SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga had a message for head coach Marvin Lewis last week.
"I told him I didn't want any surprises. I told him I didn't want to be shocked," Maualuga said Tuesday night. "I told him if he left, he'd have to take me with him. I can't put it into words how good it is to have him back. He's experienced, he's got a passion for the game, he's a hell of a coach. He keeps us rolling."
The Bengals that could be tracked down Tuesday night felt the Lewis re-signing is the first step in solidifying a shot at the playoffs after losing seven games by seven points or less. But left tackle Andrew Whitworth also challenged his teammates because there is only so much coaches can do.
"I think it's a great move and that Marvin is a great coach," Whitworth said. "And I'm not taking away the importance of the coach. But there has to be a point when there are guys acting like they have their own set of rules and want to go their own way, the other players have to show leadership and accountability by setting them straight and telling them they're no different than the rookie free agent or the 53rd player. In the NFL, only the players can do that. Players have to do that in the locker room."
There are concerns in the locker room about some examples of double standards, but a lot of that looks like it is going to be moot with wide receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco not expected to return. Lewis indicated Tuesday that discipline was discussed with Bengals president Mike Brown and management this week. While he knows he has the freedom to fine and bench players, Lewis has used it more effectively in the last three years and said he thinks the concerns about the effects have been reduced.
"Mike's always been in those things," Lewis said. "He just wants me to look at both sides of it."
Asked if he thinks the players know he has the clout to wield discipline, Lewis said, "There's no doubt about that."
And there's no doubt that they are still listening to him. The big fear about a coach staying on so long is the players start to tune him out. But Lewis' reputation as a motivator grew during the 4-12 season as the Bengals' effort belied a team on a 10-game losing streak.
The numbers in the weight room went up instead of down. Veterans like Cedric Benson and Bobbie Williams had their best lifting days of the seasons the last week of the season. Even though the unseasonably cold weather made it miserable to practice and play, and the defensive injuries piled up, most observers raved about hard the players went during the week and how they never checked out of any games when it was clear they were out of the playoffs.
Informed of the move Tuesday night, cornerback Johnathan Joseph said it was the best news he's had all day.
"I know players will say that we already got our No. 1 acquisition this offseason," Joseph said. "Going forward, that's great news. If you look at how hard we played down the stretch, it obviously showed that guys still want to play for him. He's got a good way about him. He coaches you, but he'll also joke around with you a little bit in the locker room."
Whitworth, the Bengals rep to the NFL Players Association, applauded the stability of the move in the maw of the uncertainty of the labor situation with a collective bargaining agreement that expires March 4.
"Marvin brings a lot to the table," Whitworth said. "He knows a lot about the game. He loves to coach. He loves to be around it and the players. He's good at what he does. Obviously, the guy knows so much about defense, it's great to listen to him talk about it. He works us and I think it shows we want to play for him."
Quarterback Carson Palmer sent word through the Bengals public relations department that he would decline to talk to the media Tuesday.