Lewis clamps down on Bengals after opening win
By JOE KAY, AP Sports
CINCINNATI (AP) - The last time the Cincinnati Bengals got off to a good start, a group of them went out to a local restaurant and sipped champagne. Then, they went back to being a bad team.
Coach Marvin Lewis is bursting their bubbles to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Lewis steadfastly refused to praise his team Monday on its 27-13 opening victory in Cleveland. He also promised to muffle the only player who was effusive after the franchise's first season-opening win in four years.
He also hoped that his brief benching of star running back Rudi Johnson for violating a team rule sent a message that he's in no mood for fooling around.
"Hopefully we never have to worry about that again with any of our players because it is too important," Lewis said Monday. "Everybody in this building is counting on them to be accountable and dependable."
And, if Lewis gets his way, absolutely boring in the locker room.
Listening, Chad Johnson? Uh, Chad?
That's where things stood the day after Cincinnati got its first season-opening win since 2001, a year that lives in Bungles infamy. The Bengals won their first two games that season and got a little too giddy, sipping Dom Perignon to celebrate the occasion.
They then got their comeuppance, losing 10 of the last 14 games for another lost season.
Lewis knows all about the Bengals' history of flameouts - 14 consecutive years without a winning record - and is clamping down at the start of their most promising season since 1990.
No nonsense. No lip.
He made Rudi Johnson sit out the first series Sunday for violating a team rule, supposedly for showing up late for a meeting. Lewis also has warned the players that he'll be quick to fine them this season for infractions.
"One guy on this team got fined $1,000 already," right tackle Willie Anderson said. "You rarely hear about guys being fined, but now he's taking guys' money and he's sitting guys down, too."
He's also trying to get them to keep quiet, a quest that's meeting with mixed success.
Rookie linebacker Odell Thurman talked trash to Browns players during the game, then suggested afterward that his performance - a team-high seven tackles and one interception - would get noticed around the league.
It sure got his coach's notice.
"You guys were just so eager to talk to him, I can't figure out why," Lewis told reporters Monday with a wry smile. "But anyway, we'll fix that, too, so you'll have some space to fill."
A few minutes later, Thurman got out of his meeting with the rest of the defense and jogged through the locker room, not slowing to talk to reporters.
While Thurman jogged away, receiver Chad Johnson posted a homemade scorecard in his locker. The plastic-covered card bore a headline that said, "Who Covered 85 in 2005" - the receiver's number - with each opponent and opposing cornerback listed in order.
Next to the entry for "9-11 at Cle ... Gary Baxter" was a pair of boxes - one marked yes, the other no. Johnson put a check mark in the "no" box, reflecting his nine-catch game in Cleveland.
Same old Chad.
Johnson was uncharacteristically quiet leading up to the opener, partly out of deference to Lewis. The free-spirited receiver suggested Monday that Lewis was becoming like authoritarian coach Tom Coughlin, who interviewed for the job that went to Lewis.
"Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not," Johnson said. "It can wear you out. Right now, it's going good."
Next on Johnson's personal scorecard is Minnesota and outspoken cornerback Fred Smoot.
"How good is he? He's a real good talker," Johnson said. "He's a solid corner. Can I send Fred a message?"
As the cameras closed in, Johnson looked directly into them and spoke softly and slowly.
"Smoot. Smoot," he said. "Let's go. That's the message for this week: Smoot, let's go."
Lewis might prefer a different message.
09/12/05 19:35 EDT