Update: Harrison ready to wear No. 92 and lead; Lewis eyes draft to re-stock depth

Posted Apr 23, 2013

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis sounded suddenly upbeat about signing right tackle Andre Smith before the draft when he held his pre-draft news conference Tuesday.

Andre Smith

Updated: 1:55 p.m.

As advertised, James Harrison offered a no-nonsense look at his new Bengals career when he appeared on a media conference call Tuesday.

"Leadership is leading by example," Harrison said. "Anybody can talk."

Harrison denied he's got a chip against the Steelers after he refused to take a pay cut from the club he helped lead to two Super Bowl titles.

"Disappointed, yes," said Harrison, but he wished them well. In describing the Bengals-Steelers rivalry, he said, "Hate is too strong a word ... just very competitive."

Harrison also said that the Bengals 4-3 defense is very similar in coverages and alignments to the 3-4 defense the Steelers play and that his role—believed to be the starting SAM linebacker on the outside—requires pretty much the same elements. Except he says he'll be switching sides more here.

Harrison, who missed the first three games of last season with knee surgery and then played the rest of the way to lead the Steelers in sacks with six, says this is the closest he feels physically since he won the NFL's 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award.

He also said after signing his two-year deal that he thinks he's got three years left: "We'll see how it plays out and see where everything lays."

We already know how the numbers game is going to play out. Defensive end Jamaal Anderson gave Harrison his signature No. 92. Anderson gets No. 90, the number he had for a year in Indianapolis.

LEWIS ON SMITH, DRAFT: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis sounded suddenly upbeat about signing right tackle Andre Smith before the draft when he held his pre-draft news conference Tuesday.

"I'm hopeful we can get a solution prior to (Thursday's) draft. I know Andre would like to get it done," Lewis said. "I think he'd feel better about things so he doesn't get lost without a chair."

Asked to put it in weather report terms, Lewis smiled and said, "The sun is emerging maybe."

But there were no other indications Tuesday that a deal was at hand.

Having Smith in the fold Thursday night opens up a draft that is believed to be lacking in star power but deep in terms of solid NFL talent.

"There's not a consensus of players throughout the 32 teams. Maybe two or three players at all positions," Lewis said. "I don't know if it's been much like that in many years past. I think that’s good for us with the first three picks (in the first 53 selections) we have early on. I think we have opportunity to get guys we feel really good about."

Outside of the tackle situation, the Bengals depth chart indicates their two biggest needs are a starting safety and starting-type running back to pair with BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

But per usual for any pre-draft news conference around the NFL, Lewis also wouldn't rule out stocking up on his two deepest positions. Or linebacker, even though the Bengals announced the signing of starting SAM backer James Harrison on Tuesday.

"We get a chance to replenish some (spots) where we seem to be the deepest. Defensive line and secondary, but you can never have enough of those kinds of players," Lewis said. "We'd like to continue to add depth at linebacker (with) younger, athletic bodies. We have two (backers) that came undrafted (Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur) that made significant impacts. We've to keep at that.

"Offensive line-wise, we've got an opportunity to add younger guys. We've had good success with these guys we've taken and we've got to be able to keep that going. The running back situation, we'll have an opportunity to get better there and receiver and tight end. I don’t see an area on our team where I don't see us having an opportunity to add with what we feel is the best prospect there when we're going to pick."

But Lewis indicated the addition of Harrison won't force the Bengals to pick a linebacker early because he said he wanted to upgrade the SAM spot over last season "one way or another," and he feels like they've done that.

"It gives us a sense where we are defensively," he said of the signing. "We'll be excited to have James join us as I think our team is. He came in here and had a great visit. He bared his soul on things to us and showed the kind of person he was for us. He worked on the field for us, which a lot of guys at this point in his career (wouldn’t) be willing to do that.

"I think we had some of our young guys that had just got back to town were out there that day. It was an interesting perspective for them to see him do that for us."


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