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Lobby notes

Marvin Lewis

ORLANDO, Fla. - A dismal rain fell on the NFL owners Sunday as they gathered for their annual meeting, which opens officially when commissioner Roger Goodell addresses them Monday morning with a State of the Union.

It will be interesting to see if Goodell takes off the gag order about the collective bargaining agreement that expires next year. Until then, there was a lot of lobby talk Sunday, much of it about the impending vote on a new overtime proposal. There were also some murmurings about New York as a potential Super Bowl site, an issue that has some Bengals ties with executive vice president Katie Blackburn on the Super Bowl site committee.

A few notes from the lobby:

» If you saw Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis' quotes from last Thursday in which he said he's for the current sudden death overtime format, you had to be a bit curious about a report that said the NFL Competition Committee voted unanimously to recommend a change for the postseason that would give each team the ball under certain circumstances in the OT.

A contrary report said that two of the committee members, Lewis and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, were the two 'Nos' in a 6-2 vote that puts the issue before the owners this week.

Lewis had a no comment Sunday just as Newsome was walking by and Lewis broke into a big smile when he saw him and said, "Ozzie, they're killing us."

» Lewis and Newsome, still close since the days Lewis was the Ravens defensive coordinator, have had similar offseasons. Both teams needed wide receivers for their strong-armed quarterbacks and both got big-time receivers (Ravens Anquan Boldin in a trade and Bengals Antonio Bryant in free agency) and both also gave lose-nothing one-year deals to former first-round picks Matt Jones (Bengals) and Donte Stallworth (Ravens).

"We're staying even with each other," Newsome said. "I like (Boldin's) run-after catch and his toughness. He brings an element to the offense we haven't had. (Bryant) is a very tough player.
"We've got a good division. Cleveland is going to get their thing turned around, I think Cincinnati is solid right now and we're still trying to catch Pittsburgh."

» Kevin Colbert, the Steelers personnel guru, has had a typical free agency period in Pittsburgh. A few  bargain-basement pickups that fit the system. Colbert hears the buzzing about his aging defense, but he sounds like the Bengals when he talks about waiting for the draft: "The deepest I've ever seen." 

» The Pro Football Hall of Fame always displays a mini exhibit and among the items this week is the "Kickoff Ball" from the first Bengals home game in Nippert Stadium. The ball tells the story: "Sept. 15, 1968. Bengals 24, Broncos 10."

» Also on display, among other paraphernalia are the jersey Saints quarterback Drew Brees wore in the Super Bowl and a jersey worn by Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.

» Word is the team that knocked the Bengals out of the playoffs may very well be the team that replaces them on HBO's Hard Knocks. But Steve Sabol, the mastermind of NFL Films, can't say if it is the Jets or one of the other three or four teams that want do it. But he says it will be announced soon, a lot sooner than the Bengals-HBO announcement last year in May.

» How times have changed. Before last year, getting a team to do it was like passing health care. But the access the Bengals gave the cameras, the unfolding dramas, and the ensuing AFC North championship had people breaking down Sabol's door.

"We miss you guys," he said Sunday. "The interest now is all because of the Bengals. We got rid of the jinx with the kind of season they had. Nobody can say it hurts you. And the personalities were so compelling. It was great for us."

It has been Emmys great. Sabol said the show was nominated for five Emmys, including "Best Sports Series."

» Look for the Bengals to get at least two compensatory picks Monday. Even though the Laveranues Coles and T.J. Houshmandzadeh signings should offset each other, Stacy Andrews left for a big enough deal that could give the Bengals a third-rounder. And with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting eight games in Buffalo, is that enough for a fourth-rounder?  

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