PHOENIX, Ariz. — Transcript of Tuesday's media availability with Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis at the NFL meetings. Transcribed by Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com and Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer:
Why did (the players) ban tweeting during training camp?
ML: The young guys don't understand that no one really cares what you're doing. Bottom line is who cares?
Through the draft process, how much are you into it?
ML: About where I usually am.
Defense this time?
ML: No, you can't be a creature of habit. Reverse your order.
The thinking is you'll add another dynamic back to go with BenJarvus Green-Ellis:
ML: I would imagine at some point in this draft we'll draft a running back like we have in the last two. I can't tell you when that's going to be.
Benny turn out to be a sold signing?
ML: Benny did everything we expected of him. Both on the field and off the field. I think he was an uplifting guy to the rest of the team and a great role model for the younger players just how he goes about his business.
Got an Andre Smith update?
Are there Andre Smith talks?
ML: I don't know that. I imagine. I'm not in charge of that.
Lions last team to play the Wide 9?
ML: It's not a defense. They put a guy in a wide 9 alignment at times.
Nobody does that anymore:
ML: That's not true. I think we had some 70 snaps of it in last year. We were very productive when we got our guys in those situations. It's an alignment.
How do you see the NFC North?
ML: The Lions had a fantastic year two years ago, not quite where they wanted to be last year. Green Bay is a good solid football team all the time. Minnesota has a great back, made a great playoff run, plays great defense, the offense is still young and growing with the quarterback. Chicago is going through a little bit of a transition, but they won 10 games. There's a lot to be said of the teams in that division. It will be a great challenge for us.
What is the big takeaway from last season?
ML: That we need to be more consistent in making first downs and being productive and run the football and do those things as much as we can.
The Andre Smith thing unsettling?
ML: Nothing's unsettled for me. It will happen when it happens and if not we'll move and get another guy.
You would have liked to have had this done by now?
ML: Yeah. I think Andre would have liked to have had this done by now most importantly.
Part of your philosophy is keeping your own:
ML: We've got some emerging young players and we want to keep them moving forward rather than go back and try to train someone else. You don't know quite what you're inheriting some times. You go through a transition period unless you're taking them directly out of something that you're doing. You're re-training. You're going through the whole emotional process of it.
You're one of the few coaches that's been in one place for a long time. What is it about the profession not allowing more people to be more like you?
ML: The biggest thing is the fact you look around and everything happens instantly. We live in a society that has changed and everything is so instantaneous. But football teams are built on chemistry, there's got be a lot of camaraderie and things like that and if you keep changing players out you really don't have an opportunity to build. You've got to keep growing guys. You're going to always have a certain veteran player that can help accentuate or complement what you have. You're going to have some holes. Be it through injury, or free-agent loss, so there are going to be things like that that occur, but for the most part you want to keep guys together for as much as you can and work towards the future. They build a certain bond, a certain chemistry. Last year we had a hole at running back and we went and got BenJarvus. We feel like we had to make a change there. For the most part you have to have continuity. We've had great continuity on my coaching staff and that's been a good thing. The guys live in a fine city they enjoy living in. They've watched their kids grow up. We have kids who went to elementary school and they're graduating from high school going off to college and you look at that for the coaches. When you have that kind of stability, it's a good situation.
What do you tell a younger guy coming in now?
ML: The grass isn't necessarily greener. We have 32 clubs and everyone of them, I imagine, has their pluses and minuses. It's relationships with people you've worked with before and the people underneath you on down and you have to build on those relationships and foster them. But we're in a profession built on winning and the ultimate is you're here to be Super Bowl champions and that's what this is all about
How long will you stay?
ML: I don't know. We want to win a championship. That's our goal. It's 2013 now and it's time to pass the torch. Keep it it in this division and let's win one.
Can you talk about the maturity of Vontaze Burfict?
ML: All that he went through, I guess leading up to the draft and the disappointment of not getting drafted, it led him to self –analysis a little bit, look in the mirror a little bit. One of the things he did a good job of is through the process of his preparation, even though he didn't excel at it, he got himself in better condition, better shape, he lost weight and eventually that paid off for him.
What did you see at the workout at ASU?
ML: He told me he wasn't going to run the 40 and I told him that was a mistake. I thought he should run the 40. He didn't run very well in Indianapolis. When we go into the process we want to see guys work and compete as much as we can. Beyond that what he did, he was very supportive of the rest of the guys when he went through things. He did a pretty good job with movement and working out. He had already lost some weight than what he was in Indianapolis. It was literally this week a year ago. I was just trying to help him for him more than anything else. I didn't know we would re-unite again.
Do you feel you've been a mentor?
ML: I think I've been a coach, I don't know about a mentor. I think I've been around people that have an opportunity to mentor him. From opening up the first week against Baltimore and talking to Ray (Lewis) about him. I've tried to give him an opportunity to people that can be helpful to him.
Do you think you'll move Vontaze to the middle?
ML: I never said we would move him to the middle before. I don't know that. I would doubt it.
The Ravens weren't defensively dominant like they were in 2000. Is this what the league is looking at? We'll never have another 2000 Ravens or '85 Bears?
ML: There'll be a dominant defense that comes back into play and have an opportunity to win a championship. That can still play out. Opening up the season, Baltimore was playing very dominant defense and then they lost some guys to injuries and certain things. We saw them at their finest. The first and last game of the season. I saw them at their finest. I think the opportunity for a dominant defense is there. It takes continuity, though, because defense is so much about 15, 16 guys working and playing together. They were without guys through their season and it's a little more difficult.
The read option, people are spending more time on it:
ML: It's disciplined football. If you look at when option football was prevalent in college football, Air Force, Wyoming at one point back in the WAC…BYU was lighting it up throwing the ball, but they would dedicate two weeks in spring practice every year playing option football. Now we're saying as coaches, just like we take spread and no-back formations and we spend time on them. We spend time on unbalanced lines. We spend time on different personnel groups. Now we have to take a segment on the read option philosophy and get our guys to click in. OK, here we go read option now. So you can't run up the field to get the quarterback. Everyone has job responsibilities. You have to do your job based on front, coverage and pressure. For some of these guys getting paid $10 million to rush the quarterback, that's a change. They're not used to doing that. But it is about winning and you have to go win that down and win that day.
Do you spend time with that in the offseason and training camp?
ML: I don't know if we'll have to do much of it in the offseason, but the way he offseason is set up we'll be to take a segment where Mike (Zimmer) can go through when we're in the class room the first couple of weeks when we're in phase one and just go through and talk about it so it gets them to think about it. It gives them something to do. Otherwise they're sitting there bored. It's no different than what we have to do for the 3-4. We take segments of training camp where we have to give our offense a 3-4 defense. We've got to give them a Pittsburgh look on defense. Then we get the schedule, then I can see how quickly we have to get into that. Just like we used to do when I started in the NFL with the run and-shoot. Houston and Atlanta were running the run and shoot. We would take time in the offseason and training camp, where we go through those principles and get everyone on the same page.
How do you define a physical team?
ML: Physical means finish, fourth quarter, the mental toughness. I think it's a work ethic. There's more than just words. How you go about your approach, preparation for a game. It's really a culture more than anything. And for the most what happened with our team is through the offseason of the lockout the big guys up front took over the team. They want to be a physical group. So when you bring in young guys, last year we had the young guard and center (rookies Kevin Zeitler and Trevor Robinson) that played for us. On defense, unfortunately, the guys didn't get to play as much. I guess that was a good thing because we stayed healthy. Devon Still and Brandon Thompson have to learn how to be physical and tough. They got a little peek at it, they got their toe into it. It's for tough people. Disciplined and tough people to do it right all the time.
Part of it has to be scheme and defensive mentality and offensively you have to run the ball:
ML: You have to run the football effectively and that's what benny brought to us. More consistently. Even when we weren't doing things ripping and roaring up the field for 100 yards early in the season, we were much better on short yardage and goal line. That mentality was a different mentality. That was something that he felt so good about, that was something he excelled with at the Patriots, so when he came to Cincinnati it was the one thing he got excited about because he was used to being very good at that in New England. That was his forte.
How physical is your division?
ML: It's very physical. I think when we play the crossover everybody realizes how physical it is and it's built on two big behomath quarterbacks in the division and then our little guy. Weeden's a big guy. You've always had big receivers. (Antonio) Brown, you've got some speed guys. You got A.J. (Green ) to contend with. You got the guys in Cleveland. They're big stature guys. The tight ends are all physical kids. And the defenses. Pittsburgh led the NFL in defense again last year. Cleveland, the last two years before they made the change, were in the top 12-15 each year. You know where Baltimore is going to be and our guys have played well. And the kicking games are good. All the teams have had effective returners. It's not a day off on fourth down. You've got to be alert, you've got to be prepared and ready to play.
The NFC North has a rep for being physical:
ML: There's no question Minnesota. It remains to be what Chicago will be. I hope we don't play them in the first couple of weeks. Detroit is built a little differently. You've got a very gifted wide receiver and a great tight end. The quarterback is tough kid who stands in there and throws the ball. And now Reggie Bush will add a different element. The thing about Green Bay is they can be aso effective at running the ball because you're scared to death about them throwing it and spreading you all over the lot. When they've been great they've been pretty efficient at it.
You know Mike McCarthy from way back and the Packers were criticized for not being physical enough. For a Pittsburgh guy he didn't like hearing that very much. When you do have that kind of passing game and don't run the ball a ton, does that make it little bit tougher:
ML: I don't know who they started the year with as their back. But I know at some point they put Ced (Benson) in there and he broke his foot. They overcame that a couple of years. In fact, they overcame that the year they won the Super Bowl and they were playing with (John) Kuhn at times and he was doing it. Defensively they had some injuries again in that front group. … When you start missing the pieces like that, then, yeah you step down a touch. Their quarterback is one of the best in the National Football League. Not all because he can throw it, but what he'll do running with his legs. He'll make the first down or make the play. We played them last preseason and he takes it for a 20-yard touchdown. I'm sure it hurt Mike, but we all suck unless you win.
The way the rules are set up would seem to prevent the dominating defenses:
ML: The biggest change is the ability to take a receiver off the ball. Your target area has to be lower. That's a little bit of a difference. Other than that I don't think much has changed. That's been the biggest change. And it's working. Guys are playing differently. Other than that I don't see a great change.
Does it do your heart good to see teams in the NFC West have that physical mentality?
ML: Yeah, tough as hell. San Francisco is just so physical and Seattle with the way they run the ball. Physical teams. I was talking to BenJarvus early in our preseason and I said, 'What's going on up with your old guys?' He said, 'They've been spending a lot of time running the football.' And that's what they did so well this year. We did that. When we were 3-1 we weren't running the ball very effectively. We lost four in a row and we were running it worse. When we were winning again, it's because we went back to what you know and that's you have to productively run the football. The games we lost the last half of the year is because we didn't run the ball as productively as we should have.
How important is the running game getting Andy Dalton to where you want him to be?
ML: It takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback when he's able to manage the down and distances. It can slow the rush down, it puts different people on the field at times and it's the quarterback's best friend.
How big of a year is this for Andy?
ML: Andy just needs to keep being Andy. He doesn't have to worry about anything that anybody says. Anybody that plays that position …
That's not what (Jay) Gruden said:
ML: All he said is that Andy just needs to grow. He didn't make a headline.
What does Andy have to do to get the wolves off?
ML: We as a football team need to win, win the division, get in the playoffs and win playoff games.
How does he do that?
ML: He just has to keep playing and doing his thing. It's not his fault.
What makes you think you can be successful with the status quo if Burfict stays at his spot and Rey Maualuga stays at his spot?
ML: Because we're very comfortable how we played on defense and all we do is keep getting better with those kids. Rey had to manage kinder care out there and he did a good managing it.
Have you seen growth from Maualuga?
ML: Oh yeah. I saw a great deal of growth through his play and development last season and within the season which is hard to do for guys.
Is he one of those guys who needs to stop listening to fans and media?
ML: He needs to stop listening to you guys (media). Twitter will be good too.
He seems to be his own worst enemy:
ML: He has been that way from the start. He worries too much. Unfortunately too many people get in his ear. For being supposedly a big, tough guy he just is concerned about people liking him and he doesn't need to do that."
Where is he improving?
ML: Being able to keep playing through his responsibilities. When he needs to read out, play things vertically where we need to in the pass lanes. He does a good job of that. He just has to keep growing.
Then how comes he gets brunt of fan anger:
ML: Because they look at some dumb Web site that doesn't have any idea of what football is. The same Web site that two years ago that rated Kelly Jennings the best tackling corner in the NFL. These people who aren't football, they are trying to be critical. We'll be as critiquing of Rey as we need to be; we don't need any help.
Tuck rule thoughts:
ML: We have so many continuing action plays. It's a different scope. Because of the evolution of replay and putting turnovers into automatic reviews. It just seemed like an easier transition to make right now. If you polled this room, 97 would have though it was a fumble. It was put in before for player safety but it is not being ruled as that. There's a mad scramble for the ball.
What took so long?
ML: It was because of the change in replay basically. For the officials and the guys on the field they felt like was something that would help clean up for them.
State of AFC North?
ML: Baltimore had a plan, they didn't take any hits. They drafted guys that they are going to put in place to fill their voids. It wasn't a surprise to them. They knew at some point they weren't going to be able to pay all of those guys at the top of the ledger and at every spot. Probably Flacco threw a monkey wrench into it, but the plan was in place. We know how good Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland are year after year. Cleveland was so improved a year ago and know they're starting again. I know the other ones to my East will be very good.
How do you feel about your team?
ML: When we get back to work on April 15 we have to put our heads down and shut the door and be ourselves. We'll have a better resolve, with the flux of the young guys we had. The team continues to mature but from the ground up which is good.
Thoughts on Billy Davis:
ML: He got his start with us in Pittsburgh in '92. He was a bright, young guy who took everything in even though he had not been a defensive player. He soaked everything up. He's had an opportunity to be his coordinator now a third time. He's learned a lot as far as dealing with people and schemes.
What do you remember from Pittsburgh?
ML: Hard working guy who is smart. He took everything in and be a good coach.
In terms of training camp, what are the advantages of having it at your facility relative to going away:
ML: I thought last year our move back to Cincinnati was effective because our technology was such was that we didn't have to move that infrastructure an hour south that we were better served. Our players if they were sitting here eating dinner they could watch practice on their iPads. They already had the installation for that night. I don't know if we could have kept the infrastructure back up there. For me I had much more productivity. It worked well with where we were housed (in a hotel) and everything we did meals wise. From the business side for the club it was what they were looking for. Fan wise people love it, we combined a lot of things with the Reds. I'm sure we will have to do that again because I look at their home schedule and in the first four weeks of training camp they have two long homestands. We'll be in that same situation again because we never conflicted with them. If they had a day game, we had a night practice and so forth. We didn't want to give fans an option where they had to choose one over the other.
Seems like more teams are doing it at their complex:
ML: With only practicing once a day you don't have the wear and tear. One of the reasons why teams went away was to not wear out their own facilities in terms of the fields and now with only being able to practice once a day you don't have to worry about that. With the camaraderie of going away we were still able to gather that by staying in a hotel. We still had a lounge on each floor and things like that. We'll improve on what we had in terms of our infrastructure in the stadium as far as shuttling guys back and forth. It was a little easier and it worked well.
Any changes at all?
ML: I haven't got that far but there won't be any major changes.
So still same number of stadium practices (six):
ML: I'll fight to keep that the same. It's hard to be out there on the turf when it is 110 degrees and 80 percent humidity. It's hard to put them on the fieldturf because it is 16-17 degrees warmer. We'll try to still limit that exposure. For the fans it's a better atmosphere for them but for the players it is a better experience when we are on the grass (on the practice fields)."
Still practicing 3-5 in the afternoon the practice fields?
ML: Probably still the same.
The Niners are talking about using Dan Skuta (former Bengals linebacker) as a fullback. What type of fullback is he?
ML: We tried that. Dan will try anything he gets out on the field to do.
What type of player are they getting?
ML: Hard trying and great kid.
Bengals and Reds have been to the playoffs twice in three years but there is the local perception that you aren't trying hard to get guys and that just getting to the playoffs is good enough:
ML: It's not good enough for anyone. We're not satisfied at all. That can be a perception. There was a perception they never got to the playoffs now there is the perception we are satisfied with it. Someone is putting words in people's mouths again.
Thoughts on Mike Wallace going to the Dolphins:
ML: He's got great vertical speed. You have to be conscious of where he was. They used him effectively on reverses.
Of all the guys the Eagles signed two years ago who would have thought that the most effective would end up being Evan Mathis?
ML: I thought Evan did a great job. There are things that have helped Evan and he did a good job for us. He had an opportunity to go over there and be a fulltime starter and it has worked out for him.
The scheme catered to his strengths:
ML: He's 20 pounds heavier, he's a totally different guy. We felt like had that upside. He's a smart guy, tough guy, good guy. Just talking to him out there before the game this year. He came out as an early draft pick. He got a chance to start a lot (in 2009) and then not play a lot the next year. He had some stuff going on off the field but then he was able to get to a good spot and everything fell into place which is great.
Thoughts on penalty for offensive players lowering the crown of their helmet:
ML: We were never taught as a coach or player to lower your head. You were taught to keep your head and eyes up. When we start hitting at the top of the head guys were worried about breaking their necks. I think this is something that no one has ever coached. You want to protect the player as much as you can."
There is some worry that you are overlegislating:
ML: I don't have any concern."
You guys have spent $30M in cap money since March 1 but you get ripped for not being active:
ML: Everyone wants you to go out and sign someone else's player. How many guys have made an impact in their first year of signing? We are better served to continue with our guys and are not sitting there with a particular huge void and go forward with our players and keep getting them better as much as we can. Literally had the timeline on some of these things gone different we would have been able to do other things. The one thing that happens a little bit is waived guys fell into place right away. Secondly one particularly big deal that isn't quite done yet gets other deals gummed up. Then what the fans should understand is you have a second wave of guys that need to get done prior to the completion of this season or you are going to go through the same situation again, so hopefully these all fit."
Can you at least see the fans frustration that in 2005-07 you went down the path of re-signing guys but only went to the playoffs one year (and lost to Pittsburgh)? Maybe it's the more one and dones that the frustration continues to build:
ML: I think it would be. The '05 team was a different group, they hadn't won anything before and all of a sudden guys started to think they were the reason why and started to beat their chest and write books.
But also different group of fan expectations:
ML: The ability to continue to grow. The unfortunate part about that is in 2006 you don't expect David Pollack to break his neck, from the '04 draft never have Chris Perry come back from his ankle injury. In '07 you have the Kenny Irons knee injury. Then we had to go back into the market and supplement that with different guys. We don't have that situation now. We've reached out to some of those guys that other teams have signed but they look at our team and wonder why they would come here. It's not that we didn't reach out but people look at our situation and see they can go to other teams because there are openings there. It's not as easy as people think (signing players) because they can step in elsewhere."
Where are you with the other (free agents Adam Jones and Terence Newman)?
ML: We're in good shape, hopefully they get done quickly. Just anxious to get finished."
Thoughts on Jason Allen:
ML: I thought Jason got off to a good start with us. He was going to get an opportunity to play because the other guys were injured. Then when he gets his chance to play he injures himself. He gets a chance to play for a couple of weeks then guys come back. He didn't get a great opportunity to show much other than initially in training camp where Adam was hurt, Dre was hurt, we were giving Leon a day off and we were giving Jason the majority of snaps."
Any thoughts on Miami's free agency?
ML: Nope, I don't. It's not my business.
Where is Travelle Wharton right now in coming back from his knee injury?
ML: He's been in Cincinnati training. He's had a good recovery.
Competition with him and Clint (Boling)?
ML: We feel good about what Clint has done and see how things would shake out. Travelle has played both guard and tackle in his career so we had some position flexibility with him.
Jerome Simpson, how were you able to tap into his potential?
ML: Jerome is a great kid and has tremendous physical tools. He just probably needs to continue in a system and keep growing. He never got an opportunity to play. The deck was so stacked in front of him that he didn't get a real opportunity to play.
Looking back what do you think this group needs to get over the hump:
ML: I think as coaches we have to do a better job of getting our guys to perform in the critical moments out there in the game the way they perform and practice. There has to be a calmness to it but a confidence level and a determination to get it done. If I get it done my way the guy next to me is going to get it done. We had a great week of preparation before Houston and we didn't go down there and do things right."
Indoor practice field progress?
ML: I'm not concerned about that. It's not a factor in us at all. If weather gets such that we have to move we have that option available to us.
You guys faced Reggie Bush last year, how do you scheme against a guy like that?
ML: I thought Reggie had his most productive year as a back last year. He was better as a runner. They way they used him was good.
You were kind of connected to him (in free agency). Is he another guy you came in and saw he wasn't going to get the 25 touches:
ML: Everything Reggie has said he wanted to go somewhere and be the guy."
Wouldn't he have been here?
ML: He would have been in conjunction with Bennie which realistically is what every back is. There are few men that can take that beating for 16 games.
Had one guy pounding the ball where it might be better with two. Maybe average more yards per carry:
ML: For a back to average 4.5 yards per carry you have to have the proper blockers and schematics. What we're saying is a guy who can make a guy miss and avoid more, we want to have a guy like that. We got a guy like Bernard but he got injured. That's the way it goes."
How is Mohamed Sanu ahead in his second year?
ML: He has such a great understanding of the game. The guy is really such a mature player for a guy his age. This is a guy I remember meeting with at the Combine and I can see why everyone was so drawn to him throughout the process. He's a great football player. Hell, he could start for us at free safety if he wanted to. He's a complete player. We're playing that last preseason game in Indianapolis and Marvin (Jones) is returning punts and gets injured. We put Mo back there and it was like he had been doing it for us all through training camp. It's not too big for him. That's the exciting part for having a guy like that. We've got a real weapon. We were so fortunate to be able to draft him where we did because he's got ability level above that. We felt like Mo was a better game player than practice player.
Thoughts on Manny Lawson:
ML: Great length, great kid and will work extremely hard.
Marvin Jones, Sanu, A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins those four never were on the field for one practice:
ML: 15 minutes, then Mo broke his foot.
Have to feel good about that:
ML: We'll draft one. That's the thing. We're going to end up with three, likely four, starting-caliber players early in the draft.
Which is another reason you are not going hog wild in free agency:
ML: We're going to add those guys (through the draft). We're going to add to the talent pool and it's going to be exciting. They all aren't going to start. One or two might. Just what I know it could be a linebacker, receiver, defensive end, running back, safety. Every position wherever we're picking we're going to add some good guys.