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Bengals grinding

Posted: 6:55 p.m.

Tom Coughlin's No Panic Plan when the Giants started 0-2 last year translated into a Super Bowl trophy.

His foe in Sunday's game, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, took some notes and is staying the same course he set when the Bengals started 0-3 in his first season as coach in 2003.

"He's the same way. I wish he would lighten up a little bit, but that's Marvin," said defensive tackle John Thornton. "He's going to pound us until we can't walk. Everybody knows that's him."

The one palatable change this week is that the team seemed to be a little bit looser (the locker room music has been cranked louder during media sessions) and, players say, they were more focused in practice.



This, of course, during a mushroom cloud week. It started when the man who brought Lewis into the NFL 15 years ago as the Steelers linebackers coach, Bill Cowher, used his CBS chair to pronounce that Lewis had lost his team emotionally.

"Silly," Thornton said.

It ended with Lewis shaking his head after Friday's practice. Just the very thought of changing it up now had him perplexed.

"Why would I change in Week 3 of our season?" he asked. "That's what I don't understand. How am I supposed to change?"

The pundits are in full throttle. Don Banks of wrote this week that Lewis lost the locker room last month when the Bengals signed Chris Henry a month after Lewis said he wanted no part of him.

But the Bengals seemed blissfully unaware of such havoc being associated with their locker room heading into the weekend.

Middle linebacker Dhani Jones, who has hefted the mike for NFL Network, shrugged at Cowher's comments.



"If they weren't (with Lewis), they wouldn't be here," Jones said. "Analysts are always free to give their perspective. Whatever opinion he wants to make. I really don't watch much TV, I don't listen to the radio and I sure don't read the papers. For the most part, nobody is going to say anything good anyways, so I just look the other way and go about my business."

The business, left tackle Levi Jones says, is more urgent because of the 0-2 start.

"More focus. People are trying to get it right," Jones said. "Not that they weren't trying before, but now it's go time. It should have been a point of emphasis at the beginning. I'm not saying it wasn't, but it appeared not."

Meanwhile, Thornton can still feel Lewis very much in charge.

"If you're sore, he'll say get sorer," Thornton said. "Marvin's always into it. He's not a guy who's going to say, 'OK, we'll take it easy.' He's a football guy. He believes in his way."

YOUTH SERVED: The irony of the Henry situation is that this is very much Lewis's team when breaking down the roster. Only Jones, Chad Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Brad St. Louis were here before Lewis, and more than a third of the team (19 players) have two years or less of NFL experience.

That's what the Bengals are dealing with on defense, where 12 of those guys reside.

"We've got young guys that are still learning," said middle linebacker Dhani Jones, who has watched the Bengals allow 131 of their 406 rushing yards on three runs.

"Those big plays you start to maybe question yourself and figure out what's going on, versus saying, 'I know for sure this is where I need to be. I know for sure this what I need to do.' That takes time and a level of maturity that takes time and a level of practice and a translation to winning games. You're going to have hiccups. You have two or three hiccups in a game and they go for 45 yards apiece, you're going to lose the game."

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