Posted: 4:05 p.m.
The following are highlights of Marvin Lewis's interview with various print, Internet and TV reporters at the NFL League Meetings in Dana Point, California.
Q: Can you talk about Jim Schwartz going back to the Baltimore days and what kind of coach he's become? A:
Jim was extremely, extremely smart. Always very well prepared. Very diligent with his responsibilities. The kind of guy if he was given something to do, he would do that and then some. Just a great guy that way. The kind of guy you want to have on your staff.
Q: Do you have an example of a menial task?A:
He'd go through the whole game plan in detail. Every foot pattern, every read for the linebackers each and every week even though he wasn't the linebackers coach. But he was sitting there in the meetings and that's the way he saw it. All their progressions defending the passing game. Extremely diligent.
Q: What do you think are his challenges in Detroit?A:
Any time you start from scratch with the first pick, I think everybody realizes there were good coaches there before and it wasn't the coaches that lost the games. It was the combination of coaches and players together, and getting everybody to be responsible for that. And then getting eveybody's attitude to be putting one play on top of other plays that leads to winning games.
Q: Did you give him advice at any stage of the process?A:
He asked me if there's anything wrong with retaining any of the coaches that were here and I said not if you spend time with them and you feel like they're good coaches. Coaches all want to win, so they're going to get in tune and get in step with the way he wants to do things.
Q: Carson Palmer sat behind Kitna his first year. The Lions could potentially take a quarterback (and sit him behind) Culpepper. What's the dynamic especially with the money paid the No. 1 pick?A:
I think every situation is different. In our situation that year, the team felt very, very confident that Jon was a good quarterback and they believed in Jon. The team needed to win and it would be unfair to play a rookie quarterback as an excuse for losing.
Q: When you were considering drafting Palmer, was it a possibility that you wouldn't play him?A:
In the back of my mind it was hopefully he wouldn't have to play. What I told Jon is, 'You're going to be the starting quarterback. It's your ball, take are of it.' When we flipped it the next year I told Carson the same thing. In our case it worked out well.
Q: How much did it help Carson?A:
I think he benefited from the fact that he didn't have to go in there and get the hell kicked out of him that first year. He prepared as the starting quartrerback every week. We had plays in practice, periods in practice where he was the staring quarterback. Blitz drills, things like that. He prepared through the weekend like he was the starting quarterback. There were probably times had he played, some of the issues we had the first year where he tried to do too much, maybe we would have got through that.
Q: How is Carson Palmer? When do you expect him back?A:
Carson practiced the last week of the regular season. He wouldn't have practiced if he wasn't pain free.
Q: How can you get Chad Johnson to get back where he was two years ago, three years ago now that there is no T.J. Houshmandzadeh out there?A:
Chad has to get himself back to where he was. We haven't changed. Offensively we have to do things to get the ball to Chad, to push the ball down the field. That's our goal. Chad has to make sure he prepares himself physically in the offseason so that when we get started and play games in September he's ready to go.
Q: Is your offensive philosophy different from last year when you wanted to run the ball?A:
No different. I'm just saying when we threw the ball we didn't make any vertical throws a year ago.
Q: You seem to feel you can be effective with Cedric Benson running the ball.A:
When we got some hats on people, we did a good job running the ball with Ced. As he became more disciplined in our running scheme he did a good job and was productive. He also did a good job on screens and catching the ball up up the field. Things, frankly, we had been missing.
Q: What about Chad's injuries?A:
He's supposedly been working, so we'll see. I know Chad learned a valuable lesson from last season. Hopefully he will not have a repeat of that. He knew he needed to get his ankle cleaned out and he didn't get it cleaned out until the middle of June. Then he hurts his shoulder (separated it in preseason game) and that set him back. He fought through it. He's a tough guy. He played through it, and then at the end of the year he tweaked his knee and didn't play the last two games. He's been in Miami, not on the world tour as he has been in recent offseasons.
Q: Are you worried about his shoulder? He didn't get surgery after the season.A:
No. he says he's continuing to strengthen it. It should be no issue. A lot of guys have that shoulder problem and never have anything to do with it because they don't want to have surgery.
Q: How is he doing?A:
Its hard for me to get inside his mind and figure things out.
Q: Are you two close?A:
Very close. But he's a young man who has to make some decisons in his career, I can't let our closeness get in the way of winning football games.
Q: You said at the combine you and Carson can take care of him.A:
Carson knows the two of them together are pretty doggone good. Carson knows he's a fine, fine football player and Chad needs Carson to play good and Carson needs Chad to play good.
Q: Is it easier to believe you're close to winning when you see how quickly teams change it around like Miami? The key element is the quarterback and you have that.A:
You have to have the quarterback and you have to defend. You can't allow the explosive play. You can't let people run the ball down your throat. We were able to eliminmate those things on defense a year ago. You saw the defense come around that way. We've got some guys who only played half a season on defense coming back and they'll understand their schemes and responsibilities better than they did a year ago. We'll add some more firepower to the defense again (in the draft).
Q: When you look at the needs between the offensive and defensive lines, where do you think it is the most important?A:
No doubt we have to develop depth on the offensive line, whether that guy emerges as a starter or however it comes down between now and the draft. We have some irons in the fire with guys on the offensive line (in free agency). We continue to tweak around on the defensive line with the addition of the draft. We've got to get better rushing the passer. I think that's a progression from learning to play the run, being responsible enough to play the run, and to know you've got to make the conversion to pass rushes. I think that's a maturity thing."
Q: How do you see linebacker?A:
I feel good where we are at linebacker. Dhani (Jones) did an outsanding job for us in the middle. We did a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. He was an extension of Mike Zimmer out there on the field and he was a productive guy, too. He makes the people around him better.
Brandon Johnson, who stepped in for Keith Rivers (at WILL), did a good job. Between (Rashad) Jeanty and (Darryl) Blackstock, the two guys that played SAM last year, Rashad had his best season. What we need to do is get some more consistent pressures from that group. That's the part we're missing. Keith is a guy that that can add to that. When he was playing we were getting some pressures that way.
Q: Does Coles make Chad better?A:
I think he does. You've got a guy coming from outside in and all he wants to do is be at the top of his game. They're friends. They know each other. They bump into each other in Florida in the offseason. Laveranues knows his career is at the time where he wants to be a guy that gets his team to the Super Bowl. That's all he wanted was the opportunity to do: To go to a team that had a quarterback he felt like he meshes with him and can get him where he wanted to go.
Q: What quality attracted you to Coles?A:
The strength he has in catching the football. He has very, very strong hands. You could see that on tape. His quickness and the ability to make cuts, to catch the ball and run with it, and make big plays that way. He can turn a five-yard slant into a 70-yard play and that's what impressed me. He was physical. He didn't let guys grab him and throw him around. He ran right through the grabs. He does a great job with body control, stutter steps, and double moves, and those are things that kind of faded out of our offense somehow.
Q: It looks like a good pickup to replace T.J.A:
You've got both balls in the air and, at this point, when we knew we could secure this one we allowed the other to move on. We didn't single cover Laveranues any time we played him and as Mike Zimmer said when he was in Dallas and they were playing Washington they didn't single cover him then. The thing you know is you've got an outside or inside guy that's going to draw some different coverage matchups.
Q: Did you hear from Chad after you got him?A:
Chad talked to him. It will be helpful. Chad gets wrapped up a bit in Chad too much.
Q: Do you find rookie receivers develop longer than players at other positions?A:
It depends where they play in college. If they come out of a throwing offense, I think the adjustment is probably much smaller. If they come out of a small school like we had last year with Jerome (Simpson), or an offensive scheme that's not a pro style, or they don't have to make the adjustments based on coverage, then I thinik there is a difference.
Q: With more passing teams in college are the corners more ready to play in the NFL?A:
The coverage they are playing in college now lends for them to demonstrate some of the coverage skills that are more commom in the NFL.
Q: Mike Tomlin said the Ravens are the team to beat in the division.A:
I still think the Steelers are world champions. They are division champions. They're the team to beat and Baltimore is probably a close second.
Q: How bad is it if a team misses on a first-round pick two straight years?A:
You're without a guy you were counting on for that season and the next three seasons. You're looking at a guy you were hoping to be a starter as a rookie and two, three years beyond, and then hope to re-sign him. Now you have a pretty big void of a starting player and probably the only way to recover that is spending another high draft pick or getting an off the street free agent or UFA, which is going to cost you the premium. Now you're down a player, plus the cap charge for the veteran free agent and the adjustment he has to make when he comes into the building at first to play for you.
Q: Thoughts on Stacy Andrews.A:
He's a good young man. Good football player who is still learning to play the game.
Q: Is the thing that he's such a raw player?A:
He started all last year. He played a lot the year before. He's a guy that worked hard to get back from his knee inujry and I would imagine he'd be ready to go when the season opens up pretty good. I think he's got a great shot at doing that. All indications were when he was in our building. He's a very quiet leader but he'll be there all the time.
Q: Were you surprised he wantged to go elsewhere?A:
I was surprised because he led us to believe differently.
Q: Which is his better position? On the right side? Left? Right guard?A:
Wherever Andy wants to put him. It's not for me to judge. He's not our player anymore.
Q: How did he do at right tackle?A:
I think he did a good job for us.
Q: Can he play some left tackle?A:
He played a little left when he was a younger player.
Q: What was the disappointment when you lost him?A:
I'm not disappointed in free agency because that's the system. What's disappointing is Stacy led us to believe he wanted to stay, so it was up to his representative to get the contract done and we felt like we had the deal done and all of a sudden he walked away.
Q: How do you see the division?A:
Got to start with the Steelers. Baltimore had an exciting team last year and they played hard. They're going to be ready to go. I think Cleveland had a season they were disaapointed how they played, but they brought in a new coach who is going to tweak what they do. But also you know they're going to be similar on defense because it's similar to what Romeo ran and what Eric's got and that will help them make a smooth transition. We'll be playing uphill.
Q: Two years go everybody was picking you. Can you come back?A:
Oh yeah. Anybody can beat anybody. We've just got to go do it.
Q: How close are you to the end of '05, when you had made the playoffs?A:
It's hard to evaluate the past. I can't put a crystal ball that way. I think we're a little better than we were then because we don't have the fly-by-night attitude. You had a bunch of guys who thought they were responsible for why the team had won. And now they realize they really weren't. It takes a whole football team to do that. They were just one cog in the wheel, but unfortunately when you have a team that has success that hasn't had success, everybody wants to beat their chest. That's the thing that's proven in the NFL is you can't have a football team that has the highest paid player at every spot. You need a team that has a lot of guys that play very well at a high level but yet know collectively they have a chance to be champions.
Q: Isn't that a big job to overcome?A:
It's a huge job. If you look around and look at the model of the Steelers. Alan Faneca wanted to be paid at the top. They moved on and became world champions. Hines Ward took less than those other recivers and he's a more productive player than them. He knows he's got a good thing going on a good football team. One dollar less is better than two dollars more if you're going to have the opportunity to win. That's the challenege. The Patriots are a model of it. We can't afford to have the highest-paid player at every position and have a good team. You have to let some key guys go. And replace them and continue to draft well and cultivate and mature and coach our guys into being the next good player.
Q: It's hard on fans, media, even players to buy in.A:
But if they don't, you don't worry about it. You don't lose sleep over it. You do the next best thing for your football team and that's to continue to draft young players and coach their tails off until they're ready to play. What free agent impacted anyone last year?
Q: Michael Turner.A:
He's the only one. That's the only team that added a (major) guy tht went to the playoffs.
Q: You've had injuries on defense and guys missing like (David) Pollack and (Odell) Thurman.A:
Pollack set us back. He brought charisma, life, energy. The loss of David (hurt) not only because of the way he played, but how he played, and his pass rush. The loss of David was a tough thing to overcome. We've overcome the other one (Thurman), but that's part of football.
Q: Why do you think the Bengals have been so patient with you when coaches around the NFL get fired on a regular basis?A:
When I signed the last contract extension afer the '05 season (through 2010), the thing (Bengals president) Mike Brown said to me is, 'I have more patience than you do.' There are going to be some tough times ahead that people don't realize. He's been right. Literally that was in '05. He said to me there may be some pitfalls along the way that I didn't foresee coming. I think he had been through a lot of those different situations. He hoped they didn't occur, but there would be things like injuries, etc. that we had to get through. Second, he wanted me to know that he would be behind me in those situations and for me to never, ever give in to public opinion in my reaction to being questioned one way or the other and for that I'm very thankful because he kind of set the stage for me to realize this is a long-term thing. He has a lot of patience. He grew up as a son of coach. He has a lot of patience in all things. He realizes some things may be out of (your) control. We have a very good relationship. We sit down every day and talk and have coffee. But he hired me to do a job and that's to win football games.
Q: The relationship seems to have survived the Chris Henry disagreement.A:
People disagree all the time. Unfortunately, I let it be public. We disagree about a number of things all the time. Some come my way, some go his way. In this case, unfortunately, I voiced my opinion publicly, really, knowing what his opinion was, and that ultimately he had the final say-so like any owner does.
Q: How did Pat Sims work out?A:
Unfortunately Pat hurt his foot early in camp and it took a while to get him going. He's a guy who needs to get a lot of foot up his butt and once we were able to get a lot of foot in his butt he got going and got going in the right direction. He's going to be a good player. We have to get him through the second year, where he thinks he's arrived. I do think there is a trait of laziness we're going to have to keep pushing him through. But he was a productive guy as a rookie. He's a big, strong powerful man. He is the athlete that I saw when I went to watch him work out and what we witnessed on tape at Auburn. I'm thankful for that. He likes to play football on Sunday. We'll contine to ratchet down his preparation and practice and preparation in meetings.
Q: What is it that makes the Bengals a better team than when they finished last season?A:
For some of the offensive players and the defensive players, the fact we've got a quarterback that's had to sit here and go through probably the worst thing you have to go through. To not be physically maimed, but somebody tells you you can't play and you feel like you can play. But in your best interests, you aren't allowed to play this week. And that's hard. You're not in a cast. That was very, very hard on Carson. To be there, to go through every meeting, to be there on the field, to witness things on the field that went on and not to be able to go in there and change it was very, very hard. So he's like a caged bull. He wants to put his stamp, his signature on not only this football team but also on this season.
Q: It's a quarterback driven league.A:
It's a quarterback driven league and when you have a qood quarterback and he has these extra qualities and leadership abilities that he can back up with his skill and the determination, that's the key.
Q: How is Carson's mindset?A:
He's excited. He's ready to go. He's got new twins, so wants to get out of the house. That will be part of his thing, too.
Q: He'll be a different guy just on that.A:
It's going to be a different season. It's not just going to be him and (his wife) just doing what they want to do. He's not going to be able to put on his sombrero and go the golf course on Tuesday and have Shay ride around in the cart with him. Maybe he will. Maybe that will be their release away from the kids, but it will be a little different. He won't be out hunting with the boys and things like that. It will be a little bit of change.
Q: We've gone 20 minutes and last year 10 people would have come up and asked you a Chad question.A:
We already got that out of the way.
Q: What is going on there with all that?A:
I don't know. He's probably got a different strategy.
Q: How refreshing you're not dealing with that right now?A:
He's a good football player. He had a season he wasn't happy about. There were a lot of different reasons. One he didn't pay attenton to an injury he needed to get taken care of. Number two, he comes back and he (separates) his shoulder. That all being said, he fought through it. He did everything he had to do, it just took a longer time period. In order to get back to being the Chad Johnson that everybody feared, he was a guy who worked very, very hard at his craft. And if you don't do that, it falls away very quickly and people forget about you.
Q: Tomlin and Harbaugh are talking about how this is a QB division, and I know you want to get back to throwing it over people's head like you did two, three years ago.A:
You've got be able to make some chunk plays. You can't rely on 12- and 16-play drves all the time because, unfortunately, there is going to be error there.
Q: Do you feel better about Jerome Simpson (second-round pick, one catch) now than you did at end of season?A: Jerome will have a good season. Jerome's a very, very talented guy. He's a guy as physically talented as any receiver we have. He's a big part of where we've got to go. We've got to do a great job as coaches to get him in position to make plays.