Nearly three years to the day they took David Pollack with their first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said he is headed to retirement.
Lewis also denied an ESPN report that the Bengals turned down the Redskins' offer of a first-round pick this year and potentially next for Chad Johnson.
Pollack, a defensive end at Georgia that the Bengals chose No. 17, had a tough, brief pro career that was in such contrast to his All-American run. His switch to strong-side linebacker was complicated by a nearly three-week holdout and injuries limited him to 14 games, but he did become the first Bengals' rookie to log a post-season sack and with four of his 4.5 sacks coming late in the season he looked to have turned the corner.
But he suffered a broken neck Sept. 17, 2006 in the second game of the season trying to tackle Browns running back Reuben Droughns. Lewis said Pollack told him last week that he wasn't comfortable with the neck medically despite being cleared to play.
Citing team and league sources, ESPN.com says that the Redskins offered their first-round pick, No. 21 overall this year, and a conditional third-rounder in 2009 that could escalate to a first rounder if Johnson and the Redskins hit certain performance levels,
But speaking at a Tuesday news conference for this weekend's draft, Lewis said that Bengals president "Mike Brown has not received a phone call."
The club has been adamant in not trading the disgruntled five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and ESPN's Chris Mortensen said the Eagles and Cowboys have also been told Johnson is not on the market.
With Johnson talking retirement if the Bengals don't trade him, Lewis said, "He's a man of his word. He says he's not going to play, so don't play."
"It's time to do what you're going to say you do and we'll just move forward," Lewis said.
Quarterback Carson Palmer, who unintentionally got in the middle of L'Affaire Chad last week when Johnson ripped Palmer for saying he would be here when he had to be, avoided saying much Tuesday.
"I take it with a grain of salt," Palmer said. "I've always been a forgiving guy," and he still would like Johnson to come back because he's been such a good player. With uncertainly surrounding Johnson, the release of Chris Henry and lingering injuries to Kenny Irons and Chris Perry, Lewis said the Bengals go into the draft looking for receivers and running backs, as well as linebackers and defensive backs.
But he indicated the priority is on the defensive line, where they seek a run-stuffing tackle and USC's Sedrick Ellis looks to be the fit at No. 9.
No team has traded up into the top seven since 2003 and while Lewis didn't rule it out, he was cautious about making any trades. He fears a trade down to get an extra pick could put a player the Bengals want out of reach.
"You don't want to get cute," Lewis said. "I would be reluctant to advise us to do that."
Lewis mentioned both lines as priorities, but there doesn't look to be much room on the offensive line. He said he's encouraged by the health of tackles Willie Anderson and Levi Jones, feels they've got solid insurance in guards that can move to tackle in Stacy Andrews and Andrew Whitworth, and believes backup guard Nate Livings and backup center Dan Santucci can contribute in the interior.
But Lewis warned of some Draft Day surprises because of the volatility of this draft.
"There's going to be different (outcomes) that won't be the popular belief," he said. "After the first couple of players, there are going to be varying views."