I first heard about this while listening to Alan Cutler on 1530 Homer this morning at the gym... Folks around here are flat-out laughing about it!... I don't personally see anything wrong with a coach trying to motivate his team, but why is it that it just comes off so funny when someone expects the best?.... John Kitna predicting a 10-win season?... AC spouting off about coverage?.... And Marvin expecting the super bowl......
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Marvin: Time is NOW
T-shirts communicate coach's focus

BY MARK CURNUTTE | MCURNUTTE@ENQUIRER.COM

The orange T-shirts hung in the cubicles of many Bengals players that encircle the team's locker room at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals' tiger-head logo emblazoned a breast pocket on the front. On the back, in white, block letters, all capitalized, read the word "NOW."

They were this year's message practice shirt from Marvin Lewis, the head coach who in previous seasons had presented his players with "One Heartbeat" and "Do Your Job" shirts.

After two disappointing seasons in a row and a composite 15-17 record - on the heels of the division-winning 11-5 2005 season - Lewis is trying to create a sense of urgency among his players.

In other words, the time is now.

But now, apparently, is not the time Lewis wants to discuss the latest shirt.

"No reason for me to elaborate on that - right now," Lewis said Wednesday after the Bengals completed their fifth of 12 offseason practices.

But some of his players did talk about their coach's message.

They came in for practice Tuesday and found the shirts hanging in their lockers - with the word NOW facing out. Then Lewis wore his workout shirt into a team meeting.

"Coach said, 'It's about what's on my back,' " second-year safety Chinedum Ndukwe said.

The Bengals finished 7-9 in 2007 after a 2-6 start.

"I don't think we can have another year like last year," said Ndukwe, working with the first-team defense after a strong rookie season. "As players and coaches, we have to start taking care of business. That's the bottom line. Things need to start happening today - not tomorrow - every play, (and) not wait for the next play."

In the meeting, even without Pro Bowl wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and starting offensive tackles Willie Anderson and Levi Jones in the room, Lewis mentioned the "S" word.

That would be Super Bowl.

"He said we have enough talent in the room - and he said right now - to win the Super Bowl," Palmer said of Lewis' message to players. "Don't wait for things to happen. Don't think that we'll be a good team in years to come. Don't think that there's a Super Bowl in our future and you can take your time and be lackadaisical about it. You need to be aggressive. You need to want it. You need to be hungry for it. And now's the time."

The Bengals have a core of talented players, especially on offense, led by Palmer. But Johnson is refusing to report and wants to be traded, even though he has four years remaining on his contract. Jones, the starting left tackle who has five years remaining on a contract extension he signed in 2006, also would like to be traded.

Is the window of opportunity closing?

"Really, if you look at the numbers, age-wise, we've got a pretty young team," Palmer said. "We've got some older veterans at key positions, but I don't think our window's closing any time soon. We need to keep getting good, young talent. We need our draft picks to make the team and not have injuries or issues away from the field. And that's how you build a team. And I think that's where we are."

Right guard Bobbie Williams likes the maturity of the team's younger players and the work ethic he sees so far this offseason.

"Every year the team changes, the dynamic changes. We're looking good," said Williams, a four-year Bengals starter. "We're looking better now at this point than we have looked in years, as a total team. I'm real pleased.

"I think the right attitude is getting shifted through the team. It's a good vibe here now. It's what we've been missing for a while."

Dhani Jones, a ninth-year pro entering his second season with the Bengals, has emerged as the starter at middle linebacker.

"It's right here, right now," he said when asked about the NOW shirts' message. "I think no matter if it's mandatory or voluntary, we're going to start right now.

"We're going to practice now, we're going to move to the ball now, we're going to make plays, we're going to make interceptions now, we're going to win games now, we're going to bond together as a team now and we're going to move forward because last year, in many people's minds, including myself and everybody standing here in this locker room, was unacceptable. We (forge) ahead and now we make a change and now we win more games."