Cincinnati gloriously conducted their first regular season practice of the year, despite being on a Monday, not unlike a bye week, or after a Thursday night game. The Bengals are preparing for Sunday's regular season opener in Oakland, against a Raiders squad that's coming off a miserable three-win season with 11 games won over the last three years combined. Still, the Raiders are attempting to write a new book with a head coach who Marvin Lewis deeply respects.
"When Jack was a player, he was a guy that I wanted Ray Lewis to emulate and learn from," Lewis said on Monday. "I went to Ozzie (Newsome) in ’97 and said we should hire that guy as a player, and he ended up retiring. He’s the kind of guy you want. I had the chance to be around him, we were coaching the Pro Bowl one year when I was with the Steelers, and I had a chance to observe him and knew he was the kind of guy you’d like to have your young players emulate."
Del Rio became Lewis' linebackers coach in Baltimore from 1999-2001 -- a stretch where the Ravens total defense ranked second during all three seasons, including the record-breaking scoring defense in 2000.
"He did a fantastic job coaching the linebackers there in Baltimore, and of course moving on to Carolina and so forth, and then being the head coach at Jacksonville. He did a fabulous job in Denver for a few years. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been successful, and they’re going to be a well-coached team, we know that."
Once the 2001 season concluded, Lewis became the defensive coordinator in Washington while Del Rio was named to the same position in Carolina. That respect and friendship has lasted through the years, despite competing against each others as head coaches -- Lewis was 2-1 head-to-head against Del Rio's Jaguars, including a three-point loss to Cincinnati's 2005 squad. When Mike Zimmer was being interviewed for head coaching positions in 2012, Del Rio's name predictably floated toward the surface. However, Zimmer stayed for another season in Cincinnati and Del Rio was eventually named as the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos.
"We played him when he was the head coach at Jacksonville in probably five of the nine years he was coach there. We’re really good friends, and our families are friends," Lewis said on Monday. "We spend time together in the offseason. So, when the schedule came out, we quit talking. We will talk afterwards. But you know he does a fantastic job, and they’ve put together a really good football team, and it’s evident on tape."