Marvin Lewis News Conference
Paul Brown Stadium
July 31, 2015
Opening comments …
"The first thing I want to say is, I really applaud the fans for an incredible atmosphere on Saturday evening. All year long, both home and away, the fans have been fantastic. Their disappointment is no greater than ours here. To fight back into the football game, take the lead, and then to not finish the game out … .
"Some of the players that made fantastic plays to put us back in control, unfortunately got involved in plays where we lost the cool and focus that we had for the first 58 minutes of the ball game. It affected the outcome, and it's too bad. The message has been to them that they're privileged to have the opportunity to play in the NFL and that they have to go about it that way all the time.
"We have to continue to work hard and win with class in everything we do, to represent themselves and us all the time in the correct way. They're coached to do it within the scope of the rules all the time. We have to play the game as if the other team and the officials don't exist. That's not part of what we can control. We have to control us. That's been the message, and unfortunately we had to reinforce it again at an inopportune moment for all of us.
"It stings and it hurts. It brought the season to a screeching halt way too fast.
"There were a lot of positives for the guys this year. Guys came back from injuries and played at a high level. We did things better on offense and defense. On special teams, we had a lot of younger guys involved who will continue to play at a good level. We have to earn our way back (to the playoffs). For them, it's a disappointing finish to the season."
You talked about poise all week. Is it frustrating to see the lack of it at the end of the game?
"We walked away a bunch. But we have to continue to walk away."
Is there a different way you could reinforce it?
" I have to find a better way, I know that. I have to find a better way to get it across."
What could be some ways you can enforce it, take guys out of the game, for example?
"I have to find another way, but I'm going to withhold talking on that right now. I'm going to protect our guys as much as I can."
How much of this responsibility is on you, and how much is on the team?
"Once they cross that line, there's not much I can do, unless I go out on the field, which I'm not allowed to."
It's said football coaches have all the power and no control. How do you get control?
"I don't quite agree with that. At some point we have to fully know we have to play as pros all the time. I don't know who said what you're quoting, but things are reinforced all the time. Nobody feels worse than when they're at the eye of the storm and things don't happen right. You either do this, have an opportunity to win, or you do this, and you lose. That's as point- blank as I can put it to them. The remorsefulness afterwards doesn't hold water. That's the negative of it."
Obviously we're talking for the most part about Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones. Adam is a guy who's career you saved, and Vontaze's career was started by you. What do you expect to see next year from those two players in this area?
"Both players couldn't be more heartbroken, literally to tears. Both of them. That's the first step; to realize 'I'm wrong.' When you play linebacker and safety, you're at the tip of the spear in the NFL now (in terms of being judged for hits). It's a changing game, and unfortunately we had a guy (Shawn Williams) draw a penalty that was likely not a penalty in the game. Some things happened on the other side that were closer to penalties that weren't called.
"Everybody reacted to that, unfortunately. You're keeping the calm and civility if we go through the game that way. For whatever reason, it didn't shake out the right way. It's a violent, physical football game, and we have to continue to do it the right way."
People have talked about (Steelers assistant coach) Joey Porter being out on the field. If one of your assistant coaches were on the field, how would you enforce it?
`"I'm clear with our coaches all the time, we have to stay back. I know everything's been written about Munchak and Reggie (Nelson), and about Joey. All that is out of the way; let's win the football game. Let's do it the way we're coached to do it and do it right, and everybody feels good today. Its unfortunate. It hurts and stings, and its going to for a long time. We're going to go and play Pittsburgh next year, and it's all going to come up again. We're going to have to work our way through it."
Have you had any conversations with Jeremy Hill?
"Same thing. He's going to have a lot of opportunities to win football games for us in the future. He's reminded, above all things; hold onto the football. Squeeze the ball and get us to the next down. We probably aren't having these other conversations if we do that. Its a shame."
Do you worry about scar tissue from all this?
"No I don't."
Is it because you've overcome the playoff disappointment in the past and gotten back to the playoffs?
"No I don't know how much scar tissue ever stays with a player. With all the rest of us? Yes."
How do you balance it with Vontaze in terms of playing with emotion but not going over the edge?
"It didn't go over the edge. But unfortunately, he can't have that kind of blow with the guy that's receiving the pass. But it didn't go over the edge for the course of the season. He's had three penalties this season for unnecessary roughness. On one, the guy pushed him back, and I was told later that they (officials) missed the first push. And then he pushed the guy from St. Louis in the back on the screen play right there at the ball. Let's not take things out of context, and understand it. Let's judge the body of work."
Do you feel like Vontaze is unfairly vilified?
"Unfortunately, we earned some reputations, and we have to eliminate that by continuing to play well within the rules, the way he plays. And he plays very well within the rules, and we have to keep doing that."
So you didn't think the last hit by Vontaze was over the line?
"I said he can't have that kind of blow with the guy receiving the pass. (The call) was part of what football is now. You have to learn to play within the scope of what football is right now. When receiving the football, those guys are being protected. I understand, I'm part of why they're being protected."
Any thoughts on the apparent decline in mutual respect in the game?
"I think it's been something the league is pressing hard. We went through that a year ago. The respect for the game and each other is important. You talk to a guy who played in the NFL, whether it be Dave (Lapham) or any of these guys, you can feel it in their voice. The gratitude and respect and the privilege to be out there as an NFL player and how fortunate they feel. We can't lose sight of that. I think the league is trying to send that message home."
Do you have comments on the online petition supporting the team, to have the league investigate the game?
"I have no idea about that."
How quickly do you put this behind you?
"This won't get behind (me) for a long time. I don't know that a loss in the playoffs ever does. This is a game we were able to fight back and get in control of."
Are you stunned by the no-call on hit to the head against Gio Bernard?
"It's the determination of the officials that Gio became a runner (after controlling the catch), and then it becomes, was he targeted with the crown that way? These things are 'bang bang,' and something not subject to replay. You're talking about milliseconds of difference. Unfortunately we were on the wrong side of the call. We didn't get one that broke our way."
Do you think officials need more help, instant replay or whatever?
"We'll let that go for now."
Is Andy Dalton fully healing and on schedule for all the offseason team work?
What did you learn this season about AJ McCarron?
"We're glad we have him. He's what we expected. He's mature and handled the situation after the football game with what you want to see. I'm proud of him, and proud of what he did, and I know he'll be nothing but better next season, and that's good for us."
How does it feel with the QB situation set the way it is?
"The best since 2004 or '05, with Jon (Kitna) and Carson (Palmer). We feel pretty good about things."
How important is the QB situation, with all the change coming?
"I don't think we'll have as much change as you think with players. We'll do a good job of getting guys back here and signed. I think our guys know they have a good home here. I think we'll be okay that way. There's a lot of pieces in place. We've put some young guys in place.
"We've had young guys step up and play this season, and they'll do nothing but get better for next season. Those are all good things. It is good to know and we feel pretty good about quarterback. At this point a year ago, we weren't sure about AJ (McCarron) and his development. We assumed and hoped, and it has worked out."
Do you feel confident about things because of the core you have returning?
"We've had more free agents in other years. When I looked, it wasn't as many as I expected, so I do feel good about things. I think the core is here, I think positionally we're in good shape.
"It's part of the system. The NFL system works. The message to players is, 'Hopefully we can get you back here and you feel good about it. That we can work a deal out that you can feel good about and you can play for. If we can't, and you feel like it's better somewhere else, then the next guy is in place and hopefully he watched how you did it, and he'll play his tail off and earn his opportunity. I feel good about that, and that's the message sent to these guys.
"I want them all to feel good about their future, because their 'corporation' doesn't get to go for so long, and I want it to flourish as much as it can. They know that, and I don't have a job other than coaching these guys. That's the same way with the position coaches and coordinators. Our job is tied to making these players and making them the best people they can be and help us win as many football games as they can win."
Will Reggie Nelson be recovered from his injury for the Pro Bowl?
"I didn't check in with Reggie today yet. He's going to come see me today because there was a line (for season-end meetings with the head coach), and he didn't want to wait in line. I think so, in answer to your question. He'll be fine."
It used to be guys on rival teams could have a beer together after a game. How has this Pittsburgh rivalry gotten so fierce?
"Unfortunately, the social media stuff let things get out of hand the first time around. I was negligent in not understanding all of that until it was too late. I apologized to our players for that after the first time around. I didn't realize what was going on like that. I thought it was chatter, no big deal. But some people think its more significant than others."
Is that an area the league should look at?
"For some reason, they turn their head from it. I guess it was brought to their attention through security, but from what I understand. there was no response."
How do you keep your head down and plug through this for a 14th seasons
"Yes, I'm going to do that. But I'm going to keep my head up."
Does it fuel you that you've gotten so close?
"It's not getting close. We aren't playing for close. We weren't playing for one playoff game. You do this to see people achieve things together that makes them smile. That's what drives you. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any smiles Saturday. I feel good watching them win and watching them feel good about each other."
Are the new opportunities for some of your assistant coaches challenging?
"It messes me up, but we'll be fine."
How much would you like to see players take more responsibility for the behavior issues?
"We have spent a lot of time on that this year. More than you could understand. Unfortunately, there wasn't a huddle at the end Saturday night (smiles). A lot of time with it. I applaud them for reaching out. We've gone through a lot of different avenues, a lot of different things this season.
"They've benefitted from them, they've all talked about how they've benefited from changes to our mind and outside of football. It's been good. Some rolled their eyes at me at first, and next thing they're injected into it. Immersed into it. That was good to see.
"I think we can do nothing but grow from that, and we will that way in handling ourselves. These guys have a lot of pressures that come upon them. They come upon them with contracts, playing time, making the team, injuries, contracts up, 'How much am I getting to play? How many balls am I catching? How many times am I running it? How many INTs am I making?' All these things. They have this person in their ear and that person, and we're just trying to get them some outlets to get them focused through these things. The other one is handling it on the field. When I feel persecuted, to realize I'm really not persecuted. I'm going to be fine.' "