Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Lewis putting together team with division foes in mind


Bengals notebook

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Marvin Lewis knows he has to beat AFC North division rivals to be successful.

In fact, Lewis is building his team to counter some of the strengths that Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh have.

Lewis recently said the Bengals need solid safeties who could cover Ravens tight end Todd Heap.

On Saturday, with their first overall pick, the Browns drafted tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. of Miami (Fla.)

"We already have to put our defense together to cover a guy (Heap) who can race down the field in the division, so we're already affected in that way," Lewis said.

Lewis said he talked to Browns coach Butch Davis on the phone over the weekend and congratulated him on picking Winslow.

Lewis' Bengals were 3-3 against division rivals in 2003 after Dick LeBeau's final team was 0-6 in the first year of realignment.

RIVALRY: The Steelers' selection of Ben Roethlisberger sets up a quarterback rivalry between the former Miami University quarterback and the Bengals' Carson Palmer.

"They got a fine player and a great kid," Lewis said of Roethlisberger and the Steelers.

Asked Sunday if he saw a Palmer-Roethlisberger rivalry for the next 10 years, Lewis said, "I think it's good. If it was a year behind, we may have had Ben here."

The Bengals used the first overall pick of 2003 to draft Palmer. Roethlisberger entered the draft this year after three seasons at Miami.

MORE GRADES: USA Today said the Bengals' draft has potential to be a good one but needs time to develop. Other media experts have given the Bengals a C grade for the draft.

Lewis noted that one mock draft had the Bengals taking Virginia Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall (who went to the Falcons at No. 8) with the 17th overall pick.

"I think they had four guys projected in the first round who went in the fourth," Lewis said of the national publication. "So what are they going to say? Obviously they are a little off with what they are doing. They had a number of guys who were incorrect. You hurt their feelings."

NEXT: The Bengals continue their offseason strength and conditioning program and will next gather en masse for the voluntary mini-camp May 7-9 at Paul Brown Stadium.

The mandatory full-squad mini-camp is scheduled for June 11-13 at the stadium.

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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