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Lewis salutes, challenges vets

From Nov. 2, the Bengals went 4-3-1. From Nov. 4, they signed 11 players, put 14 others on injured reserve, waived them injured or injury settled with them. Of the injured, six were either Opening Day starters or penciled in to start.

It may have been Marvin Lewis' best coaching job in his worst season. But during Monday's news conference, he singled out his veterans instead.

"The John Thorntons, the Bobbie Williamses, guys like that, even a new guy like Chris Crocker, they came in and did a fabulous job of keeping guys going and playing," Lewis said. "All those guys had young guys and new guys playing beside them all the time. Domata (Peko) now has some skins on the wall. They did a great job of driving this group, Dhani (Jones), to be better and better every week and to never spit the bit."

He was also tough on his veterans. Some by name, such as wide receivers Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. And others not by name.

His Pro Bowl receivers ended the season like they started in the voluntary camps:

Not on the field.

"Hopefully they learned a good lesson about what they used to be and what they kind of molded themselves into," Lewis said. "Hopefully they'll go back and understand that what they used to be made them more productive and they kept their edge a little better. I can't have said it enough times that they weren't quite ready to go when we got started, and that makes a big difference. It's difficult to train on your own at the pace everyone else is keeping with the team."

And when asked about the improvement of an offensive line that yielded the club's first 200-yard rushing day in more than four years Sunday against the Chiefs, Lewis didn't get specific.

"I think we found at the end of the season that guys who want to play are going to be better than guys who aren't quite sure whether they want to play," Lewis said. "If you have 11 guys out there wanting to play and wanting to get it done correctly, you have a chance to be more productive. I think that's important and a good lesson."

Lewis was just as vague when asked about possible changes. For the first time in their 41 seasons the Bengals finished dead last in offense, but Lewis offered no clues after a morning spent mainly with the players in their exit meetings.

In a team meeting Monday morning dismissing them, he told the players to remember how important a fast start is after that 4-3-1 finish followed an 0-8 first half of the season working against the NFL's third toughest schedule at .553, behind only Cleveland's .572 and Detroit's .559.

"I don't know about that. We'll see what happens when it happens," Lewis said of possible coaching changes. "I'm sure guys have aspirations to do different things, so well see what those hold."

After last season's 7-9 finish in which the defense ranked 27th, defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan and linebackers coach Ricky Hunley didn't return.

Lewis did praise his coaches for helping him keep it together and used special teams coach Darrin Simmons as an example.

"I think the coaches and the players," Lewis said. "They did a great job of that. I think Darrin did a great job, and (kicker) Shayne Graham really extended himself to the special teams group. They took pleasure into getting better each and every week and really enjoyed that and thrived on that."

INJURY UPDATE: Lewis didn't have offseason surgery plans for Carson Palmer when he talked about others at Monday's news conference.

All he had was a couple of arthroscopic cleanups with WILL linebacker Keith Rivers (ankle from his college days) and cornerback David Jones (the knee that kept him out of three games) on his list.

He said Palmer, waiting on the results of a new MRI, will continue to rehab and throw.

Right tackle Stacy Andrews said Monday that he plans to have reconstructive knee surgery next Monday for a torn anterior cruiciate ligament and medial colateral ligament with the hope to return by training camp.

He said team doctor Angelo Colosimo will perform the surgery and even though he's a free agent, he'll rehab with the Bengals.

SAM linebacker Rashad Jeanty revealed he partially tore a pectoral muscle in the fourth quarter of Sunday's finale, but he does not need surgery and expects to be able to work out in four to six weeks.

Safety Marvin White, who played on a torn ACL for three quarters in the Nov. 30 Baltimore game, had surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 11 and says he's cautiously shooting for a training camp return. Lewis said cornerback Johnathan Joseph is recovering from surgery on what is believed to be a broken foot. Left guard Andrew Whitworth's high ankle sprain is healing without surgery and Lewis said offensive linemen Dan Santucci (ankle) and Scott Kooistra (knee) are cleared. Defensive ends Robert Geathers (knee) and Frostee Rucker (hamstring) are "on the mend." **

ROSTER ADD:** The Bengals moved and signed seven players from the practice squad to the offseason roster:

Guard James Blair (Western Michigan), cornerback Marcus Brown (McNeese State), center-guard Digger Bujnoch (Cincinnati), defensive end Victor DeGrate (Oklahoma State), fullback J.D. Runnels (Oklahoma) and wide receivers Maurice Purify (Nebraska) and Mario Urrutia (Louisville).

Runnels was a third-year NFL player in 2008. DeGrate was classified a first-year player. The others are rookies.

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