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Lewis hints at off-season plans

I was riding in my friends car one day a few years back to the Jack Nicholas Golf Course (or whatever the hell it's called these days) when in the parking lot walked Marvin Lewis. He was talking on his cell phone and my friend and I joked that perhaps he's talking to Warren Sapp (available free agent rumored to have Cincinnati on the radar). We thought about asking him for an autograph or just to say hello. Well, more like, "Yo coach, WHO DEY!". Instead we left him alone and walked up to the first tee on the virtual par three course. My day went downhill quickly after that.

Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson interviewed head coach Marvin Lewis in their annual post-Super Bowl sit-down. A generic off-season plan is usually the topic.

Lewis also said that the Bengals are going to continue to sign their own players instead of laying out big money in free agency, that they can’t afford any more character questions in the upcoming draft, and their professionalism gap was spurred by players upset they didn’t get contracts.

As for individual players, Lewis indicated cornerback Tory James won’t be back, he wouldn’t eliminate middle linebacker Odell Thurman, and he said defensive end Justin Smith could be tagged as a franchise free agent before the Feb. 22 deadline.

I think the topic of Odell Thurman is a tricky one. And in the end, his future totally depends on him. Did he have time to sit down and reflect. Has he re-motivate himself to do what's best for the team. There's no denying that Thurman makes this defense better. And the year-long vacation hurt his growth. But I still believe if he plays in 2007, we'll be better for it. Again, that all depends on Thurman.

More.

"(Thurman) has a chance for reinstatement," Lewis said. "If he dots all his Is and crosses his Ts and does everything asked by the NFL … I believe July 11 is the first date."

Asked if the Bengals would take Thurman back if he’s reinstated, Lewis said, "We’re wasting air time talking about Odell."

Kinda makes me think that even Lewis isn't sure about Thurman. Did he grow? Did he reform? Or will he fail the Bengals organization again? I get the feeling these are questions in Lewis' mind too.

On the base defense...

"You can put all that to rest. We have the (4-3) personnel," Lewis said. "We’ll continue the way we are and not take any side steps. We need to get better and keep progressing with our players and that’s the best way for us to do it the quickest."

On being defensive coach...

"I don’t coach the defense. I don’t call the defense on Sunday. If you’re the defensive coordinator you’ve got to do that, which means I don’t," Lewis said. "That takes a lot of time. I don’t know a head coach that calls a defensive game on Sunday because you have to put yourself in that situation day in and day out. That’s difficult.

"Offense is easier that way because you’re trying to direct," he said. "And not many do it on offense. Very few do it on offense. Some go in with that mindset, but then they change very quickly."

Lewis on free agency...

"People continue to point out the teams that (spend) in free agency win less games," he said. "It takes chemistry. It’s people working together. It takes time. When we get a guy off another team, invariably there comes that adverse time within the game that he reverts back to other things that he knows from another place and another time. That’s not the reaction you need at that critical moment.

On drafting character...

"I don’t look at it any different," Lewis said of drafting character. "We just have to do a better job of not discounting it. We’ve got to do a better job. Enough said. Everybody (in the draft room) is aware of what we’ve done. Just don’t turn in the card. That’s all. It’s a simple process. We have not been fooled. Move to the next guy. There’s a lot of good football players. Pick the right ones. I say that all the time.

"Don’t spend our chip on a guy that has problems and issues in his background any more," Lewis said, "because we can’t take any more of that. I spend too much time talking about it. We’ve spent too much time today talking about it."

We'll see.