Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Lewis: Practice makes perfect

New coach, team start third minicamp

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Running back Corey Dillon takes a breather, leaning on his helmet, during drills.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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The Bengals have released or let go of 18 veteran players since Marvin Lewis became coach Jan. 14.

The team has a new defensive scheme, brought in by Lewis and coordinator Leslie Frazier. They are two of 10 new coaches on the 16-man staff.

The turnover in players and coaches is a major reason Lewis has taken advantage of an NFL rule that allowed him to hold two extra minicamps as a rookie head coach.

His third minicamp, this one mandatory for the full squad, opened Monday with two practices at Paul Brown Stadium.

When this minicamp closes with Wednesday afternoon's practice, the Bengals will have had the maximum 30 on-field practices and coaching sessions allowed in the offseason. Eighteen will have come in the three, three-day minicamps, plus the 12 on-field sessions permitted by the league.

That offseason workload, Lewis said after Monday afternoon's practice, is comparable to the number of practices in a full training camp.

Defensive lineman Duane Clemons flexes his arms during a stretching period.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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That number of practices adds up to roughly 1,000 practice snaps, or about the same number of plays run during a 16-game schedule.

"We will have had almost two seasons of work by the time training camp is over," Lewis said.

Good thing for him, because there has been a great deal of roster turnover, with more to come.

The Bengals released third-year cornerback Ligarius "Bo" Jennings after Monday morning's practice.

Looking ahead, Lewis said, "The thing I like about it is we've had the opportunity to get a look at people. Obviously, there have been a lot of people through here and we'll continue to (bring people through) as we refine this roster down to get guys we're competitive with in training camp.

"We don't need to waste spots on guys who aren't going to make this football team."

Under Lewis, the Bengals have let go of three quarterbacks - Gus Frerotte, Akili Smith and Joe Germaine - and brought in three others: Shane Matthews, Carson Palmer and Tommy Jones. Only incumbent starter Jon Kitna remains from the group that was under contract for the season finale at Buffalo. Veteran free agent tight end Reggie Kelly is a possible starter, so is rookie left guard Eric Steinbach.

There are five probable new starters on the defense - all veteran free agents: linemen Carl Powell, John Thornton and Duane Clemons, linebacker Kevin Hardy and cornerback Tory James.

The new players, Lewis said, have shared traits.

"Winning, professionalism," he said. "We got guys who have something to prove. ... When you put that many guys around you who have something to prove, they help uplift other guys who aren't quite so sure how to do it."

Powell, who played for Lewis last season when Lewis was Washington's defensive coordinator, was the first to sign in free agency. The extra minicamps, Powell said Monday, are "an opportunity to get organized, really for the guys to learn the concepts and get acquainted with one another."

Kelly said the heavy amount of spring work would pay off once training camp starts and he can "just react instead of thinking."

Hardy sounded a warning Monday when he said, "One thing everybody has to caution against is getting wrapped up in all the talk that we're going to be better because of a new coach and new players."

So far, at least, Lewis said, some pieces are fitting.

"We've really progressed at throwing and catching the football, which is really what you ought to be getting good at this point in the year," he said.

"We're taking this all in stride, and we just have to keep going."

Bengals' offseason moves

Who's out of town

DE Vaughn Booker Released, free agent
OT Reggie Coleman Released, Packers
LB Canute Curtis Released, free agent
QB Gus Frerotte Free agent, Vikings
QB Joe Germaine Released, free agent
FB Mike Green Released, free agent
C Brock Gutierrez Released, free agent
S Cory Hall Free agent, Falcons
CB Bo Jennings Released, free agent
FB Nicolas Luchey Free agent, Packers
FB Lorenzo Neal Free agent, Chargers
DE Eric Ogbogu Released, free agent
S Jason Perry Free agent
QB Akili Smith Released, free agent
LB Takeo Spikes Free agent, Bills
OT Jamain Stephens Free agent
OT Richmond Webb Released, free agent
DL Bernard Whittington Free agent
Who's new in town

Pos.PlayerHow acquired
DE Duane Clemons Free agent, Chiefs
FB Mike Green Waivers, Titans
LB Kevin Hardy Free agent, Cowboys
CB Tory James Free agent, Raiders
TE Reggie Kelly Free agent, Falcons
QB Shane Matthews Free agent, Bucs
DE Carl Powell Free agent, Redskins
DT John Thornton Free agent, Titans
FB Terry WitherspoonFree agent, Texans

E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com

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