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Marvin Lewis press conference transcript: Ramping up to training camp

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis works the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis held a press conference on Tuesday to discuss the first day of the team's three-day mini-camp and here is the transcript:

Opening comments ...

“It’s been a very pleasing start (to minicamp). We’ve obviously covered a lot of bases between now and when we started in mid-April, as we got to Phase II (of the offseason) and the onset of Phase III with OTAs. The mandatory camp this year provides a finality to the spring football. We have meetings in the evening and things that are required. But I’ve been pleased. I thought it was a good day today. There was freshness — it’s been since Wednesday (June 7) since we’ve practiced football. We came back, and I was pleased with it today. It was a hot, humid day. It was a preview for the new and young players of training camp and what July and August bring. The next three days will be very similar to what we face (in training camp) and will kind of give them an idea.”

You mentioned in rookie minicamp that Joe Mixon needed to work on his conditioning a little bit and get back up to speed. He said today that he’s dropped about eight or 10 pounds since that time. Do you think he’s where he needs to be?

“He’s worked hard. Since the initial rookie camp, from that point on, he’s done a nice job. When you don’t practice and play football, you’ve got to do that to get into that kind of conditioning and shape, particularly as a runner, when so much of what he does is reaction.”

With these practices being no contact and without pads, what are you looking to see from young linemen/linebackers like Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis?

“You’re looking for the burst, the ability, the flexibility, how they’re using their hands and their extension against blocks. All those things. Carl has done fine — tremendous all the way through. With Jordan Willis, the light is on now, which is great. Jordan’s biggest thing is that he wants to do right. Now he’s got a good understanding of what to do, and you can see him applying it over the last three or four practices. He’s playing with what we need him to do, as far as playing with speed and playing faster.”

With a player like Carl Lawson, do you worry that playing him at linebacker might take away from his pass-rushing ability?

“No. I don’t.”

It seems like he’s making a pretty smooth transition to linebacker. What is it about him that makes him able to make that transition to linebacker?

“He’s played on his feet in the defense at Auburn. It’s not anything that foreign to him that we’re asking him to do. He’s a smart guy, he’s conscientious. He needs an every-down position. I don’t think right now that he has quite the frame to be an every-down defensive end in the NFL. He’s got a great opportunity to affect the game in the positions we’re playing him.”

Do you think he can eventually get to that frame?

“I don’t think he needs to.”

For a guy like Cody Core, how important was it for him to get playing time late last year in the absence of A.J. Green?

“The playing experience Cody got last year has been very beneficial to him and everyone on the football team to be able to see his abilities. It gives him the confidence to come out and work in the offseason and know that he can achieve higher goals. He’s got higher level of plays out there for him. He’s got the physical tools, and I’m sure in his own mind he always believes that, but until you get your opportunity on an NFL field that you can go out there and play winning football in a game, it probably stays in the back of your mind. So it was good for him. And it’s good for Andy (Dalton) to get a trust level with him. Everybody benefitted from it.”

Is it the same for the coaches, where you think you know what he can do, but you don’t know it for sure until he gets in a game?

“Yeah, from the very onset. It’s a similar situation with Josh Malone. We went into the draft and felt like this was a guy that maybe was somewhat overlooked, but had physical tools to play at a higher level. We’ve had good luck with a lot of guys like that, who have similar body types and come in here as young players. They’ve continued to carve out opportunity and gain more reps and take advantage of it.”

How much smoother have these phases been coaching-wise. You’re now in the second year with a lot of these coaches, after having a lot of changes with the staff last offseason. What have you seen from that perspective, and with things like installations?

“The key thing all the time is that you can’t assume. We have to start from scratch all the time. I think everybody knows what’s expected, and the coaches’ urgency and getting the guys going and to the right spots all the time is important. They’ve done a good job of that. Our offseason has been very productive. I feel good where our guys are physically. They’re going to have to maintain this for a period of time and come back in here ready to go when we kick it off in July.”

What is your biggest concern as a coach in between now and training camp?

“You just don’t want to see someone get an injury that would slow them down before the start of the season and keep them unavailable when we begin. It’s something that happens — knock on wood. We have 89 guys, and we had 85 working in action today, with the other four working in their own fashion and rehabbing. They all are in good position to be ready to go when we begin training camp, so that’s what we need to be pleased with.”

Have you ever had a situation where they all left after minicamp and someone reported to training camp with an injury from playing basketball or something?

“I don’t think playing basketball, but maybe one where they were working out. There’s no question about that. I don’t recall a specific one, but that’s why you’ve got to reserve judgment until you open up training camp. Them being a part of their physical test is part of the physical test we give them, with their physical when they come back. We are not going to check all of their boxes, they do.”

Andy (Dalton) is going into his seventh year now. How have you seen him grow and mature as a player and person and leader over his tenure here?

“He takes the bull by the horns. That’s important. He knows that he’s got to be the leader of the football team. He didn’t need to do that early on because we needed him to focus on being quarterback and to focus on doing his job. ‘Keeping yourself, Andy, within yourself.’ But now he’s out with the defense and the rest of the offensive team, and that’s good. Those guys want to be led, and he’s done a good job of that. They’re happy and pleased with him that way, and they continually encourage him to let him know they want to be led. He knows that.”

Did you tell Dalton to be more vocal when he first came in?

“No. We just told him to focus on being Andy and being the quarterback. The rest of those things will just take care of themselves. The rest of the football team knew how talented he was when they watched him practice. He was a rookie, and No. 18 (A.J. Green) was a rookie. Everybody had to get behind him and believe in him. And he’s grown immensely through those times.”

The defensive guys seem smoother and are in sync with this scheme and more ahead of the game than where they were last year. Do you see that on defense?

“The thing is, you can’t assume that everybody understands it. Continue to work at it day in and day out. We have to stay on the same page defensively, and stay on the same page all the time. And that’s important. This is what you do now, and then taking it into the season is another step. So we’ve got to take it into the season.”

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