6-9-04, 5:10 p.m.
**Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis hosts his team's lone mandatory minicamp of the offseason this weekend at Paul Brown Stadium. With no holdouts, or major injuries, or a mushroom cloud of controversy, Marvin Gardens is monopolizing serenity. The Bengals second-year head coach sat down with Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com this week as he prepared for camp.
GH: You've made it clear to your players that they can't think they start the season with last year's record of 8-8. Are they buying into that?**
ML: I think our guys realize that. Yet we're not going to start with our tail between our legs, either. We're not going to start with the perception that we're 1-4 or that we're 2-14. We're going to start that we're going to go 16-0.
GH: Do you like Carson Palmer's command of the offense at this point?
ML: He's in 100 percent command of the offense. He is the offense. It's his system. There is no system outside of Carson Palmer. If it's two plays or 202 plays, he is the offense.
GH: What are some of the spots that have pleased you during the workouts of the last month?
ML: (Cornerback) Deltha O'Neal and what he's done. His work ethic, his attention to detail. (Cornerback) Tory James has picked up where he left off last year. He's had a good offseason, and then the addition of (safety) Kim Herring and (middle linebacker) Nate Webster I think have elevated our ability to communicate on the field defensively. (Safety) Rogers Beckett has come back, and there will be a guy that is more sure of himself, and understands his role and what he's supposed to do, and obviously you throw (rookie safety) Madieu Williams in there, and (safety) Marquand Manuel has come back from his (hamstring) injury working very, very, hard.
GH: Madieu seems to be a guy that might be able to play a couple of spots for you in nickel, at corner or safety.
ML: Madieu has all the talent and ability we thought he did, and he's a guy, as you're saying, really has a chance to be a big help for us.
GH: Does Brian Simmons look more comfortable in his second year on the outside at linebacker? Does Kevin Hardy look more at home over at strong backer after moving from the middle?
ML: Kevin being the leader of the team last year, and we added another guy in Nate Webster into the bunch, and Kevin kind of taking over from Brian in the middle, I think our level of leadership and communication is much improved at linebacker than where it was.
GH: What is the major difference between the on-field coaching sessions of the last month and this weekend's mandatory minicamp?
ML: There's no difference. We just start again with two practices a day. It's not voluntary. It's on the clock. People need to be here and take care of business the way they're supposed to do.
GH: You've had almost perfect attendance in the coaching sessions, right?
ML: Yeah, we've been fine. There's not going to be a difference. There's going to be the same tempo.
GH: Are you playing faster on defense?
ML: I can't say that yet. We haven't played anybody.
GH: What do you like offensively so far?
ML: We obviously have confidence that we can run the football. We have a lot of confidence in what Rudi can do. We know what Chad and Peter are capable of doing. Kelley Washington has been extremely impressive the entire offseason (at wide receiver) in everything he's done. (Rookie receiver) Maurice Mann has had a great camp. He's learning to play the game at this level with that kind of speed.
GH: Do you think Peter Warrick is going to be able to come out of the box right away at receiver at the start of training camp? He's been working off and on as he recovers from last year's scope.
ML: Peter will be 100 percent full strength going into training camp. We've just had to back down. Peter's been chomping at the bit to go, and we've slowed him down a bit the last two weeks.
GH: Do you think you might slow him up this week?
ML: He won't participate fully in camp.
GH: Rookie running back Chris Perry got a little dinged up with a hamstring and may or may not go this weekend. Does that slow his progress?
ML: He still has to learn without being in there and doing it, but it won't put him back that much.
GH: What spots do you want to see improvement heading into camp? Is there anything you'd like to see ratcheted up a notch or two?
ML: We have to step up and punt the ball better, step up and rush the passer, and play defense so we're getting off the field on third down, and we have to run the ball more consistently.
As far as gearing it up, our attention to detail, all the fine points, the little things, everything we do I would like to be ratcheted up. The 400 snaps that we have this weekend, we want to make sure every snap means something. When you do approach every meeting, every snap, every installation that way, this is a chance to get better. We don't have a chance to get this back.
GH: When you look at it, there really aren't any huge controversies plaguing this team, like a holdout or, a key starter down with injury, or anything like that.
ML: It's what you expect. It's what it ought to be. We've got a couple guys still coming back from injury. That's part of the process. Our guys that had knee injuries at the end of the season, we're still dealing with them (Warrick, left tackle Levi Jones, linebackers Adrian Ross and Dwayne Levels) a little bit.
GH: But it looks like everybody will be ready for training camp, and there's nobody holding out or dropping bombs.
ML: We're not all here yet, but we're not expecting anything like that, either.