Q:** Carson Palmer seems to be getting more comfortable running the offense. Would you say that is accurate?


ML: I really think he has continued to grow. He has continued to gain the confidence that people will be where they are supposed to be. I think, playing quarterback, the main thing is to be in sync with everybody else and be coordinated. I think we have seen that in his development.


Q:** How do you determine that a quarterback is starting to "get it"?

ML: I think the thing you are looking for is him managing the football game, not trying to do too much and win the game on one play, living another day. [You are looking for him] to continually stay aggressive, handle the huddle, handle the substitutions and things like that. I think their body language and all of the vibes they give off give you those indications.


Q:** You were quoted as saying last week's win over Baltimore was the biggest you have had since you have been in Cincinnati.

ML: Well, they probably put that in me. I think it was a big victory for our team and franchise. Obviously we had been hearing that, 'You haven't done this. You haven't done that.' Our team continues to rise to those challenges.


Q:** Sometimes when a team reaches a goal that it has been shooting for, it really gives them a lift that improves their performance. On the other hand, sometimes it can leave them a little drained. You are sure going to find out which one it will be with your next opponent.

ML: That is true. But, a lot of guys that play for us were in junior high when all of that started, so they really don't care or know all these different challenges. There are very few guys here that really worry about that stuff, but I guess that makes for good news. But, we do have another challenge at hand. Our guys are well aware of that. As soon as that field goal went through they enjoyed it, but by the time we got to the locker room no one was standing on their head or anything. So, we know the next challenge at hand and what a formidable one that is.


Q:** How much does the preseason game against the Patriots matter? Bill Belichick continues to say that it is very important because they were trying and you were trying and you had a significant edge. Are you discounting that?

ML: Oh, I totally discount it. I mean, we were trying and they were trying. When they lost to the Bills the first game last year they basically reversed the tables the second time. So, those games mean nothing. Playing a team twice in one season, each game is a new game and a new challenge. They are going to prepare their team to play and we are going to get our team as prepared as we can to play and then the best team out there on Sunday will win. I don't think you can draw anything from that.


Q:** Can it at least prevent your team from being star struck?

ML: It is a good team and what they have accomplished is tremendous and awesome. But, I think we have, all season, taken note of how they do it. We are trying to get to where they are by doing it how they do it, and that is one game at a time. That has kind of been our battle cry since we lost down in Tennessee. We are trying to stay on pace on their heels and learn what they do and how they do it. They provide a great model for us. With so many young guys on our football team, every game they go out and it is just fun for them to play football.


Q:** There is a lot of talk here about Corey Dillon, but can you comment on the Patriots receivers? Obviously, they won two Super Bowls here without Dillon.

ML: I think their receivers are, as a group, probably as productive as any group in the NFL. They are fine football players. They run. They catch. They block. They run after the catch. They contribute a lot of different ways. They are always, I think, great weapons. They have gotten them back and healthy. Their offensive production has really picked up in that [area], which provides more ability to run the football because people now get into less 8-man front stuff and more 7-man front stuff in order to help control the passing game.


Q:** What is your opinion on David Givens, a guy who has been quietly successful on a team with successful players.

ML: He seems to be a tremendously hard-working player with great speed and quickness. When he gets the opportunity, boy, he makes the most of it. He is obviously a productive football player and a guy who is playing really well right now.


Q: ** n the subject of the receivers, is the fact that they appear to be so interchangeable part of what makes the Patriots so successful? They lost Deion Branch for a lot of the season and they always seem to keep chugging along.

ML: Well, they seem to come back in and be right in sync with Tom Brady, and I think that is important. Sometimes when people have [injured players coming back in], they look out of sync. I think in their case you are right. The next guy who steps up and steps in and gets his opportunity seems to stay right in sync with the quarterback and they don't seem to miss a lot. Then we the other guys come back it really gives them a lift because the people who have been playing have grown as players.


Q:** Do you get the impression that the receivers are very similar in type to one another?

ML: I think they all have their own niche. I think they have a couple guys who really have some great vertical speed. I think the one thing they do all have in common is that they are tough. They seem to really work at blocking and they run well after the catch. So in that they are very, very similar and it helps their production. They are very similar to a guy who we play against all the time over here in Hines Ward, who is a very complete football player.


Q:** You have been very successful this year at forcing turnovers. Is there a secret to that, or is that just literally teaching guys to reach in and punch at the football?

ML: I think, in my opinion, the biggest thing is that you want to keep tackling with your arms. If you tackle with your arms you have the opportunity to knock the football loose. Those have been the things that have happened. We have had fortunate ones when a guy has just been running and has actually dropped the football at times. But, we work on taking the football away every day in practice. We work on trying to strip the football. We work on tackling. The first six weeks of the year we couldn't practice in pads. Since we have gotten through our injuries we have been able to go out and be more physical in practice and I really think it has helped us pick that pace up.


Q:** Of course there has been a lot of focus here on Corey Dillon because he has been doing so well. What about Madieu Williams, the player you got in the trade for Corey?

ML: He has been tremendous. He has started basically every game, starting at both corner and safety for us. He is a fine player and he is going to have a great career in the NFL. It was a great deal for both teams. That is why teams make trades. I was very confident in talking to Coach Belichick and Scott [Pioli] that they were going to get a good football player, and we were obviously able to use the pick we got from them and gain another great player.


Q:** Do you think Corey gave everything in your program a chance?

ML: Well, I think he did. Again, Corey is there now and let's leave it at that. He did what he did.


Q:** Did any coaches or general managers from the AFC ever jokingly, or not so jokingly, ever ask you if you had to trade Corey, why you would trade him to New England of all teams?

ML: I don't think so, no. I think everyone kind of knew there was an opportunity, if they had an interest, in gaining Corey's services if they were willing to pay our price for it. As I said to people when we made the deal, I wasn't going to send him to the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, that is how good we felt about Corey as a player and how confident I was in him and his abilities.


Q:** You must have felt good about Rudi Johnson, too. How has he progressed this year?

ML: Rudi, as he did last year when Corey was injured, he kind of rose to the opportunity and he has continued to play well every week. Some days we knock down more guys in front for him, which makes his job even easier, but he has really done a nice job of growing as a player, being the guy and having the opportunity to spread his wings a little bit.


Q:** Do you think the players are getting the message that you are sending out about believing in themselves more each week?

ML: I really think we are. We gained confidence. But we have to know that the season starts in September and not November. Somehow I have to figure that out. So, that is my new challenge. But, we kind of fell into our niche. We find the things that we do well and do right, and then we become aggressive and we go play.


Q:** You said that your only regret about Corey is that you weren't able to convince Dillon to buy into your program more. Did you learn anything from that experience that will provide an example in the future on how you can convince guys to buy into the Bengals program?

ML: Obviously yes, because I said it was a regret. Hopefully it is something that I will grow from. But, there is nothing I can change at this point.

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