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Hobson's Choice: Flex still in flux

Q: When will an announcement be made about the game time for the Steelers game New Year's Eve? I don't think thought was given to the fact that finding babysitters on New Year's Eve is next to impossible, and some of us would like to get their tickets sold rather than take a bath on them if the game time gets moved.
**--Dave B., Cincinnati, OH

DAVE:** No word yet and the babysitter will have to be on a Flex schedule, too. There won't be any word unti Santa. At the earliest, Christmas Eve, and most likely not until Christmas night.

At the moment, Bengals-Steelers is being eyed for the 8:15 p.m. game on NBC. But it must have playoff implications for at least one team.

Plus, if NBC can find a game in which both teams are impacted, that's the one they'll take instead. With Atlanta scheduled to go to Philadelphia and Jacksonville at Kansas City on New Year's Eve, one of those could be the 8:15 p.m. game.

That's why the official word most likely won't come down until around 9 p.m. Christmas. The Eagles are at Dallas in a 4 p.m. Christmas game.

Q: I am not quite grasping the concept that Marvin is responsible for the eight players arrested this past year that the national media seems to be fixated on.

Marvin has done everything that he can: Sets a great example in the community, promotes a positive work ethic and attitude, talks about focusing on what you can do, not what others do, disciplines players within what the rules say. These are grown men, and like Marvin said, he can't hold their hands 24/7.

Do you hold every leader responsible for what his people do? I don't think that statement can just be thrown out there in a general sense. How many people are caught drinking and driving? Does the media call out their boss? It just so happens that these young men (and we have to remember that most are in their 20s and still maturing) are in the public eye. That does not mean that it's Marvin's responsibility beyond what he already does in setting a standard and an example.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that the media is just trying to create a story out of nothing extraordinary?

Thanks! Looking forward to Monday night!
** --Larri, Mount Laurel, N.J.

LARRI:** The media hasn't had to do anything to make this story more extraordinary than it is. Eight arrests are just ludicrous and begs a Borgman cartoon. But to say it is a reflection of Lewis is just as cartoonish.

Clearly, Lewis and Bengals president Mike Brown have to sit down with their coaches and personnel people in the offseason to re-define what kind of player they want and how they deal with red flags.

Maybe it's time for them to adopt the off-the-board rule in the draft that some teams have. Enough off-field, non-football incidents and he's off the board Draft Day. Treat bad character like a bad knee.

And maybe Lewis has to come to grips with the fact he and his coaches can't change everybody.

And let's be clear. They have been aware of the red flags and warts and buzz on many of these guys because there are no secrets. Hiring three scouts or a former FBI field agent isn't going to change that. The decision is what to do with that information, not getting it.

It's a disturbing problem, but I agree with you. What more can Lewis do? His commitment to youth and hard work and the community and putting his money where his mouth is are beyond debate. Many of the people ripping him haven't given to society what Lewis has given in either pinky finger.

The deck is stacked against head coaches in the NFL when it comes to discipline, isn't it? Their players are coming from a society that gets edgier and more outrageous every minute and once they get there they are protected by huge salaries and a heck of an effective union, to their credit.

What kind of a hammer does a coach truly have? To say that Lewis is running an undisciplined, open brothel of a football team is as just as crazy as a Rookie of the Year literally pouring his career into a beaker.

The fact that Lewis can take what basically amounts to 53 well-paid, ego-based independent contractors and get them to care and focus on one thing and do it well enough to have a good shot to make the playoffs this late in the year, well, that sounds like a pretty disciplined endeavor to me by both players and coaches.

You make a lot of sense.

But, yeah, he's also responsible in one way or another for those eight guys being here and they have to rework their standards.

Q: Would it be wise for the Bengals to take a page out of Jacksonville's book, and run the ball a large percent of the time (against the Colts)? It would do a number of things besides controlling the clock and keeping Peyton of the field. Also, it's not like Indy could stuff the box because the big play ability of the WRs is still there.
**--Bryan, Cincinnati OH

BRYAN:** If it were me making out the lineup for Monday night's game, I'd activate running back Quincy Wilson, sign director of player relations Eric Ball out of retirement, send Ickey Woods to the doctor, and go into the game with seven tailbacks.

Sure, you have to run it. You want a magic number? Try 37 minutes. The Bengals have to have the ball for 37 minutes if they want to defend Manning and keep the Colts off the board. Give him a point a minute and the Bengals can come up with enough to win.

The guy the Colts really miss is safety Bob Sanders. Like the Bengals' Dexter Jackson he's the guy that makes sure 47-yard runs stay seven-yard runs. He's been questionable all year with a knee problem and is still questionable.

But don't assume the Colts are in disarray and melting down. Before the Jacksonville game, they had allowed just 20 and 21 points in their losses.

Plus, they just don't lose at home. They are unbeaten there this season, the last time they lost a home game with playoff implications was October of '04, and the last one of those lost by more than a field goal was in October of '02.

And maybe the Jacksonville game does for the Colts what the Chargers game did for the Bengals.

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