Head coach Marvin Lewis girded thousands of Bengals season ticket holders listening to Wednesday's conference call for his team's new look.
"Get taped up, get strapped up, get ready to go, we're about to have a lot of fun," Lewis said. "It's going to be an exciting season. It's going to have a new look to the Cincinnati Bengals and I think one the fans are really going to enjoy. I'm pleased with our progress thus far."
Lewis offered various hints of that new look by not taking long looks at quarterback Carson Palmer or wide receiver Chad Ochocinco while extolling the virtues of the team's top two draft picks that look destined to replace them. Lewis says Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green has a chance to have a great impact early and that TCU quarterback Andy Dalton has the physical tools to run the offense.
Questions about Palmer and how Lewis' staff is responding to the lockout dominated the 32-minute call. Lewis indicated Green got a playbook since he was drafted when the lockout was briefly lifted. He would only say that not every rookie got a playbook but the ones that did are allowed to do anything with it.
Lewis also shot down a rumor that ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, brother of Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, is teaching the Bengals quarterbacks the West Coast offense.
Lewis reiterated that he believes Palmer, the starter in 99 of Lewis' 130 games as coach, won't be around to learn it. He did say if Palmer decides to return the club would have the financial wherewithal to pay both him as the starter while grooming Dalton to be his successor.
But he made it clear that's not what he expects when asked if the Bengals would turn down "an offer you can't refuse."
"Guys have opportunity to retire and walk away," Lewis said. "And right now that's the situation Carson is in at this point."
Later Lewis said, "He feels the best thing for him is to go and retire and be with his family. That's a decision any player can make. The good thing for us is the decision was made early on, in January and we've been able to plan accordingly and go forward accordingly. For that, we benefited."
As for The Ocho, when asked to give a 1-10 on whether he'll be back, Lewis briskly knocked down the pass.
"That's not a question I'm going to answer at any point here," Lewis said. "Chad's a member of this team. He's got a contract. That's the way it goes. We're not in a position to do anything else. That's where it stands."
The fans' speculation moved beyond Palmer and The Ocho to Lewis himself and the circumstances around his contract extension two days after the season. Lewis was asked about the perception emerging from that day's news conference that he and Bengals president Mike Brown didn't appear to be on the same page.
"People speculate on things. I'm fine the way things are here," Lewis said. "And I'm excited about what we're doing and our direction and our future and we've taken some great positive steps in every area this offseason every chance we could. We continue to make positive steps. We want to try and get back to being the AFC North champs, win playoffs, and be world champions and that's our goal and I'm happy with our direction thus far."
The biggest changes came on offense with not only a new QB and receiver combo, but also the arrival of Jay Gruden.
Lewis stayed away from comparing Green and Dalton to past players ("That's unfair"), but he raved about what they can bring to the table.
"A.J. Green has the first chance to be the best A.J. ever in the National Football League," Lewis said. "He's a fine, productive receiver and he's got outstanding hands, big range, he does a nice job of blocking, he ran well with the ball. He ran their quick screens, he made big catches down the field, he runs the crossing routes, the vertical routes, he does everything you want a receiver to do coming into the NFL. We feel he has a chance to fit well into our offense and make a great impact early.
"Andy has great anticipation in his throws, great core strength. He gets the ball in and out of his hand. As he gets more comfortable with the things we do, he'll play faster and faster and faster."