With spring practice winding down and a one-month break within reach, the Cincinnati Bengals weren’t exactly finishing strong in their next-to-last OTA practice Monday at Paul Brown Stadium.
And head coach Marvin Lewis let them know about it.
Lewis abruptly ended practice a few minutes early, told everyone to get in the north end zone and ordered two sets of sprints to send a message about practicing the right way — one he loudly and angrily reinforced as each position group ran up the field and back.
“We needed a little bit of a reminder of what it’s going to be like and what’s important,” Lewis said. “I think that we want to remind them we don’t to be complacent at any point. We can’t be complacent, we can’t be average. We have to make sure we keep working. We keep doing the little things correct and moving forward with them. We can’t go sideways at any point.
“We’ve got a couple more days left,” he added. “I expect things to run smoothly over the next couple of days and we are going to remind them of that. We are not going to hit a peak last week and start going downward, we want to keep going upward.”
While there were an inordinate amount of bad snaps, dropped passes and false starts during what was supposed to be a 105-minute practice, what seemed to rile Lewis the most was the way the defense was getting a little too hands-on with the ball carriers.
“We were getting a little too physical, wrapping the running backs up and not letting them run,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said. “We need to learn how to practice with each other better, but sometimes that’s real tough to do when you’re such a competitive team like we are.
“We always need to make sure we’re point,” Peko continued. “Those little things make a big difference. Coach Lewis was just doing his thing. We talked at the end of practice about coming back (today) and finishing strong, and we’ll do that.”
Today marks the final practice before the players scatter for a month off prior to the start of training camp July 24.
Monday’s issues aside, Lewis said he’s been pleased with the offseason work.
“We’ve been pleased by what we’ve gotten done,” he said. “Basically our whole goal this offseason is to get to the first game in September with everybody healthy and full speed. So far so good.
“(Offensively) we are doing things that really try to accentuate the ability of our guys as much as we can and them to get a feel for how demanding (offensive coordinator Hue Jackson) is going to be on them in practice all the time,” Lewis added. “(Defensively) they’re rounding into the vision we have for them. I think it’s been good.”
In addition to the message sent Monday, Lewis will deliver another one today about staying safe and smart wherever they go.
“You always have to have a message for guys every time they leave here and go to wherever they are going to go to continue their training, whether it be home, school, whatever,” Lewis said. “It’s to make sure they know their surroundings at all times.
“The coaches are on vacation at that time, too,” he added. “That’s a good time to recharge and get ready for the season because then they are getting ready to go seven days a week from start until finish. They have vacations planned with their families and so forth. The players have to continue on their regimen. We’ve got a lot of data and information we’ve gained from them over this period of time and we want to use it wisely as we wind into training camp.”