Bengals eager for playoff breakthrough but know season comes first

mmaloney@herald-leader.comJuly 22, 2014 

Bengals Injuries Football

Coach Marvin Lewis, entering his 12th season with the Bengals, sat down for an interview in Cincinnati on Tuesday. The team has its first practice at training camp on Thursday.

AP

  • PRE-SEASON OPENER

    Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs

    When: 8 p.m. Aug. 7

  • Bengals training camp

    At Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati

    Date Location Time

    July 24 Practice fields 3 p.m.

    July 25 Practice fields 3 p.m.

    July 26 Practice fields 3 p.m.

    July 27 Practice fields 3 p.m.

    July 28 Practice fields 3 p.m.

    July 30 Practice fields 3 p.m.

    Aug. 1 Practice fields 6 p.m.

    Aug. 2 Stadium field 1:30 p.m.

    Aug. 4 Practice fields 3 p.m.

    Aug. 5 Practice fields 11:15 a.m.

    Aug. 9 Stadium field 3 p.m.

    Aug. 11 Practice fields 3 p.m.

    Aug. 12 Practice fields 3 p.m.

    Aug. 13 Practice fields 3 p.m.

    Aug. 14 Practice fields 11:15 a.m.

CINCINNATI — Playoffs?!

Marvin Lewis wasn't about to discuss playoff possibilities Tuesday.

Lewis, beginning his 12th season as coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, was speaking during the team's annual preseason media luncheon at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals reached the playoffs each of the last three seasons, but did not win a postseason game.

Cincinnati aims to do better this time, starting Thursday when training camp opens.

"I think the football team is anxious and ready to go to work," Lewis said. "It's a team that has great leadership from the veteran players that have been here. They've had a limited amount of success, and they know that the ultimate prize is still ahead of us. It's an exciting time for that.

"But we've got to go through the work, and I think that's the part that I'm most satisfied with is our guys know and understand that."

As for what it will take to do better in the playoffs, Lewis wouldn't bite.

"The postseason doesn't matter right now," he said. "It's the season that matters. ... We're a better football team than we were a year ago, but we have to go out and prove it and do it. We've got to win each football game."

Although Lewis didn't want to talk playoffs, team president Mike Brown acknowledged disappointment with recent postseason results.

"We're coming off a year when we won the division (going 11-5). We're coming off three years when we were a playoff team," Brown said. "Only five teams in the NFL have been playoff teams these last three years and we're one of the five. So I feel good about that. There's no reason in my mind why we can't be a successful team again.

"We've gone from nine wins to 10 wins to 11 wins. But we have to win one in the playoffs, and we are fully aware that that didn't happen. It sticks in our craw. But first we have to get the opportunity again (and) that's a long, hard road. We have a tough schedule. We respect our opponents. We take nothing for granted. But in our hearts — in my heart, too — I think we stack up OK and we're anxious to prove that we're going to be a successful team again."

■ The Bengals have a pair of new coordinators, each promoted from within the system.

Paul Guenther, starting his 12th season in the NFL and 10th with the Bengals, will lead the defense. He spent the last two seasons as linebackers coach under Mike Zimmer, now the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

Hue Jackson takes over the offensive reins from Jay Gruden, the new head coach of the Washington Redskins. Jackson's 13 years in the NFL include three offensive coordinator positions and a stint as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. He was running backs coach and special assistant to Lewis last season.

■ Lewis was happy to talk about Andy Dalton. Just don't ask him about the quarterback's contract-extension negotiations.

"I think he's very confident in Andy — he's very confident in his own skin," Lewis said. "He was starting quarterback, then he became the leader of the offense and, last year, he became the leader of the football team. I think now he understands what all comes with that."

As for negotiations — Dalton is entering the final year of his deal — "we're not going to talk about it anymore," Lewis said. "We've talked enough about it. It'll get settled. When it gets settled, it'll be done. ... Just let it go."

Brown said the end will come "soon enough, but I'm not going to stand here and predict exactly when that's going to be. I don't really know."

And if things don't work out, "one of the options is that we 'franchise' him for the following year. You can count on one thing: He's going to be the quarterback here for the immediate future."

Brown indicated he favors a deal similar to the six-year, $110 million extension the San Francisco 49ers recently agreed to with Colin Kaepernick.

"Kaepernick's a good player; he's been successful," Brown said. "And we tend to think that our deal should be something in that range, not way beyond it."

■ Lewis said he expects cornerback Leon Hall to be ready to go Thursday, while defensive tackle Geno Atkins could follow suit soon afterward.

Hall tore his right Achilles tendon last season, while Atkins suffered a torn knee ligament.

"We've been fortunate, our guys are in good spots," Lewis said. "Leon's goal is to be out there the very, very first practice. He'll probably achieve that goal.

"Geno's goal is to be out there the very first practice, and I'm going to keep Geno from achieving that goal. Because I want to lay eyes on Geno for a few days, and that's what I told him (Monday). He's going to begin on PUP (physically unable to perform) and, as soon as he and I agree that he's ready to go in the rigors of practice, then we'll feel good about it."

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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