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Lewis News Conference Transcript 8/29

Initial comments…

*            *"As we go into this fourth game, it's a little bit different than some years. We have a lot of people working to make the football team; and they have a lot of opportunities. We're going to go into the game looking at it a little differently, which is a good thing. The competitiveness of it with the guys on our team. It will be an exciting night for us Thursday evening."

How will the special teams unit look following the trade of Marquis Flowers and the injury to Cedric Peerman?

*            *"Every year you're going to have your special teams staples, and that's probably an ever-changing thing. But we have to make decisions based on offense, defense and special teams collectively."

Do you remember that last time in your coaching career that you had a kicking competition come down to the wire like this one?

            "I don't know."

It's been a pretty good competition though, hasn't it?

*            *"Both players are talented, and both players have done a really good job in their preparation and what they've done (on the field)."

What do you see in the other linebackers that allowed you to trade Marquis Flowers?

*            *"In the end, we have to go off of who we feel are going to be the guys that we keep here. If somebody can have an opportunity somewhere else, then that's a good thing for the player. Obviously the Patriots felt that (Flowers) may not get to them through waivers, so they traded something significant for him."

Is the idea to keep the fourth preseason game simple, or is it to see if some of the young guys can grasp some more complex game-planning?

            "The main thing is for whoever is out there – whenever they're out there – is to play fast. And that's no different at any point in the preseason. As coaches, we always have to put them in a position to play fast. They have to know what they're doing so that they can apply it to the opponent."

Do you expect Hardy Nickerson to play on Thursday night?

*            *"We'll see."

Is it important for him to play in that game?

*            *"It's always important for everyone to play as much as we can play them. We will play who the doctors feel are ready to go."

Do you think that you need to learn more about Jeff Driskel in Thursday's game?

*            *"Jeff has done a nice job this preseason. This summer, once we've done football with helmets and shoulder pads, has been our main exposure to Jeff in live football. It's been good. He got to play limited snaps last year in San Francisco, and I think he's handled the situations here well. He'll get another opportunity Thursday evening."

Do you think keeping a third quarterback is kind of a luxury?

*            *"You look across the league and it's about 50-50. Some teams have four (quarterbacks). It just depends. It obviously means you're a player short somewhere else, but hopefully you have a player that can double up (and play multiple positions) and make up for that roster spot. In the case of Jeff Driskel, he is physically talented to do other things. We saw that last year while we had him on the team."

Has it been difficult for some of your players from Texas to focus, considering all that is happening with Hurricane Harvey?

*            *"I've tried to visit with them, and I know that we have some people that are dealing with (difficult situations) — not any immediate family members, but other extended family. It's an unfortunate thing that happens with players all the time. They deal with different things. I think we've had two or three babies born in this camp. We deal with family issues throughout (the year). Hopefully things can back to normal in Houston as quickly as possible."

Do you think with the possible Vontaze Burfict suspension, was there a misinterpretation of what the rule is supposed to be?

*            *"(Bengals Director of Communications) Emily Parker put out a statement on that, so I'm not going to voice my own opinions in here."

When the competition committee refers to enforcement away from the play, did they mean farther away from the play?

*            *"There you go (laughs). You guys come up here and sit and I'll sit down there and ask you the questions, and you can tell how ridiculous it is (laughs)."

There are a lot of people that are confused about how, if you're allowed to re-route a receiver five yards away from the play, what is "away from the play?"

            "Particularly on the same parallel line as the tight end and the fullback are, and that's the thing. The tight end, when the quarterback sets his feet and pumps (the ball), he (and) the fullback are on the same parallel line. Sometimes in interpretation, things get lost, and hopefully Vontaze will prevail in this."

Isn't it a big thing that the ball is still in the quarterback's hand?

*            *"All of that would seem to make sense, if we understood football from the perimeter point of view. If everybody understands how linebackers and secondary people play football, that would all make sense."

Do you feel like the league is trying to make an example of Vontaze Burfict in this situation?

*            *"Again, I'm not going to (answer that). It was a good try (laughs)."

What if that had that been a block by the offensive player? Does it matter how you hit them? Is the NFL looking at that?

            "The interpretation, as you said — is it away from the play, does Vontaze hit him from the back or from the side, or does he put his shoulder into the number of the Kansas City Chiefs player? Obviously, he'd have to be facing (the player) to put his (shoulder into the uniform number) there. That seems pretty obvious."

So is it fair to say that Vontaze doesn't need to change his style of play?

*            *"I think Vontaze has changed quite a bit. He has changed tremendously. He's changed a lot. On the very next play, the quarterback scrambles, Vontaze runs over and jumps over Alex Smith when he slides. The very next play after that, the back goes to the flat and he's going down for a first down. Vontaze is in coverage, and instead of diving in or 'spearing' in, he touches him down and jumps over him out of bounds. The very first play of the Tampa Bay game, you had No. 13 (WR Mike Evans) come across the middle, and he (Burfict) hits him the same way as this (Kansas City) player and doesn't make the tackle because he tries to keep his head out of the play. The exact same play that happened in the Kansas City game was the very first play in our last game in Washington — the exact same play. He's changed a lot. His head is out of that play.

            "But when you play linebacker or safety, you play in a position where you get into that (type of situation). You saw that Jordan Evans was penalized once already this preseason, but yet it was a legal play. And in this case, it was judged as a legal play because you have an official looking from this side and that side, and there's nothing (to penalize)."

That first play, the check down to the back ...

            "It was the exact same play (as in the Kansas City game). The tight end and the back were in the same lines, and that's what happens in football. It happens a lot."

Do you have to let them catch it for it to be legal?

            "You've got to continue to adjust. When we were taught to play football, we played football without our helmet as part of the end of the play. We were taught to tackle that way, and that's the thing we continue to reinforce. That's where football has changed, and you can see guys changing. And, in my opinion, Vontaze has changed — he has learned, and he has changed. But he's a 250 pound man that hits like dynamite. I mean, it's like being hit by a cement truck. And that's just the way he plays. That's why he is the player that he is. He's got great hip explosion, and the dynamics of his body are such that it's like being hit by a 300-pound person."

When you heard that he possibly was going to be suspended, did you know what play it was in reference to?

*            *"Yes."

Is it fair to say you were surprised?

*            *"Yes, because his head was not part of the play. That was the thing. His head was out to the left, as you can see in every single angle — behind, front, television, all-22. It (his head) was out to the side (of the hit) and in front of the player. There was no contact whatsoever (to the head). And if we have to slow down things in high-definition and go frame by frame and we're still not sure ... we don't officiate the game that way — we don't put the officials (in that situation) — (so) I don't see how the players can held to that standard as well."

So if it's within five yards of the line of scrimmage, is that ... ?

*            *"As long as the quarterback doesn't throw him the ball, that's still a legal play."

So he wasn't defenseless in your opinion?

*            *"I think the player is running down the field at Vontaze. Vontaze is in his spot, and the player is in his spot. He's not running across the field where he gets hit blindsided."

So last year, that was business as usual, right?

            "Well, I think it is this year (laughs). That's my point."

But if this new rule they're trying to enforce ...

            "This is not the kind of play that was shown (to us) when we went through the new rule. I mean, A.J. (Green) had a collision going across the field in the last game right off the ball. It's very similar. And it was the pass that went incomplete to Tyler Kroft.

            "This stuff happens in football. Those guys know, when they run across the field, they have a chance to be chucked."

Has the league given you any indication how quickly they will rule on the appeal?

*            *"No, I haven't talked to the league."

Is it important to know by Saturday at 4 p.m. (final cuts)?

*            *"No, we've got to do what we've got to do. I don't know that. Obviously anything that happens is important to us, but the most important part is that it not be upheld."

Is there any added frustration in this, since Burfict has been playing so well?

*            *"He has done a nice job of being in the condition physically that he needs to be in, and he has done a good job on the field — a very good job on the field."

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