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Lewis meets the press


ORLANDO, Fla. - The news here at Tuesday's AFC coaches media breakfast surrounding Bengals head man Marvin Lewis is that there is no news.

While Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was mobbed by Ben Roethlisberger questions and Browns coach Eric Mangini grappled with being an extra in The Big Show and talking about two new quarterbacks, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick had the papal audience worthy of three Super Bowl rings, the reigning NFL Coach of the Year never had a full table.

"I wouldn't want to trade," Lewis chuckled at NFL public relations boss Greg Aiello.

Lewis did say he'll use his lame duck status to show his team how to deal with events beyond their control, a theme he pounded last year to the tune of a 10-6 season and the AFC North title. But he also indicated he likes the job as he heads into his eighth season as the NFL's fourth-most senior coach.

"It's something Mike and I will continue to talk about and we'll see what happens," said Lewis of his contract extension talks with Bengals president Mike Brown.

"I love our football team. I love my job and what we're doing," Lewis said. "I really think our players are in a good situation. I'm excited about where we are as a football team. We love our friends in Cincinnati, my coaches, our staff. We've worked really hard to get to where we are now and we want to go forward from where we've been."

It's a softer stance than the one Lewis took last month at the NFL scouting combine, when he hinted at organizational issues. But in the past week he has talked about how comfortable he is of the team's direction and he reiterated the point nationally Tuesday as he talked about the differences between defending the 2005 North title.

"I feel like we're in a better position, better structure," Lewis said.  "Even though we're not older. I think the leadership is more mature to handle it and priorities are better focused. The priorities then were more individual. These priorities lean more to be team oriented."

Among other items Lewis addressed:

Quarterback Carson Palmer's role in the Terrell Owens talks:

"We had a good opportunity to speak with a lot of people who had teammates with Terrell. And the things that people said was he was a great teammate. He at times spoke out against quarterbacks. The guy who had to be the most comfortable with Terrell was Carson. They had conversations and he felt comfortable with him. Carson had done his research with all the other players and teams and he felt comfortable with that."

But when asked if the Bengals would still consider signing Owens, Lewis said, "I don't want to speculate on anything."

The addition of the wide receiver the Bengals did sign, Antonio Bryant:

"Our goal in the offseason was to try and put weapons around Carson and help continue to utilize those skills. With the signing of Antonio here's a player that has proven to make the big contested catches, the vertical catches and will do a good job of getting the yards after the catch and doing some things that will help soon to enhance both our downfield passing game and running game."

His ability to be able to watch wide receiver Chad Ochocinco's debut on Dancing With The Stars Monday night despite being at an NFL reception:

"My wife was like, 'We've got to go up and see it.' And he told me he was up first, so I did get to see it. I thought he did well. I thought he needed to loosen up and be more himself. His voice got all squeaky and high at the end of it when they were talking to him. That's unlike him. I imagine he'll come out of his shell pretty quickly.

"This keeps his attention, keeps his focus. It's great for his flexibility and his core strength. He's been challenged by it and he's going to get challenged by it. It's a good thing for him … I imagine he will move on. I didn't get to call in and vote. I'm sure my wife did. I got a message from him last night: 'Don't worry; I'll be back to myself next time.' ''

His belief that despite the possibility of a lockout next season it will be like every other year and he'll get close to full participation of his players in the offseason program that starts Monday:

"I think for the most part our contracts are structured that way and the other guys look forward to getting paid. They know it's time to get back to work, so I think we'll be in pretty good shape. The same guys will be there and as we get closer to May and on-field stuff we'll have the guys checking in that are out becoming the life after football."

On the non-football pursuits of The Ocho and middle linebacker Dhani Jones, currently on a three-week expedition to within a mile of the top of Mount Everest:

"It's got nothing to do with playing football or team. Guys are doing a good job of looking to their life after football. They're people with more substance."

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