one that includes New England's Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, New Orleans' Jimmy Graham and Baltimore's Dennis Pitta) to reach the Pro Bowl. Gronkowski was the other.
"Those guys are great. Those guys have been playing great," Gresham said. "People out there, you've got to look at numbers, right? I don't compare to theirs, end of story."
This season, Gresham's numbers might not be as high overall as they have been now that the Bengals are moving to more of a two-tight end offense with the addition of Tyler Eifert. The former Notre Dame standout already has Gresham taking notice.
"I enjoy being around him," Gresham said. "He makes plays, he's helping me make plays. It's fun."
The numbers don't really lie. Gresham might not have arrived in a big-game scenario for the Bengals last postseason, but he's been pretty consistent otherwise.
So, has he earned an extension? You decide. The Bengals' brass certainly will be mulling that decision this season and possibly into the offseason.