9-30-03, 6:30 a.m.
9-30-03, 8:30 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Marvin Lewis set the tone for his administration back in January when he couldn't hide his displeasure with his early conversations with linebacker Takeo Spikes.
Lewis set the tone for Sunday's game against Spikes' Bills in Buffalo at his Monday news conference when asked the first of what will be an infinite number of questions about him this week.
"Yeah," Lewis said. "I think Takeo plays linebacker for the Buffalo Bills."
Spikes pretty much fired back in Buffalo at about the same time without knowing what Lewis said. Asked if he wanted to prove he was worth the money, Spikes told the Buffalo media he would let his play speak for itself.
Spikes has always been upset the Bengals came at him with what he thought was a lukewarm offer before last season's training camp. But in the end, it really didn't come down to money because it's no secret Bengals President Mike Brown probably would have held true to form and matched the Bills' six-year, $32 million offer sheet back in March.
But Lewis opted to take what amounted to Spikes' $11 million bonus and cashed it in for up-front money for new defensive starters Kevin Hardy, John Thornton, and Tory James.
In the end, Spikes didn't want to wait around for Lewis' rebuilding efforts after winning 19 games in the five years after the Bengals took him with the 13th pick in the 1998 draft.
Spikes' close friend, Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson, summed up the split best: "Takeo couldn't predict the future, and Marvin couldn't look into the past. . . Two guys who didn't really know each (other's) situation."
When the Bengals didn't match Buffalo's offer sheet, fellow linebacker and '98 first-round classmate Brian Simmons allowed, "It's like Who Dey is leaving town, the team mascot."
And, in the end, Lewis and Spikes got what they
both wanted. Lewis got to send a powerful message to the locker room right away that it didn't matter who it was, if you didn't want to jump on board, he'd move on. Spikes, who lobbied hard to get out after Lewis took the job, got to become the centerpiece of a perennial playoff contender.
"I think Marvin did him a favor," said quarterback Jon Kitna. "He didn't want to be here anymore. He wanted to get a new start. We lost a great caliber football player, but we like the team we have here. You don't want guys here that just dread coming into work and dread being on the team. You don't want that."
The first two weeks were certainly what Spikes had hoped and prayed for as the Bills rolled to victories and he was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week in the opener with two interceptions. But the last two weeks have been losses, and his presence that has dominated the Buffalo media since he arrived took center stage again Monday.
He didn't talk after Sunday's loss to the Eagles. On Monday, he cited some of his post-game outbursts early in his Cincinnati career that he didn't like how they looked in the paper on some Monday mornings.
He didn't have much to say this Monday about the impending matchup, and he couldn't be reached for comment. But he'll probably be around Wednesday. Spikes has already done three of the Bills' four opposing media conference calls.
"It's big; it's real big," Spikes said. "Just to know where I've come from, knowing where I'm at now, and knowing where I want to go, that's how big an emotional game this game is going to be for me."
Anderson has told his teammates not to talk to Spikes. He warned them after Sunday's victory in Cleveland that he would be calling. Presto, Spikes was on the horn to defensive tackle Tony Williams when he couldn't get an answer from Anderson.
"He's the same person I am," Anderson said. "He's looking for information. . .I called him a couple of weeks ago when he got mad I wasn't calling him back."
They're still tight. Both live in Atlanta during the offseason. They vacationed in Puerto Rico recently. "When February comes, we'll kick it again," Anderson said. They talked all through training camp, but then Anderson wanted to cool it.
But he's been watching. He saw the opener.
"It's like the media was waiting for him to get out of here," Anderson said. "They didn't want to bestow that on anybody in Cincinnati. Corey (Dillon) is one of the top backs in the league, but still, his name is not as prestigious as other guys, and he's had 1,200 yards every year he's been here."
Anderson said Spikes couldn't foresee some of the wide-ranging power Lewis would have as the head coach and that Brown would allow him to implement so many of the massive changes.
"I tell him and he says, 'That's good. That's good. It's better here," Anderson said. "He'll say, 'We've got this. We've got this in Buffalo.' That's Takeo."
BLITZES AND BOMBS:** Wide receiver Chad Johnson continues to lead the AFC in receiving with 370 yards. . .Look for ramifications on right guard Matt O'Dwyer's holding call in the fourth quarter. He has been alternating quarters with Mike Goff, but it appeared that Lewis made a change after the play. . .Quarterback Jon Kitna on backup running back Rudi Johnson: "He's a down-hill runner. His legs are powerful. He looks like a tree stump. He made some runs yesterday where he got four yards and he was fighting through contact at the line of scrimmage." . . .
HAMMER DOWN:** The Bengals haven't won back-to-back games since the last two of 2001, and have done it five times in the last five years in gaining the reputation as a team that slacked off with success. The last time they won two straight on the road in the same season? 1995 under Dave Shula, when they won three in a row in Pittsburgh, Houston, and Jacksonville.
That was the year before right tackle Willie Anderson arrived. During Anderson's stint, coach Bruce Coslet was criticized for occasionally giving players Monday off after victories. Dick LeBeau didn't do it much, but clearly handling a win has been as difficult to handle as a loss. Marvin Lewis left no doubt where he stood Monday when he still broke down on video certain plays of all three phases in front of the team.
"He actually got on a lot of guys about certain things," Anderson said. "That's how he runs his business. It's one win. We came into today and did the same thing when we lost. He told us as a group everything that needs to be fixed."
Lewis made sure he didn't dwell on his first NFL win.
"We moved on at about 1:35 in that (meeting) room today, when I went through the film and showed that we are not the '68 Packers yet," Lewis said. "It's always going to be that way.
"The hammer went down yesterday at the end of the football game. All that did was give us more legitimacy to what we're doing. The better you practice, the better you play. When we play well, we're going to practice harder the next week. We're not going to ease up. We're not where we need to be," Lewis said.
STUNTS AND SCREENS:** Marvin Lewis defended chatty wide receiver Chad Johnson, insisting he doesn't talk trash on the field, and chided the media for portraying it as such. Even though Johnson has gone out of his way to foster his image as a big-time trash talker.
"When that guy goes out and plays, he doesn't say a word," Lewis said. "You can keep writing that stuff, and people will get that impression, but that's not true. I'm on that sideline and that guy doesn't say a word. There is none of that stuff, and we're not going to be that kind of football team, and I really wish we would quit writing about it, because that's not how you play the game." . . .
But Lewis indicated he may be talking to Johnson about toning down his pre-game rhetoric after saying, "If guys have to go out and talk about what they are going to do, then they don't have much
confidence because they are trying to convince themselves they can do it. We don't need to be that kind of football team."
Asked if he would talk to Johnson about it, he said, "I'll talk to Chad about that," meaning it would be a private conversation if he does. . .
Lewis is trying to get his team to play with a swagger, so he's not all bent out of shape about last Sunday's celebrations that included Peter Warrick taking an imaginary picture of Johnson in the end zone, Johnson flexing his muscle, and defensive end Justin Smith "nailing the coffin," after sacking Browns quarterback Tim Couch.
"We want them to celebrate, but let's not have it planned out," Lewis said. "We want them to be happy. That's the point we made a couple of weeks ago at the Oakland game. There were too many times that guys were making plays and just going back to the huddle. Let's go pick our guy up and be happy about where we are with things, and lets get excited, because the other team feels that. You should have a swagger about yourself, but it's a confident thing. . .
Lewis said he wasn't pleased with his club's discipline after it took 60 yards on 11 penalties: "I don't think we handled it very well yesterday for the most part. One good thing is, we're not getting a lot of the pushing and things after the whistle. The personal foul penalties will kill you." . . .