Posted: 5 p.m.
The final week of the season is all about transition and two Bengals Good Guys agree with their head coach that the locker room is headed in the right direction with more good guys despite the poor record.
Right guard Bobbie Williams, this year's winner of the Good Guy Award for his dealings with the media, pointed out Wednesday that "that was in the (Paul) Tagliabue era. Now we're in the (Roger) Goodell era."
With the change in commissioners has come a crackdown in off-field discipline, a frequent problem for the '05-'06 teams but not recently. And Williams, who arrived via free agency in 2004, also sees a different breed of player.
Williams"We had some raw guys. When I say raw guys, I don't mean like bad guys, but more free-spirited guys," Williams said. "The guys now are more aware, more conscious. The other guys weren't quite leaders, they were just kind of fitting in. But these guys now are trying to set examples even if they're just two-year guys. They're trying to set examples for the rookies."
Could he be talking about a guy like cornerback Leon Hall, the newly-crowned AFC Defensive Player of the Week?
"That's exactly who I had in mind," Williams said. "Chinedum (Ndukwe). Whit (Andrew Whitworth). Nate (Livings). He just started to play (at left guard), but he's a character guy. These guys come into work and go home and you don't hear anything about them."
Defensive tackle John Thornton, a former Good Guy winner from the Cincinnati chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association, thinks living through this year will make the team better. In head coach Marvin Lewis' five seasons, the defense had always struggled in the shadow of the offense.
"With the offense having a tough year, it made the defense grow up," Thornton said. "Those (previous defenses) never could have tied the Eagles. That's what we've had to do this year. It's forced us to step up and limit the other team to points. We didn't do it against Baltimore and Indy, but that happens in this league. A good Tampa defense gave up about 400 yards last week. You can always get better, but I think going through a season like this makes the team stronger because when the offense gets back to normal, the defense will be able to win those 16-13 games."
Lewis and his foe this week and a good friend, Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, talked about the makeup of their teams about a year ago at this time at the Senior Bowl and that Edwards wanted to get young. The Bengals started the season almost as young.
The Chiefs have 18 rookies on the roster, as well as 31 players with three years or less experience. The Bengals have nine rookies, although four more are on injured reserve. They have 25 players with three years or less, although 12 more are on IR. Heading into the opener, the Bengals had eight rookies and 29 third-year guys.
"He's got a pretty good blend," Edwards said of Lewis. "He's got a lot of young guys. The thing that hurt them is what hurts a lot of us: You lose the quarterback and it makes it tough."
Lewis hopes to get him back, as well as add a few more Bobbie Williamses.
"I'm not big on words," Williams said. "But what you hear is what's coming from the heart."