Updated: 1-4-11, 3:45 p.m.
After two Tuesday morning meetings in which there was no agreement, Marvin Lewis re-signed Tuesday afternoon in a deal that makes him the longest-tenured head coach in Bengals history.
It's believed there were a variety of issues at play in the negotiations centering around the staffing and scouting and how the March 4 end of the collective bargainning agreement impacts them. It is not believed an indoor facility was part of the discussion. On Sunday Lewis said that wasn't an obstacle to his return.
Safety Chris Crocker seemed to be reading the mind of the Bengals as they covet the stabiliy Lewis offers in a sea of uncertainty. With NFL locker rooms and facilities shutting down March 4 if there is no CBA, there could be a late agreement forcing a short and hectic training camp.
"With the unknown situation, the CBA, I think most teams would want to keep what they have intact," Crocker said as the Bengals scattered following Monday's final team meeting of the season. "We all hope Marvin comes back because that gives us the best opportunity to stay together and finish what we started because everyone knows we have talent in this locker room. We just need to do what we didn't do this year and finish games next year and it will be a different season."
The record was 4-12, but Crocker looks at the scores. Seven losses by seven points or less, five to playoff teams.
"We were in a lot of those games," he said.
Tuesday followed the timeline Lewis rolled out in Sunday's postgame news conference in Baltimore in which he said he'd sleep on it if there was something to consider from the Bengals. But early Tuesday afternoon talks seemed to be a standstill until the deal came down with the announcement of a 4:30 p.m. news conference
Given that Lewis and Bengals president Mike Brown hadn't been able to work out a deal in more than a year, the odds appeared to be slim they're going to get something done so quickly. Particularly with Monday's tweet from Sports lllustrated's Jim Trotter that Lewis' agents have reached out to the 49ers.
On Monday, Bengals wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens didn't look to be back. Their nameplates are off their lockers and while Owens wasn't at the team meeting, The Ocho slipped out before the media arrived.
"You guys took them down so you could get a story," The Ocho said later. "I'm blaming the media."
The players said they couldn't tell if Lewis is coming back or not off the meeting. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the club's NFL Players Association rep, says there are other concerns as well.
"You never know what coaching stuff will change and what can't; that's the nature of this business," Whitworth said. "For players, to realize, who knows, the next time you could see these guys is Aug. 1? You just don't know with all the things going on and the possibility of a lockout, you don't know what could happen."
The players aren't very happy about the possibility of an 18-game season, but Whitworth agreed with Lewis that the regular season stretching into late January would spur the building of an indoor facility.
"That's just common sense," Whitworth said. "If we're playing games in late January then it's going to be physically impossible to practice effectively if you don't have somewhere to go inside."
Lewis said Sunday that the status of the indoor facility isn't an obstacle, but he wouldn't be specific about what is. Speculation centers on the status of assistant coaches.
"I think he wants to be back and I think everyone wants him back," Crocker said. "But the decision has to be between him and ownership. You know one thing: When you lose and you don't have a good season, then there are going to be changes. You don't know what's going to change. We're just ready to find out and go forward."
With Lewis' contract up, it has been reported that he's on the short list for the University of Pittsburgh head job, but there are those that know Lewis that believe he wants to stay in the NFL if it doesn't work out with the Bengals.
The issues on the table for Lewis appear to be staffing. The issues for Brown appear to marrying his quest for stability with a disgruntled fan base.
There are also a dozen free agents who are starters, sometime starters and regulars facing the unknown. Running back Cedric Benson, a year after helping lead the Bengals to the AFC North title last season with a punishing running game, indicated Monday he'd be interested in coming back if the Bengals realize they're a good running team after quarterback Carson Palmer set a franchise record with 586 passes.
"We found ourselves doing the things that made us successful a year ago," Benson said of the last three games. "It's clear obviously that's the identity of this team and it's important that this team grows in that fashion. We were able to find some success here and I think we can find a lot more. I think coming back wouldn't be a bad thing to think about."
Benson said Palmer's 586 throws didn't surprise him.
"It doesn't surprise me much," Benson said. "We passed quite a bit this year and we tried to develop ourselves as that type of team and we're not and we suffered because of it."
Crocker, on injured reserve since the week of the Nov. 21 game against the Bills, says he tore the posterior and medial collateral ligament in his knee, but doesn't need surgery and is going to ready for training camp.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Left end Carlos Dunlap, the new Bengals rookie sack leader with 9.5, has already come up with his goal for sophomore year: 11. Given that he was inactive for four of the first five games and got all his sacks in the last seven games, he's got a shot.
But in the last three games, he said he saw the double teams and chips.
"That's another reason to have a good offseason and get ready for next year," he said Monday.
Dunlap noticed that the man who beat him out for the NFL rookie sack title, Lions tackle Ndamukong Suh with 10, had a little help from ends Cliff Avril (8.5) and Lawrence Jackson (six). He thinks he's got similar help on the way. On Sunday, Dunlap shared a sack with fellow rookie Geno Atkins, a tackle who finished with three for the season for second place, and second-year man Mike Johnson, who started the last eight games at right end in place of the injured Antwan Odom and Frostee Rucker and got a full sack for 2.5 this season.
"He's real good. It's real hard to get 10 sacks at defensive tackle," Dunlap said of Suh. "He couldn't get all the double teams. As a rookie they're not going to give you the double teams right away as they did with me. You rack them up quick and once they start respecting you, they start to do that stuff. But if everybody is getting eight sacks, they can't double team everybody ... I'm looking forward to playing with Mike next year. I feel like he'll be helping to take pressure off me. They won't be able to double-team me and chip me every play because they're going to have to worry about me, which we showed this game. With Geno, you always have to look out blocking him one-on-one."
WILL backer Brandon Johnson named the pass-rush kids "Fisher-Price," and Dunlap says that can stick in 2011: "If you're in your first three years, you're still a kid."
Dunlap might have had a shot at 11 if he didn't get hurt early. He lost about two weeks with a concussion in training camp and in September he banged up his knee and lost another week. Not to mention that he missed the entire week of practice with an illness before he got his first sack against Peyton Manning on Nov. 14 in Indianapolis.
"I think I would have been in the rotation right away if I didn't have the concussion," he said.
» Wide receiver Jerome Simpson's 123-yard game against the Ravens is nothing to be trifled with. It's the Bengals' first 100-yarder against Baltimore since 2006 and he got a big welcome to the AFC North division moment from outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
"Those guys were chirping all night. It was mostly Suggs. I don't know why," Simpson said Monday. "He was telling me I'd be out of the league next year. He said he had more catches than me. It was all in fun."
Until Suggs' helmet came flying off in a scrum with Whitworth.
"I was going to give him his helmet," Simpson said. "I said, 'He got you on the ground.' He got mad and hit me with his right arm. It landed, but it didn't faze me."
The 190-pound Simpson wisely didn't retaliate against the 260-pound Suggs. But he did let the ref know when he saw the punch on the big screen.
"I said, 'Look, he blatantly hit me,' '' Simpson said. "But that's OK."