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Hard Knocks IV

Posted Sep 3, 2009

Posted: 7:40 a.m.

Hard Knocks IV spent a lot of time Wednesday night looking at the heat Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is under as well as the heat that made him explode following the 24-21 loss to the Rams.

"This is your team. Find a way to fix it. Reach down and be a (bleeping) pro," Lewis steamed after the cavalcade of turnovers and mistakes."I don't like this feeling. I can't stand it. I had this feeling yesterday morning when we were (sloppy and late) getting on the field. We're going to be going on all cylinders. Because we're going to go with or without you.

"You guys wonder why you don't play and start. It's because you don't make tackles on interceptions. It's because you don't do what you're supposed to do."

The cameras got up with Lewis one morning and recorded him leaving his Indian Hill home at 5 a.m. The electronic arm at Paul Brown Stadium wasn't working and a giggling Lewis had to get his truck over the curb as the narrator talked about obstacles in the NFL.

The documentary did a mini rewind when Lewis and quarterback Carson Palmer arrived together in 2003 and how there has been only one playoff appearance since. In an interview with wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who has had his ups and downs with Lewis, The Ocho allowed that the players were committed to winning for Lewis.

If Lewis got a lot of air time, the show had a built-in climax with Sunday's Andre Smith signing. The head coach might have had something to do with that when he was seen on the phone in an apparent conversation with agent Alvin Keels telling him about Bengals president Mike Brown's approach to negotiations.

"I've been here seven years ... I know he is not going to change. He is not going to cave," Lewis said.

The cameras caught Brown's frustration with the 30-day holdout, first in a personnel meeting before the agreement when Brown wondered if Smith could contribute at all this year, and then when Smith came into his office to shake his hand after he signed.

"You've got a lot of work ahead of you. We hear you're not in good shape," Brown said.

Knowing that the team was 20 minutes from practicing, Brown told him, "You better get started," but he also did tell Smith that he felt he could make a difference once he did get in shape.

Later, Smith admitted for the camera, "I want to clean up my image," but then the cameras caught him breaking his foot Tuesday when he merely stepped wrong in an 11-on-11 session. The show did say Smith would be out three weeks a day after Lewis said it would be "a few weeks."

The show also focused heavily on the battles at running back between DeDe Dorsey and Brian Leonard and fullback between rookies Fui Vakapuna and Chris Pressley.

In a coaches meeting Lewis talked about how Dorsey's athleticism is a selling point and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski talked about Leonard's versatility.

In the personnel meeting Brown told his coaches, "You've got a tough call. How do you call it?"

It was a contrasting scene compared to the one in the first show in which Brown was scalded for exercising dictatorial powers. In this meeting he asked running backs coach Jim Anderson what he wanted out of his fullback.

"Blocking," Anderson said.
 
 "Who's the best blocker?" Brown asked.

"Pressley has done the best job blocking," Anderson said.

Lewis also got a moment when discussing the league's new Twitter policy with his team. Calling out "Chinedum" and "Chad," he reminded everyone, "Don't say anything you wouldn't say in a public interview."

But the most riveting conversation in Wednesday's show might have been a heart-to-heart defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had with tackle Tank Johnson. Zimmer told him he didn't want to see Johnson's reputation around the league sullied and was worried about Johnson coming across as a complainer.

"I don't think you're a negative guy," Zimmer said. "I have to be careful because some guys say I'm negative."

"You're right Coach. I'll just shut the (bleep) up," Johnson said, but Zimmer waved him off.

"No, you don't have to stop talking," he said, encouraging him to be more positive.

The cameras followed Johnson and safety Roy Williams across the street to Great American Ballpark for a Reds-Dodgers game decked out in Reds togs. Johnson, a big Joe Torre fan headed over to the Dodgers dugout, called out, "Coach Torre, can I talk you for a second?"

Torre came over, stuck out his hand, and Johnson said, "Tank Johnson with the Bengals," and then Williams did the same.

"You guys are in training, aren't you?" Torre asked. "Are you tired yet?"
  
Then Williams drew a laugh when he asked Torre if he could talk "to our coach" about taking it easy on them. That got Torre talking about the differences between the two sports and how the players in baseball's 162-game grind need to be more on an even keel.

After Johnson told Torre how much he admired him, he and Williams left and he said to Williams walking away "that might have been the best thing I've done since I've been in Cincinnati."

The show also continued to look at free agent safety Tom Nelson's bid to make the team. The best line of the night probably came when he and his girlfriend were taking a ride in a horse-drawn carriage downtown.

"We're from Chicago," he answered and when asked if they were on vacation he said, "Job searching. Both of us."

The program also had a nice snippet on backup quarterback Jordan Palmer and how some fans at training camp mistook him for big brother Carson. A budding software developer with some friends in California, Jordan sat down for an interview to show how runpee.com and its iPhone application has become a big seller. It buzzes during the best moments to go to the bathroom during a movie and provides a written synopsis of what you've missed.

Hark Knocks also miked Jordan during the Rams game and honed in on his interception to wide receiver Chris Henry and his ensuing 54-yard touchdown pass to Henry. Also seen is why the coaches were mad at Henry for not making the tackle right away on the interception because he had the Rams defender right in his arms before he escaped for a long return in which Palmer had to make the tackle.

"Tackle him, Slim," Bratkowski moaned in the press box.

Carson Palmer, in street clothes as he rested his sprained ankle, was also miked and there was a good sound bite with him encouraging Jordan to go back out there and throw it because "You know you can."

And there was great interplay with Carson and rookie running back Bernard Scott. First, just after the introductions, Palmer went up to Scott on the sidelines and said, "In two weeks, this whole place is going crazy. It's great."

Then, after Scott followed his fumble with a big 22-yard run on third-and-21 from his own goal line, Palmer called him over with, "Young fella," and put his hand on his shoulder.

"Hey, you're young. You're going to make mistakes," he told Scott. "But that run you made right there coming out of the end zone, in a real game that's a game-changer."

Along with Lewis' tantrum after the game, that had to be Hard Knocks IV's top moment. The final show is next Wednesday on HBO at 10 p.m.

 

 

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