How excited are you to get the season going?
"It's exciting. It really is exciting to be at this point. When your past season finishes, it seems so far away. Then as you get through to when we started the offseason program, through the draft process and training camp, it really seems to fly by. It seems like a long time, those nine weeks (before the draft), five weeks in between (minicamp and training camp) and six weeks (of training camp). Those go by pretty fast. I am excited about where we are, and I'm excited about our preparation this week to play a game on Sunday and win. That's what is exciting about it. They worked hard, and now we're at the point where everything you do counts for real."
Last year you also started with a Sunday game followed by a Thursday night game. Do you take anything away from what happened last year?
"To reverse the trend (laughs)."
Do you look at changing the way you prepared for it at all?
Bengals secondary/cornerbacks coach Daronte Jones was saying you guys learned a lot about CB Tony McRae in the preseason game vs Buffalo, when he played through injuries. He was a little banged up, but he still wanted to go out and show what he could do. What did you take from this process, particularly from the Buffalo game?
"My experience with Tony is a lot longer than Daronte's. I have confidence in him being part of our plan and our team, knowing that he can go in there and play for us if he has to."
He seems to add some versatility for you. How much is that part of what you like about him?
"He's had the opportunity to play different inside spots and practice them. Maybe not as much this training camp, with him getting hurt during literally one of the first practices. What seemed to be a pretty minor thing checked him out from a lot of work."
What was the 24 hours like for you, from the day cuts were made to the announcement of the practice squad? Do you just say, 'What happens, happens,' because it's out of your control, or do you sweat it with some of the guys you want to get back?
"No, I don't sweat it. It is out of our control. (Another team) can claim the guy. These players are all free agents once they've been waived by us. Whether they are claimed or have the ability to sign with another team's practice squad, we end up having to work a little harder with a couple of them each year. We were great at being able to get our guys back. They all told me on Saturday when we released them that they wanted to come back and be here. They all fulfilled it — all but one."
What went into the decision to cut DE Michael Johnson on Saturday, and then re-sign him today?
"We had to make a decision with the roster, and we were able to work it out."
Obviously he's been here a long time. What do you like about what he has been able to do over the years?
"Well, Michael was voted a captain again today. He's been one of the pillars of this football team throughout (his tenure). We have some younger guys, but his play on Sundays and his preparation during the week is great for this football team and for the defense. He's been a great leader, and still is day in and day out."
How much of what happened this weekend was about trust and the relationship that you guys have with Michael Johnson? How much was that a part of your decision to release and resign him these last few days?
"Probably a great deal."
How many guys on this team could you do that with?
"Three or four (laughs). That's about how many veterans we have (laughs)."
Michael Johnson talked about how he had guys lead by example and doing it the right way when he was a rookie in 2009. Does that speak to what you're building now?
"He had guys at his position like Robert Geathers, who you couldn't ask for more. He is very similar to Mike, with his contribution and toughness day to day by playing through injury and missing little time through his career. And then a guy like Frostee Rucker, who is still playing today. He's a guy who turned around his career by figuring things out. Domata Peko was a little bit ahead of Michael (age-wise). The (locker) room was populated with guys that had grown up and matured into being great pros."
It all started when you brought in DE John Thornton back in 2003 ...
"John was in 2003. John was a great mentor for these guys — for Michael and Frostee. He still is today, with his character and how he goes about his business day to day."
Did you know after the cuts on Saturday that the Bengals had the youngest roster in the NFL?
"I knew we had to be pretty close (laughs)."
With Michael Johnson back, that elevates the average age a bit ...
"He elevates us a little bit, at 31 (years old). It doesn't elevate us very far. We have that group of guys that have played a lot of football, and we have a young group coming behind them, and their contributions over the last two or three years is quite a bit. Then we have the (inexperienced) young guys, who will make positive impressions this season. I'm excited about that."
Is there a different way you have to approach coaching a young team?
"We have to make sure we feed them dinner every night (laughs). We don't know what they're going to get (to eat)."
Do you mean that you have to watch over them a little closer?
"That's the thing. It's really important that we have guys that grow up the right way. The class from last year is still feeling its way through it, with John Ross and Joe Mixon in particular, who were taken at the top. Jordan Evans, Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, and Brandon Wilson etc. — some of those guys are more mature and handle some of the day-to-day things more than others. We have to do a really good job. Willy (CB William Jackson), who is in his third year (is another young player). That's part of it, but when you work through it you reap the benefit of it."
The average experience for starters is about five years. The roster seems like it's got a good blend to it…
"It might be five years, but it's probably five (years) times 16 (games), so whatever that is. They've played a lot of NFL football. It's not like they've stood around. They've been out there and playing."