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Capping off changes

2-1-03, 8:15 a.m.


Some quick hits for the weekend getaway, covering scouts, the salary cap, defense, the dean, and at least one Paul Brown connection on the new coaching staff.

With the college scouting combine starting in 17 days, look for the Bengals to add at least one person to the personnel department and possibly two, and maybe as soon as next week. The leading candidate is former tight ends coach John Garrett, who broke into the league as a scout in Tampa Bay.

Which means by the time the Bengals sit down to draft April 26, they would have undergone many of the changes that players, pundits, and fans were calling for during the season. With 10 new coaches, a bigger personnel staff, and a head coach with more defined powers, they're hoping the locker room has received the message that the status quo is no more.

In their effort to bring all the Bengals' departments together in a "oneness," head coach Marvin Lewis and the front office are trying to make sure that the assistant coaches know what is exactly going on with the salary cap so that they have a better knowledge of how the club plans to spend the money.

All indications are that if the Bengals didn't spend right at the $71 million cap in 2002, then they went slightly over it again for the second straight season. Lewis, who has the big say on where he wants

the money allotted, is going to be updated daily on the cap's status once free agency opens March 4. But he'll also apparently keep his coaches in tune with the daily developments.

That may be in response to the notion that in the past here, some coaches felt like they were banging their heads against the wall because they didn't think anything was being done upstairs for them. But since they weren't upstairs, they didn't know that things were being tried and discussed.

Lewis has already said the organization can't be split into factions, and he seems to think that one thing that breeds unity is communication. He already set the tone last week when he convened a groundbreaking meeting which involved all Bengals' employees in order to introduce his coaching staff.

Lewis, the NFL's Secretary of Defense before he took this job, is going to hand over broad powers to the Undersecretary in defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Lewis worked in his predecessor's defense in Pittsburgh for four seasons, but this won't be Dick LeBeau's defense.

"The calling procedures are similar, but that's it," Lewis said. "This is going to be what Leslie and his staff come up with."

Frazier spent this week closeted with his staff breaking down Bengals' players as well as starting to formulate a scheme that looks like it's going to be a 4-3 based on blitzing, pressure, and aggressiveness.

"It's got to be Leslie who ultimately has to call the game," said Lewis, who has been the defensive coordinator at his last two stops. "If I get in the way of that, it's not going to work out very well. But I'll be involved in everything we do."

You figure what they'll do is do what their personnel does best. Both Lewis and Frazier like to play man-to-man, but the Bengals cornerbacks are coming off a difficult season. So either they get guys who play man-to-man, or we're probably going to see more zone than they like to play.

"That was the attraction to Leslie. I was comfortable with what he had been doing for awhile," said Lewis of the Eagles' aggressive style. "There's the chance to go forward with that and to steal from someone else's schematics that they feel works."

Right tackle Willie Anderson, who has played in more Bengals' games than anyone on the roster, has assured the fourth head coach of his career that Lewis shouldn't have problems from the veteran despite the disgruntled perception.

He knows Lewis has either read or heard some disturbing quotes from the club's frustrated leadership during the final, dying belch of the 2-14 season. But in a brief phone conversation with Lewis, Anderson told him he's going to have support.

Lewis has already indicated on several occasions that he felt there were too many negative comments coming out of the locker room and he has pledged to tighten it up.

"I told him there were some things said out of frustration and that it was said when guys didn't think there were going to be any changes," Anderson said.

"Well, they've made changes. It's going to be a different team," Anderson said. "I told him he's not going to have any problems with me and I doubt any of the other guys. We've got good guys in this locker room. We want to be led, to have some direction. And the coaches who were here are good coaches, too. They are probably like the players. They needed a change."

Anderson sounds as excited as he was when he was the 10th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft at the age of 20.

"I like that we're getting coaches from other NFL teams that have been successful," Anderson said. "I think that's going to change our mentality. Look at the way the Ravens played defense (under Lewis). I don't care who they had, when they came to play you they came to bite your head off. They weren't worried about what you might do. They just went after you and that's what you have to do in football."

He has been gone 11 years, but still Paul Brown continues to influence. Lewis is the first Bengals' head coach who either didn't play for him, or was hired by him, or who had a direct connection to the family. (Dave Shula's father played for him.)

But there is always the influence in small and big ways. New receivers coach Alex Wood is a Massillon, Ohio native, where Brown first made his name at the high school in the 1930s. One of the byproducts of the Brown legend is that every baby born in Massillon went home from the hospital with a football, and to this day Wood still has the one he got in 1955. He also has a relative who played for Brown.

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