Ship shape

Jeff Friday

The call invariably comes at around 11:30 a.m. at their desks.

Either Jay Gruden, the Bengals offensive coordinator, calls Paul Guenther, or Gruden calls Paulie G., the assistant secondary coach. On this day, Guenther punches the phone and hears Gruden growl.

"Let's go; time to go," Guenther says, recalling the day before Gruden complained during their daily workout that he ran out of gas because he didn't eat breakfast. "Did you eat? No running out of gas today."

Gruden growls goodbye and Guenther lights up with a triumphant smile.

"He'll be over," Guenther says. "lt's easier to get it going when you get a couple of guys doing it together. And don't kid yourself. We're talking football while we're doing it."

If their players are bonding in their voluntary voluntaries across town, the Bengals coaches are getting in some of their own in Camp Friday, head coach Marvin Lewis' brainchild that is an effort to help his coaches get through the lockout in improved physical shape under the direction of assistant strength coach Jeff Friday. The new 51 is 41 if you're defensive line coach Jay Hayes, and as Paulie G. approaches his 40th birthday he says it's the best he's felt since he set the Ursinus College career tackles record.

It turns out that Friday is armed with enough facts and exercises that would suit any business on Elm Street. Each guy may be on different plans, but it is built on blending cardiovascular work and strength training with the idea of building up the heart rate with interval work. The work can go anywhere from 20 seconds on up, but it has to be work.

"If you don't strength train, you will lose five to seven pounds of muscle per decade and that is going to reduce your metabolism by two to five percent," Friday says. "What we're trying to do is increase their metabolism to burn calories. That's the whole premise: provide strength and endurance in workout form and educate them so they know what to do on their own when they're left to their own devices."

Leave it to Lewis to come up with something. The man who gave us the spring flings of the Bengals Olympics and the surprise trips to race tracks and amusement parks needs something to coach with no players allowed.  

"It evolved. Marvin initially wanted to do something nice for the coaches; for morale," says head strength coach Chip Morton. "But Jeff looked at it as an opportunity. Where, OK, we don't have any (players), let's work with the coaches. Their physical well being is going to impact their productivity. Marvin said let's look at it, let's get something going.'"

Lewis saw some more team bonding at his Learning Is Cool achievement awards ceremony for Cincinnati Public Schools students Saturday morning at PBS as offered in cornerback Rico Murray's tweet: "big whit, Andy "the future" Dalton, Leon Hall, and everybody in here for Learning is Cool."

Now there is also some similar camaraderie in the coaches locker room at the end of the lunch-time workouts.

"We're kind of looking at each other and we're looking at our age at that point," Hayes says. "We might say to each other, 'Did you ever think you'd get this old? Did you ever think you'd get this out of shape?' "

Guenther says it's like after the second practice of training camp when "our legs are dead and the sweat is pouring off us. But now we're not out there at practice running around for two hours. You forget about that."

There may be a lockout, but the coaches are still putting in the hours even though they don't get the players on the field for about a dozen days in May and June. They're watching more tape and expanding their game-planning as well as looking at more college and veteran free agents on the computer screen. And Morton and Friday are constantly tweaking each potential schedule with each lockout headline, as well as their usual offseason agenda of visits and research.

But in the current schedule, Friday can now consistently get them for the lunch hour and consistency is everything on the workout trail.

"They never have much time once the season gets going, if any," Friday says. "The key is to get them doing something for any amount of time. They're coming off the field and they've got to go through tape or meet with the players before they go home. But if they can get just 10 minutes to get something going …"

Hayes and Guenther are doing separate deals. Hayes is in the weight room with guys like quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese and assistants David Lippincott and Kyle Caskey while Guenther, Gruden and wide receivers coach James Urban are off doing video workouts known as "Insanity," cousin of last year's wildly popular "P90X."

"We go into the players lounge, clear it out, put the tape in the big screen and go," Guenther says. "After you warm up and stretch for seven minutes and get the heart rate up, you keep going for almost 55 minutes. You look on the tape and most of the people are in their mid-20s and that kind of gets you going. Our whole thing is what we call 'keeping the lamp lit.' No matter what happens, you have to keep the lamp lit. If one of us has our hands on his knees, someone else has to be moving to keep the lamp lit."

Other coaches do their own grinds, such as the StairMaster Darrin Simmons, the treadmiller Jim Anderson, the long-sleeved runner Kevin Coyle, the street biker Jon Hayes. No one quite knows what Lewis does or when.

"As long as I've known Marv since he's been coaching, he gets up early to work out. He'll get up at four or five," says Jay Hayes, his boyhood friend. "I think he gets on the treadmill or the elliptical and takes it pretty seriously. He's run a marathon before."

Marathon is a good word here. The biggest idea behind the program is educating the guys for the long haul of life. And it goes beyond workouts.

"Much of it is nutrition, 80 percent of it is diet," Friday says. "A lot of it is sleep, too, and that's real tough during the season."

Morton: "There is research out there that shows lack of sleep leads directly to weight gain."

So Morton and Friday have supplemented their workouts with e-mail tips about diet and rest, but it's all pretty simple.

"We recommend 42-minute walks three times a week at a brisk pace. That's four miles an hour on the treadmill ," Friday says. "In addition, there should be two 15-to-20 minute strength training sessions per week. It doesn't have to be much. Start with dumbbells. Each guy takes it and goes with what fits him. It could be as simple as a guy going outside to take a walk and maybe we only see him three times a week. It depends."

Jay Hayes, for instance, has been logging various grinding 20-to-30 minute circuits daily in the weight room. He doesn't want to know how much weight he's lifting or pulling, but one day last week he did eight dead lifts while in between getting on the aerodynamic bike for 20 second bursts in getting the RPMs up to 85. He did that four times. After a rest, he moved to doing squats with weights, interspersed with jump-roping for 20 seconds and 10 seconds off four times. After another rest, he did six reps of pushups while prone on the ground and arms extended flat along with drills that required him to pull his entire body weight.

"It doesn't sound hard, but trust me," says Hayes, who played for a few seasons in the USFL and had some NFL camp stints. "It's all relative. A guy like Carlos Dunlap (the second-year defensive end) would laugh at this. But for a 51-year-old man, it's a pretty good workout. It's definitely made a difference. I feel better and people notice. I've lost between 10 to 15 pounds. I'd say it's the best I've felt since I was in my early 40s."

At 43, Zampese is there now and he's been a whirlwind in circuits. An extremely tough pickup basketball player, he's given it up because he worries about tearing an Achilles. But he's filled the void. One day last week he could be seen doing a circuit that was more endurance-based as he threw around heavy ropes in between abdominal work.

"Ten seconds of rest, 20 seconds of work, and he did 10 rounds of that. He was probably in there for 40 minutes," Friday says. "He's come a long way. He first started with two rounds, now he can't stop."

So for the past month you can hear some chatter around the halls.

"What did you do today?" is the big question after lunch. Or, the Insanity guys may tell Hayes, "Oh, we had it tougher today," and Hayes will say, "I don't know about that."

But the football never stops. While Guenther, Gruden and Urban are keeping the lamp lit, Guenther is asking them about nickel safety blitzes.

"Do you check into a seven-man protection?" Guenther might ask in between the agony.

There's also a battle of the bands, just like there is with the players because the circuit workouts require everyone to hear the horn. So you have to listen to what's on the system and not your iPod and these days the Dave Matthews band has been jockeying with '70s Funk.

"Just do something. Anything. And these guys have done a great job with their consistency," Friday says.

In the middle of one of his circuits a few weeks ago, Jay Hayes thought there was a visitor staring into the room.

"It was Marvin," he says. "He had a little smile."

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