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Notes: Issues and some answers

Posted Nov 7, 2013

Even Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer noticed that Broncos head coach John Fox and Texans head coach Gary Kubiak have been felled by frightening physical events.


Mike Zimmer

The news didn't get lost in cyberspace at Paul Brown Stadium.

Even Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer looked up from his famous grind and noticed that Broncos head coach John Fox and Texans head coach Gary Kubiak have been felled by frightening physical events related to the stress of coaching in the 24-7 NFL.

"I did say that to myself on Monday; I need an hour for just me," Zimmer mused after Wednesday's practice. "We do it because we love it. I could be the next one. I take this stuff pretty hard. Somebody texted me and said its OK; you let it out so you don't keep the stress in. But, it's a stressful job, but we all do it because we love it and being around the guys, things like that. I know I haven't worked out since training camp started. I probably need to get my butt in the weight room."

Zimmer, 57, laughed, but he knows it's no laughing matter. Fox, 58, underwent heart surgery and is expected back in a few weeks. Kubiak, 52, is reportedly back next week after a mini-stroke. Known to arrive at work as early as 4 a.m., Zimmer knows he has to find a balance. He even talked to one of his assistants a week or two ago about trying to do things so he gets out of the office sooner.

"Obviously I know Foxy and Kubiak both, but I think if I was 32 I probably wouldn't think about it as much as I'm older," Zimmer said. "I guess you worry about it a little bit. I think the guys worry about me more than I worry about me."

Coaching hours and stress isn't exactly a new debate in Bengaldom.

Go back 25 years ago to the prehistoric era of answering machines and faxes and it was a key issue in Cincinnati's run to the 1988 AFC championship. General manger Paul Brown and assistant general manager Mike Brown advised head coach Sam Wyche after the 4-11 disaster of 1987 that he had to cut back on the hours that were spilling into the office at every time of day.

After Wyche left three years later and was replaced by Dave Shula, Mike Brown ordered one of the new assistants to take the bed out of his office at the Spinney Field practice facility.

The news certainly hit home to Marvin Lewis, the Bengals current head coach. Sandwiched in age between Fox and Kubiak at 55, Lewis worked with Fox at the University of Pittsburgh in the early '90s and they have remained close. And Lewis has just come off one of the modern NFL's special gifts, a Thursday night road game where the club arrived back at the stadium at 4:30 a.m. Friday. The coaches eventually got the weekend off, but not after basically pulling an all-nighter. If they didn't stay, they were back by 9 a.m.

"From what I understand, and I’ve only communicated with John through texts, this is something they hoped to address after the season, and it’s come up now," Lewis said of Fox's valve procedure. "As coaches, we have a schedule that is strenuous, and yeah, we spend a lot of hours doing what we do, but we love doing it. I look forward to it. Friday (after the loss at Miami) sucked, but it was an all-day thing. And Saturday was as well. It’s no fun. Last year after the (Thursday night) Philly game was a little more fun.

"But it’s still got to be the same intensity about it. That’s what we do as coaches, and I think (Texans interim head coach) Wade (Phillips) expressed that about Gary. I know Gary felt that way. This is what you do. We try to address it by schedule. Our guys stay after it as far as their cardio and things like that. We try to eat right. We’re able to make right choices. We don’t always do that, but at least we’re able to.”

But, in a lot of ways, Lewis knows this isn't 1988, either. The sleeping-in-the-office mentality that led Dick Vermeil to coin the term "burnout" still crops up now and then with things like Jon Gruden's famous 3 a.m. wakeup calls, but the health craze has helped. And he looks on admiringly at Jim Anderson, the Bengals running backs coach who retired at age 65 after last season following a 29-year-run and has jetted about since.

"I still think it’s situational. Where do you live? How far away? All of those types of things," Lewis said of the office hours. "But I do think we’re all more health conscious than everybody used to be in general, in our society, and it’s important. You do this job for the time period that you do it so that hopefully, you can enjoy a productive life after you’re finished.

"A great example of that is Jim Anderson. I don’t know how many days he’s been in the state of Ohio since he retired this year, and that’s great. He worked all of that time as a coach for so doggone long in order to realize that and be able to reap the benefit of that now and enjoy his life.”

Everyone is different. If Zimmer hasn't been on the treadmill all year, Lewis is always one of the first ones in the building in the morning so he can get on one of the machines in the cardio room for at least 30 minutes.

"It doesn’t show when I look at pictures, but I try. It’s the only time I know that I can guarantee myself. If I can get here very early, it’s time that I can guarantee before something falls on me," Lewis said. "Everyone knows where I am. I’m either in that (cardio) room or I’m in the stadium. People know where I am, and they can find me if they need me. But it’s my time. It’s my thinking time; it’s my clearing the head time and so forth. And after I catch up with what you (media people) say every day, then I can address it. My mind is clear.”

Flat out, Lewis is one of the best head coaches in the NFL to work under. He's generous with vacations and doesn't chain assistants to their desks because he lived the two-decade climb up the ladder from grad assistant.

"What I do is when they get their work done they leave," Zimmer said of his staff. "I don't need to monitor them or anything like that. Marvin is the same way, he's never told me. 'Hey you need to be in at this time or out at this time.' Honestly, I think that's the best way to do it. I know other places they say its 10 o'clock go home or whatever.

"Personally, football coaches are pretty hard workers anyway. The ones that make it at least to this level and are successful are pretty diligent about their work. We get done, we'll get done. I don't care if it's 5 o'clock."

He laughed again. Nobody gets done at 5. But Zimmer says one of the new features designed to keep coaches plugged in 24-7 actually helps the lifestyle.

"The one thing I think has helped a lot; I leave out of here fairly early but I've got my iPad. I've got all my stuff on my iPad," Zimmer said. "I don't go home and watch TV, I am watching my iPad. It's helped coaches. I talk to my guys about it, go home and you don't have to be playing with your kids but you can be around them and watching your tape and they come up and talk to you, take 10 minutes and tuck them in bed or whatever. That has helped coaches quite a bit being able to take film with you."

But there is one coaching truth, no matter if they're watching '80s film or a DVD.

"During the season that's what we do, we work," Zimmer said. "In the offseason hopefully we get some time off. Hopefully that is not for a while."

MORE ISSUES: There seemed to be an odd point in the very odd Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito meltdown this week in Miami when Martin was taking heat from players for breaking the sanctity of the locker room and going public with Incognito's racial insults and threats.

But not in the Bengals locker room.

"It’s just the text messages and the voicemails. There’s just no place for a guy like that in the locker room, in my opinion," said safety Chris Crocker. "That’s just as bad as a teammate as you can possibly get. I know you joke with guys and you haze guys, but when it comes down to racially motivated slurs and all that, I just think that everybody deserves a chance, but you just can’t change what’s in somebody’s heart. At this point, (Incognito is 30) years old. You are what you are. So if that’s who he is, then that’s who he is. There’s no place for that."

Crocker says he doesn't think Martin is wrong.

"I don’t think there’s anything that's come out that said Martin has provoked him to do any of those things," he said. "And I still don’t know if it’s right for any guy to respond when things are said like that. It’s just no place for things like that at all. Any working environment. There’s no place like that."

Bengals wide receiver Ryan Whalen, a teammate of Martin's at Stanford for three season, also supported him.

"There is always going to be both sides to it, guys on the other side of the fence," Whalen said. "I think there's a certain line you don't cross that is understood among men. He was disrespected and this is how he's chosen to handle it and I respect him for it."

RANDALL ARRIVES: New Bengals defensive tackle Kheeston Randall practiced for the first time Wednesday and politely declined to comment on the Miami situation. He's a 2012 seventh-round pick of the Dolphins who played 12 games as a rookie before getting cut after this preseason. He says he's in good shape because he didn't stop working out between stints in gyms in not only Fort Lauderdale, but in Minnesota, where his agent is based.

"I just need to get in football shape," he said, indicating he can go Sunday if called.

 

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