7/21/2003 - 7-21-03, 7:25 a.m.
Fresh off returning from his vacation Friday, Marvin Lewis attacked the issues piled up on his desk. One of them was sitting down with Geoff Hobson of bengals.com to talk about his first training camp as head coach of the Bengals when the meetings begin this Sunday night at Georgetown College:
GH: You’re the billboard guy (Bengals President) Mike Brown said he was going to hire after the season. The Voice and The Face of the franchise. I see you every morning on Beechmont Avenue driving into work. I hear about you on the radio on the drive home. The turnaround has been centered on you. That’s so much pressure on just one person.
ML: If it were totally up to me, I hopefully wouldn’t have gone about it quite that way. But it’s time to pass the torch. We’ve got a lot of great people in this building and a lot of fine players.
GH: You mean by passing the torch putting attention from you to others?
ML: Right. The torch is going to get passed, but I’m willing to shoulder this because if we don’t win, it is my fault. But when we win, it’s because of the players and the rest of these coaches. And I understand that. That’s the way it should be. That’s the thing that people don’t understand around here. I’ve got one chance to do this right and that’s why I’ve gone about it to the best way we can do it.
GH: What don’t people around here understand?
ML: They don’t need to be afraid to step on toes , to hurt feelings. Because at the end of the day, the only one who hasn’t been in this building has been me. Everybody else has been around here. That’s my point. You hear from a lot of different places, “This guy should do this, this guy should do that, but I’m afraid to overstep my bounds.”
There are no bounds here. The bounds come right through that door, and if you think it’s significant enough that I need to know about it, I want to know about it, because at the end of the day, there been a lot of people here in this building that are still here and the coach has changed four times. At some point, you have to look down the line to see what else is wrong, and that’s what we’re doing.
GH: Has Mike given you everything you wanted?
ML: I don’t know what he’s given me. We work together.
GH: Has he given you free reign?
ML: I don’t know if it’s free reign or not. Mike has been very supportive of the things we feel it takes to win. He’s been 100 percent supportive of everything. And that’s all I can ask for. We’re not always going to agree, and we’ve been able to sit down and discuss why we don’t agree and come to a solution and that’s our way.
It’s not Mike’s way and it’s not necessarily my way. It’s been our way. That’s important for the coaches to know that and understand that. We’re not going to be a split camp. There’s no way in the NFL where you can function for very long like that.
GH: Have you been split on a lot of things because it looks to be smooth?
ML: I’m sure we have split on things.
GH: More than you thought you would?
ML: I don’t think about it. Obviously, I was excited about coming here and working with Mike after we had our two face-to-face meetings. It’s been great. When I don’t get to talk to him, like being away or on vacation, and we don’t get to sit down, I miss talking to him every day because he has a lot of insights. He’s very thorough. He’s a deep thinker and he always listens. He’s a good resource for me.
GH: Has it been smoother than you thought it would be?
ML: It’s been very smooth. The one thing is, I enjoy it. I enjoy our management, and the people I work for and with.
GH: Because you have such a close working relationship with Mike, you almost seem like a general manager.
ML: Not me. I’m just a football coach that wants to win. I don’t need to be any more than that.
GH: What are the things you’ve done in the offseason that you are glad you got under your belt before going to Georgetown?
ML: No. 1, we’ve solidified the interior of the offensive line. I think we increased our talent at quarterback and built a competitive situation there. I think we increased the competition at wide receiver, a group that already has some talent.
The No. 1 thing we did on defense was added veteran leadership and produced a competitive environment at every position.
GH: People can say you lost one of your best defensive players when linebacker Takeo Spikes went to the Bills in free agency.
ML: I don’t know that. You can’t convince me one-tenth of that. We’ve a got better player in Brian Simmons, a better player in Kevin Hardy. A better player in Tory James. Three better players in Duane Clemons, Carl Powell, John Thornton up front in providing competition at every spot.
GH: By better player, you mean better than what was already here on defense?
ML: No question.
GH: Is Simmons better than Spikes on the outside?
ML: He’s going to be. He’s going to be. We’ve elevated the game. Look at what a guy like Jeff Burris has done at cornerback this offseason.
GH: He seems to be a question mark because of how he struggled with everybody else in the secondary last season.
ML: Not in my mind. In my mind, I don’t know what he did last year. To me, he’s a competent corner in the NFL that is going to help us.
GH: Is he going to start?
ML: Right now, Tory James and Burris would be our starters if we played tomorrow.
GH: What about the safeties?
ML: Marquand Manuel and Mark Roman.
GH: It looks like you’re putting your stamp on this right away. You’ve got a Monday news conference, a week before camp begins, so Weathersby can talk about his shooting and recovery and get it out of the way before camp.
ML: The No. 1 focus of training camp is for us to get better as a football team physically and mentally. And No. 2 is to address the fans and the media. But the first part is paramount so they can learn, train, and rest.
GH: Is it going to be a hard camp? Or do you pace it? What are you trying to accomplish at Georgetown from July 27 until Aug. 21?
ML: An attitude. When it comes to pushing and shoving, we’re going to be pushing and shoving. We’re going to be a team that physically knocks the hell out of the other team each and every day we can. We don’t have to do that every day to each other in training camp. But there are times we have to. We have to establish the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football and once we’ve got it, never give it away.
GH: I imagine you’ll talk a lot about the fourth quarter.
ML: Let’s expect to win the game in the fourth quarter. Let’s not be afraid to win the game in the fourth quarter. Let’s walk down that road. Once we do it, then the second time and third time and so on, it will get easier. We expect to win in the fourth quarter. That’s the way we attack the game. When the game gets to the fourth quarter, we expect to put the hammer down and knock a hole right in the back of somebody’s head.
GH: How have you broken down the defensive responsibilities? Leslie Frazier, your defensive coordinator, has been saying you’ve given him pretty much carte blanche, but he wants and has been getting input from you.
ML: It’s what Leslie is doing, but I have to interject because I don’t think it takes a lot of defense to be good. A player has to be able to play fast.
GH: So it’s not going to be a grand, complicated scheme?
ML: Right. We can’t be the Philadelphia Eagles because they’re very complicated
GH: Can you be the Baltimore Ravens of 2000 schematically, your defense that set all the records?
ML: We have a chance to do a little more because we have Philadelphia’s schematics of what Jim Johnson and what his coaches like Leslie did up there. They devised some great ways to get to the quarterback and disrupt the offense, but they were in years 3, 4, 5, of the defense. We aren’t. So we need to make what we do understandable so the players do it right very fast. Take the gray area out of things. I don’t believe you can play very good defense with gray area.
GH: In 2000, were the Ravens complex?
ML: No gray area.
GH: But didn’t you have much better players in Baltimore in 2000?
ML: I don’t know that. I’m not saying we had better players. We had pros. We had guys whose main thing was, “What does it take for me to win? ” And how do I that?” I don’t know if we had better players, but we had pros. We had guys that their focus was, “If we don’t let the offense score, it’s hard for us to lose. Our job is simple. To get off the field as quickly as possible.”
GH: What about special teams?
ML: We’ve got an outstanding foundation laid there, albeit we haven’t tackled or blocked anyone. But I think there’s an understanding of the importance of it. The impression has been made how guys are going to make this football team.
GH: You didn’t pick up anybody new on special teams.
ML: We did. We picked up Peter Warrick (at punt returner). I think we picked up a Dennis Weathersby, a Khalid Abdullah, a Dwayne Levels, a Tito Rodriguez, a Riall Johnson. I think we did because of how the game is and how they’re going to make this team. Tony Stewart at tight end, the competition between Travis Dorsch and Nick Harris at punter.
GH: It sounds like guys are going to make this team because of special teams. Some head coaches give their last two spots on the roster to the special teams coach.
ML: I don’t know if we’re going to do that, but guys are going to make this team not because they can play special teams, but how they play special teams. There’s a difference. We’ll make decisions based on who are the most proficient guys. Who are the guys kicking tail on special teams?
GH: It seems that two players you would really like to revive in projects are Warrick and defensive end Reinard Wilson.
ML: They have the athletic ability that warrants that. They are willing. That’s the thing. They want to, and they wan to with a passion. You can feel it when you sit down and talk to them. You feel it in their voices and see it in their eyes and you know they want to do it. Peter has a chance to be a great punt returner and a great wide receiver and he worked extremely hard in the offseason and you can see he wants it very badly.
GH: He had a tough time last year on special teams and got benched pretty early returning punts.
ML: There are things he had no idea about that he knows now like the back of his hand. So we gained a new player in a lot of ways.
GH: What did you teach him that he didn’t know?
ML: Darrin Simmons taught him about the flight of the ball, about a lot of nuances about being a returner he was either naïve to or didn’t know about.
GH: Everyone wants to know about the No. 1 pick in the draft. Carson Palmer is behind Jon Kitna at quarterback. Is he going to get as many snaps as Shane Matthews in camp?
ML: Cason will get more snaps than Shane. He could end up getting more snaps than Jon. Our job is to get him ready to play quarterback in the NFL. No question he’s our future and we want to get him ready without jeopardizing our season or where we’re headed.
GH: Does he play this year?
ML: If he’s the best, yes.
GH: The thinking was you cut Akili Smith and signed Matthews because in case Kitna went down early, you didn’t have to throw Carson to the wolves, or concede the season. No one wins as a rookie quarterback. Even Peyton Manning went 3-13.
ML: We want to win.
GH: Can you win with Palmer (now)?
ML: If he’s the best. Dan Marino didn’t go 3-13. Don’t set limits. Don’t allow people to set limits. If we coach him to do what he has to do, why can’t he? Peyton Manning is a hell of a quarterback and a pro, but we’re not the Colts and they’re not the Cincinnati Bengals. Let’s be the winning team no matter who is the quarterback. It doesn’t really matter who is the quarterback as long as we’re winning games. Jon is capable of winning gamers. Cason is capable of winning games. Shane is capable of winning games.
Because we’re going to do what these guys can do proficiently in order for us to win. If you can’t win doing what they do proficiently, you have to change what we do on offense or what we do at quarterback.
GH: Corey Dillon hasn’t played until the third pre-season game in past years. Will you continue the same schedule?
ML: That might change a little bit, but Corey doesn’t have to prove anything to me. Corey is a better player in person than he was when I was standing on the other sideline and I thought he was one of the best running backs in the NFL.
GH: Have you guys talked much about his role as a player and leader?
ML: Your best players ought to be your best leaders. No question Corey is one of our best players and I think he’s embracing that. It’s fun for him. It’s a challenge for him. Otherwise, Corey is going to get bored, so he has to challenge that every day. “I got to go out here and help lift these guys.”
GH: He’s been a bit reluctant to be vocal about stuff like that.
ML: I don’t know if he’s ever been asked to do that before, but when you ask him, he goes out there and does it. He leads the way and that’s just what he has to do. He’s our guy.
GH: What have you learned about the job as you head into your first camp?
ML: You need to have great discipline because the day isn’t long enough. If you tend to piddle, you don’t get things done. Your vision is limited because you don’t see things coming down the road and you don’t have enough time to think it all through before making a judgment.
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