Updated: 8:45 p.m
A day after head coach Marvin Lewis went for the win in Cleveland, he revealed he thought the decision would be win-win even if he decided to punt the ball on fourth-and-11 from the Cleveland 41 with 1:04 left in overtime.
?I thought either way, we?d get the ball back. The only way we wouldn?t get the ball back would have been if we gave them the ball right there, if we didn?t convert it,? Lewis said at his Monday news conference. ?I thought if we punted the ball, we?d get an opportunity to get the ball back by pinning them down there. They had no timeouts left, and we had two. If they threw one incompletion, we were guaranteed to get the ball back with a considerable amount of time. Had they not had an incompletion, we would have had the ball with some time left on the clock. Either way, there was an opportunity to get the ball back.?
Offensive captains Carson Palmer and Andrew Whitworth lobbied Lewis intensely to bring punter Kevin Huber off the field and go for it on fourth-and-11 and when Lewis agreed it turned into a Palmer 15-yard scramble that set up Shayne Graham?s winning 31-yard field goal.
In the end, Lewis says he tries to separate himself from the players when making a decision.
?Not much weight, as far as that goes,? he said of how much he considers player input. ?There is a lot of weight as to what?s happening on the field, and what they?re seeing. In decision-making, I can?t bear to their ... they?ve always got their way about them, and how things should go, and be. But you?ve got to make decisions based on what?s best for the football team.?
IN TRUST SIMMONS SEEKS: After looking at tape of a blocked field goal and extra point in Sunday?s 23-20 overtime victory over the Browns, Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons believes the problem with field-goal operation is a collective one involving long snapper Brad St. Louis, holder Kevin Huber and kicker Shayne Graham.
Although St. Louis has taken the heat for errant snaps in three of the four games, including a high one and outside one in Cleveland that appeared to lead to the blocks, Simmons didn?t single him out. In his Monday news conference, Lewis wouldn?t say if improving the operation involves looking at someone other than St. Louis, the team's snapper in 117 straight games.
The Bengals signed a free agent rookie long snapper after the draft in Florida?s James Smith and cut him before training camp. Indications were Monday night they hadn?t contacted him about coming in for a tryout, which means they could be deciding on sticking with St. Louis or looking at other veterans.
Lewis didn?t offer any clues Monday.
?We have to do better. Brad is aware that we have to do a lot better in special teams, in a bunch of different areas,? Lewis said. ?We have to take into consideration what?s best for the team. I?ll continue to say those same things on this subject.
?Like anything else, as a professional, you have to let that go and you have to go on to the next one. It?s not different from other individual sports, which (long-snapping) can be like at times. You?re going to have to not worry about the last one and get the next one right where it needs to be, and be consistent with it. I?m confident Brad will pull out of this and get back to being very, very consistent.?
Simmons is seeking that consistency in the operation that has made Graham the most accurate kicker in Bengals history and staple in the top five of all time. St. Louis has been the snapper for all of Graham's kicks and since 2004 only Huber and Kyle Larson have been his holders.
?The trust is missing and that?s what we need to get back,? Simmons said. ?The snapper has to trust the holder is going to get the ball down, the holder has to trust the snapper is going to give it to him in a good spot and the kicker is trusting his steps to the ball being in the exact spot at the right time. These three guys have had that trust in the past and that?s what we need to get back to.?
Asked if the inconsistent snapping has led to the lack of trust, Simmons said it?s a factor but not everything.
?Do I wish the snapping was better and more consistent? Absolutely,? Simmons said. ?But there are other things, too. Do I wish that Shayne had got the ball a little higher on the extra point? Yes. Do I wish we had a little better protection up the middle? Certainly, although I think we did pretty well there in giving up only a little penetration. But that?s the point. Whenever you have an operation like this it?s never one thing.?
Graham made his first 159 extra points as a Bengal before a high snap in a 2006 win over the Browns resulted in a block. That season ended with two more PAT miscues, including the celebrated awry snap in Denver that cost the Bengals a 24-23 loss with 40 seconds left and a spot at the playoffs. Graham had hit 59 straight since then until a blown snap against Pittsburgh last week aborted a try.
There is some concern that the uncertainty of where the snap and hold are going to be are making Graham alter his approach because he barely made Sunday?s OT kick in curving it just inside the right upright. Simmons doesn?t buy it.
?Shayne has been outstanding with his mindset. It?s a major reason for his success,? Simmons said. ?We just have to work through this, but we know how important it is. You can?t jeopardize your team like that, especially late in games.?
Simmons said he?s been pretty pleased with how the rookie Huber has gotten the snap down lately and how he?s improved from the first few weeks. And some gaffes have been followed by a better moment.
With 38 seconds left in the opener in which a field goal try was erased earlier because of a high snap, St. Louis was perfect on the PAT that gave the Bengals the lead. After the two blocks Sunday, St. Louis put one on the money.
?That?s the encouraging thing,? Simmons said. ?When we need it at the end we get it. But we need to get it for the rest of the game. It?s a group effort and the group will continue to work at getting better.?
BIG MEETING: The Bengals had their first face-to-face with Gene Upshaw?s successor as NFL executive director, and as DeMaurice Smith spoke to them Monday at Paul Brown Stadium the various tweets coming out of the meeting reflected that the players now understand the potential is real for a 2011 lockout and that the union is advising players to save their money like the owners.
In separate tweets during the meeting, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco observed, ?Owners get paid regardless whether we play or not through direct tv deal4.5 billion a year=each owner gets 30mill and no salaries to pay!!? as well as ?They(owners) know how we as players spend and are banking on us as a union and taking a less significant deal (CBA)<----Wow!!!!!!!?
If Smith felt he needed to get the players? attention, mission accomplished because some of the players seemed to respond urgently. ?25% percent of our salaries need to be saved this year and next year, this will happen, they are sure players will break because of needs!? Ochocinco tweeted while rookie Rey Maualuga had a lighter observation:
?In NFLPA meeting!! Possible lockout in 2011 Got to save up!! Anyone wana donate me some money ? Haha.?
Smith, late for another meeting, politely declined an approaching press horde and offered to do a conference call with the Cincinnati media at a later date.
Andrew Whitworth, who had been the Bengals interim NFLPA player representative, got the permanent job Monday with right guard Bobbie Williams and wide receiver Laveranues Coles named alternates. After the meeting Whitworth indicated it sounds to him like the owners are serious and clear about not being able to continue with the percentages allotted to players in the current system.
Asked if the players expect to get locked out by the owners Whitworth said, ?No, it?s more something we need to prepare for. It seems like the NFL is staking their claim to where they stand. We feel like we like how things are. We want to keep playing football. We love playing football. We hope there isn?t one and we can keep playing and everybody can go back to how it is.?
Last month Whitworth had expressed concern that the rank-and-file didn?t understand the ramifications of a season without a salary cap. If there is nothing by March 2010, then 2010 is to be played without a salary cap. Whitworth says it is wrong for the minimum-salaried and average-paid players to believe an uncapped year is going to lead to a bonanza.
With no salary cap comes changes such as players needing six NFL seasons to be eligible for free agency instead of four, and each team would be allowed to restrict two eligible free agents with "franchise" or "transition" tags instead of one. And the top eight playoff finishers from ?09 would be allowed to sign free agents only at the rate at which they lose them.
But Whitworth said Monday he doesn?t see much movement to prevent an uncapped year.
?I would doubt it,? he said. ?If you look at any scenarios in any business through negotiations, it?s really no benefit to either side to get it done.?
INJURY UPDATE: Lewis said Monday everyone except tackle Andre Smith should be available for next Sunday's AFC North showdown in Baltimore against the Ravens. Linebacker Rashad Jeanty suffered a dislocated finger Sunday and he had surgery Sunday night in Cleveland. Lewis said the club would know more on Jeanty's status on Wednesday. Jeanty, winner of the Bengals Ed Block Courage Award last year, is playing with a 15-inch rod in his leg from a 2007 broken leg and played in every game last year despite painful plantar fascitis on the bottom of his foot.
"I don't think a broken finger is going to keep me out," he said.
Wide receiver Andre Caldwell, who had his shoulder fallen on during a kick return late in the game, asked to be taken out but he says he should be OK for Sunday. It was a tough two last returns. The one before he got hurt, he fumbled the ball away at the Bengals 18.