MOBILE, Ala. - Marvin Lewis didn't take his ball and go home when he sat down with a couple of local scribes during Wednesday afternoon's South practice at the Reese's Senior Bowl.
Lewis gave a far reaching interview with Bengals.com and The Cincinnati Enquirer as he begins his 13th season as Bengals head coach in which he said team president Mike Brown is "leading the charge,' against the status quo and is looking at everything to upgrade the roster, including free agency.
He also put the onus on the NFL when it comes to the DeflateGate controversy immersing the AFC champion Patriots and he empathized with Bengals cornerbacks coach Vance Joseph after the club denied him permission to become the Broncos defensive coordinator as he recalled the day 19 years ago the Steelers didn't give him permission to interview with Bucs head coach Tony Dungy for the Tampa Bay defensive coordinator job
And he sounds resolved as ever to stick with quarterback Andy Dalton. Realizing that Dalton, Carson Palmer, and Jon Kitna have started all but 12 of his 198 games, Lewis said the club has no plans to bring in a backup quarterback to push Dalton.
"Fortunately, somehow I've got the right little thing on my shoulder that says, 'Don't get into a quarterback controversy,'" Lewis said. "That's worked from Jon to Carson to Andy. It's helped us have the success we've had and those guys have been good players, productive players. Even when they've left out of here they've been productive. It works.
"We have no problem with Andy Dalton as our quarterback. We don't have time to waste time with another QB. To not continue to press forward and get Andy better and to get whoever the backup quarterbacks are better. The quarterback competition. Where has it worked? It doesn't get you wins."
DEFLATEGATE: Lewis, a member of the NFL Competition Committee, shook his head when asked if Patriots head coach Bill Belichick should be suspended if found culpable in the deflation of the Pats' footballs last Sunday.
"Why? What did they do?" Lewis asked.
He says it's a league or procedural issue.
"The issue is in the championship game the footballs are turned over the officials and they are checked by the officials so I don't know — to me that's where the thing stems is the NFL," Lewis said. "I don't understand how this occurs when the balls are in the hands of the officials. To me, it's really, unless somebody from some of the clubs got access again to change the balls after that, then I don't know understand."
Lewis isn't sure how teams can get access to the football after they go to the officials.
"That's what I don't know. What I'm saying is it lies within the league. It's their responsibility. They are in the charge of the game," Lewis said. "The official balls are given at a certain point prior to the game to go out to the officials locker room or wherever the place is. I know that's somewhat the procedure. How they get to the sidelines and so forth that's part of it…How can anybody do it when the balls are checked? It's not like the air should be seeping out of the balls. "
Lewis says he can't think of a Bengals game where the issue has come up.
"We've had games where people question how brown or black our ball was prepared," Lewis said. "But a lot of teams did that because it depends how your quarterback likes the ball and he gets to have the preference of his balls. He works with those balls all week. "
Lewis admitted that the club denying Joseph the Broncos DC job was a difficult move. But he can see both sides of the street, especially since the Steelers didn't allow him to interview with Dungy when he was putting his Tampa Bay staff together in 1996. Lewis was the linebackers coach for the Steelers and coming off a late January Super Bowl appearance and a February end of his contract.
"I just said, 'Why?'" Lewis recalled of his conversation coaching and management. "He said we want you to stay here with us. I said I don't have a contract. He said, 'Well, you are going to have a contract as soon as we get back from the Super Bowl.' It worked out where Tony hired a different coach anyway. I don't know if it would have worked out but Tony ended up getting Monte Kiffin who he didn't think he could get."
Lewis and everybody else don't doubt that the 42-year-old Joseph is going to get his shot when his Bengals contract is up.
"It's ultimately the owner's call. My call is he can ask me my recommendation of what can occur but he has the final say-so of what opportunities are made available," Lewis said. "It is a hard thing because you constantly want to have the best people at their jobs all the time; you want them to have opportunity to move upward in coaching. It's a hard balance….This was a hard one. Vance is a very good coach, a young guy, he's going to have lots of opportunities, but they are all hard."
TEZ ON TARGET:
Lewis also confirmed that Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict has had knee surgery and while there has been some concern he might have to start the season on the physically unable to perform list and miss the first six weeks, Lewis said the plan is he'll be back for the season.
But he has made it clear to Burfict, a college free agent, there is much to be done.
"He has to work his tail off. He has to work harder now than he did to get here," Lewis said. "Everyone in his inner circle has continued to reinforce that. He has to work harder now than he did to get here."
Asked if Burfict's timetable allows him to start the season Lewis said, "That's the plan. You can't be rushed. It has to heal. It has to get right."