01-16-2006, 08:54 PM
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Lewis sets the record straight, addresses Johnson, Roethlisberger
Courtesy of the Cincinnati Enquirer: http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.d...601150335/1066
Lewis sets the record straight
Coach addresses past week, Johnson and Roethlisberger
Marvin Lewis called Enquirer Bengals beat writer Mark Curnutte Saturday and wanted to talk about the events of the past week and also look ahead.
For the first time, the Bengals coach discussed the alleged altercation involving wide receiver Chad Johnson, apparent conflicting comments by Carson Palmer's surgeon on the condition of the quarterback's knee, and Lewis' own comments about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Lewis wanted first to talk directly to Bengals fans.
"I guess my feeling is since the loss to Pittsburgh, it seems as though a dark cloud has tried to drop on our franchise," Lewis told The Enquirer. "I want to apologize to our fans that this has occurred.
"They should be excited about our future. I thank them for their support ... Our direction is not going to change. We have built a strong foundation. We had 24 guys with three years or less experience."
"With the practice-squad guys who have a chance to make the team, that's 30 guys," Lewis continued. "That's a good thing. Those guys will keep improving.
"The optimism that was there after 2003 should be 10 times greater after the 2005 season. We are not going to lose sight of what we've done."
Lewis looked back at the 2005 season, when the team finished 11-5 and put the franchise in the playoffs for the first time since the 1990 season.
"The 2005 season was a great learning experience for our franchise, our team and for me," said Lewis, 27-21 in three seasons as Bengals coach. "We've established an evaluation process of free agents and college prospects. All we're going to do is get better and better at this."
The contracts of all five of the Bengals' starting offensive linemen are due to expire after the 2006 season.
"We're in great shape salary-cap wise, and we're going to make every effort to extend our guys. We're going to get some new guys. They will be held to the same standard. We're going to be better in '06 than we were in '05.
"I was criticized for how I reacted (in a low-key manner) when we clinched at Detroit. I was thankful and grateful for what happened. But we weren't finished. There were bigger fish to fry."
A report was published on a rumor-mill Web site Monday that Johnson and wide receivers coach Hue Jackson were involved in a physical altercation at halftime of the Bengals' 27-13 loss.
"Chad's a very integral part of what we do," Lewis said. "There was no physical altercation. Chad was upset. He wanted to help us win the football game. He was frustrated. It happens all the time.
"When you lose a good player (such as Palmer), we needed people to step up and make plays. Chad wanted to do that. But Chad's not going to get in a fight with somebody. There are not two sets of rules. If Chad had hit somebody, he wouldn't have played in the second half."
After the game, Lewis was asked several questions about the injury to Palmer, who tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments on his first pass play. Steelers defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen hit Palmer in the knee. Lewis said he was not going to "baby and cry" like Roethlisberger did following the Bengals-Steelers game Dec. 4.
"I shouldn't have said anything I said that night," Lewis said. "I shouldn't have said what I did about Ben. Ben has been outstanding.
"Kimo is not a dirty player. (Steelers coach) Bill (Cowher) would never tell a player to try to injure somebody. What I said I said out of frustration."
Palmer underwent surgery Tuesday in Houston to repair two ligaments. In two interviews Wednesday, the surgeon, Dr. Lonnie Paulos, initially said Palmer's injury was more severe than originally thought.
Palmer had signed a six-year contract extension Dec. 29 - essentially a new nine-year deal worth $118.75 million - that keeps him with the Bengals through the 2014 season.
"In talking with Carson's family and representation, what (Paulos) said was somewhat taken out of context," Lewis said. "Every indication he's given to us, the analysis of the injury, yes, it's a bad injury. But he's going to be fine. It's a shame he suffered the injury. But we know he will work very hard to come back.
"I found out in the second quarter he wasn't coming back. He was not going to come out on a white horse. At that point, it's up to everybody to step up. But it's the luck of the draw. Carson's well-being and health are very important to us.
"His contract will help us in the future. He sets the direction for us."
Before last season, Lewis worked to get two-year contract extensions for all of his assistant coaches. He anticipates having little, if any, turnover.
"I'm pleased with the work our coaches have done. I'm pleased we've had just two changes in our coaching staff in three years. After three years, they are not burned out. They are excited about going forward. After three years in Baltimore (1996-98, when Lewis was the Ravens' defensive coordinator), we needed to be fired. We were all burned out.
"But our guys here are not burned out. They have kept their eyes focused on the prize."