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Lewis: No more woe is me for Bengals

Posted: 4:30 p.m.



His Bengals are four days away from opening defense of their AFC North title in Kansas City, yet head coach Marvin Lewis is in taciturn midseason form. "I'm not worried about getting to the Super Bowl; I'm just worried about the Kansas City Chiefs," he says and that means he's sticking to John Wooden's "Pyramid of Success" he's using with his players as a map for regaining their composure and division.

In a sit down with Geoff Hobson of, Lewis talks about how he's emphasized such building blocks as loyalty and friendship in an effort to bring the team closer together so it can survive the postseason crucible it encountered for the first time last season.

GH: You said at the beginning of training camp that this is a better team. I guess you were right after what happened this preseason. Undefeated and scored nearly 80 points more than opponents. ML:
It's a better team, a deeper team. A team that is focused on what the task is at hand. I don't think that will ever change. I think they realize that. They're very confident in directing themselves.

GH: Is that something that you think you haven't had? ML:
More focused. We have more understanding. Yes, we've had a very workmanlike attitude, but I think it's even more now. After the game, they simply take their shower, get on the bus, and say 'OK, who's next?' And that's the way it should be. There is none of that hoopla. Worry about this, worry about that. It's 'What's up next.' That's good.

GH: You also maintained before camp that the off-field problems wouldn't be a distraction. ML:
Obviously it hasn't been. It's got nothing to do with us playing football.

GH: Did you feel you had to address it in some way even as the club waits on the courts? ML:
We always talk about it. We talk about it almost daily.

GH: When you talk about focus, are you talking about what happened in the playoffs? ML:
We lost a game, that's all. Sometimes you lose.

GH: But as you said before that game, the next loss is like falling off a cliff. ML:
There's finality to it. The playoffs are the playoffs for a reason. The first cut is the deepest.

GH: But if you've never been there before and never experienced it, I would think you'd come back more somber thinking, "Hey this thing is a long haul." ML:
We learned that the first year in that opening game against Denver here (a 30-10 loss). To take the approach to Opening Day a little differently and realize it is a long season. That we need to have focus and there's no reason to run around like a bunch of chickens with our heads cut off.

It's how we play football. Not whether or not we have fireworks or not. You've got to win the game. Music in the locker room and the music in the stadium. I think that stuff is minor now. I think we could pick up and play between two hotels if we had to. We don't have to worry about woe is me.

GH: When you went back during the offseason, what did you decide you had to do better? ML:
To make sure we never fray at the ends. Make sure the ends are sewn together and they don't fray.

GH: How did you do it? That's a hard thing to coach isn't? ML:
It is hard. That's part of it. I don't know whether we are or not. That's what we talk about all the time. Don't flinch. There's no reason to flinch. Keep your eyes focused on the target and stay with it. That's not changed.

GH: Does that relate to the "Pyramid of Success" you've been stressing to them since the offseason? ML:
It's all part of it. Those blocks are important. It's those blocks of loyalty and things like that which control within. They all mean sacrifice and that's what we're learning to do. To be a great team you've got to sacrifice.

GH: Is the Pyramid something you hit them with in April? How did you come up with the idea? ML:
Yes. I do a lot of reading and I think (secondary coach) Kevin Coyle, it's something he suggested from someplace that he either read or saw, and reminded me of it.

GH: Is the Pyramid yours or John Wooden's? ML:
John Wooden's.

GH: Have you read Chad's book? ML:

GH: I think the whole theme of the offseason for Chad after he talked to the coaches following whatever happened at halftime against Pittsburgh was him realizing that his teammates feed off him and that he has to change a little bit (by controlling his emotions better.) Do you see that? ML:
There's been a maturity of it. There has to be a growth and a trust of him and his teammates all the time. The focus on the offseason wasn't Chad. It was the team. Take your pick.

Whether you take your helmet off in disgust, whether you're not on time for treatment, whatever it is, they are all the same. To me they're all an issue and they all need to be treated the same. And as the head coach it's my job to make sure the guys understand that each one of them is not what we want or expect.

Eyes not where they belong defensively, not in the right lane on the kickoff team, or whatever it may be.

GH: If you do your job, take care of the guy next to you ... ML:
Nine times out of 10 we're going to be OK. Unfortunately it's not 10 out of 10 so I can't guarantee that. But most of the time the percentages are OK.

GH: Last year was the over-the-hump year, finally get to the playoffs. What is the thing this year? ML:
Every game is important. Every play, every game, that's how we're approaching it. One play, one game at a time.

GH: Everybody is talking about how the Bengals have stepped up and extended the contracts of Willie and Levi and others. But they forget they signed you up long term (new five-year deal) back in February. Is it helpful you have a long-term deal, or does it matter? ML:
I don't think that it matters much. I think it's good for the players and coaches. For the players, they're comfortable because they know what they're committing themselves to. It should be stability and they know things aren't going to change on them in mid stream. They know what to expect. The good thing is they're not backing away from the hard work; not backing away from doing things the right way.

GH: Is it good for you? ML:
It's great for me to know we have an opportunity to retain our guys, and we're working hard and still doing that and we're going to continue to do that. We've drafted well, and we're going to continue to try to re-sign our great young talent.

GH: It was 'Do Your Job' last year. There are really no catchy lines this year. ML:
Oh, we always have a catchy line.

GH: You got one? ML:
Yeah, we've had it all the time. Our guys know what it is.

GH: Can you tell me? ML:

GH: Do you think your defense is good enough to go to the Super Bowl? ML:
I'm not worried about getting to the Super Bowl. I'm just worried about the Kansas City Chiefs.

GH: Do you feel better about this defense? ML:
I feel better about our football team. It's not a focus on the offense, defense. I feel better about our team.

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