Lewis defends Owens’ criticism of coaches

Published 2:15 am Friday, December 17, 2010

The Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Marvin Lewis defended Terrell Owens on Wednesday after the receiver pointed a finger at the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff for the team’s lousy season. The rest of the players just shrugged.

At this point, it’s hard to get upset even when someone pops off.

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“No reaction to it,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “And I don’t think anybody will react to it.”

A 10-game losing streak tends to do that.

The 37-year-old receiver reverted to his old ways on Tuesday night during “The T.Ocho Show” on the Versus sports network. Teammate Chad Ochocinco asked him why he thinks the Bengals are 2-11, drawing T.O.’s sharpest criticism of the coaching staff to date.

“I think there’s underachieving from the top down,” Owens told Ochocinco. “You start with the owner, you start with the coaches. And obviously we as players, we are a product of what the coaches are coaching us throughout the course of the week. Of course, we have to go out there and play the game.

“But in order for us to do what we’re allowed to do at the best of our abilities, the coaches have to put the players in the best position.”

A day later, the receiver expanded upon his remarks, including the players among those deserving blame for a losing streak that matches the longest in franchise history. He didn’t retract his criticism of the coaches.

“I guess I shouldn’t have said it,” Owens said. “It was something we were talking about on the show. It was brought up. I gave my comments and my opinions on it, and that was that.”

Lewis lobbied the front office to acquire Owens in the offseason. And the Bengals signed Owens to a one-year deal at the start of training camp. Owens ranks sixth among league receivers in yards and catches, but the Bengals have the league’s second-worst record, trailing 1-12 Carolina.

Lewis didn’t watch the receivers’ show but was made aware of Owens’ comments about the coaching. He defended Owens.

“Unfortunately for Terrell, he gets criticized a lot nationally,” Lewis said. “We all — like he said — need to do better, and we all have a hand in winning football games. … We haven’t done well enough. None of us.”

Later during his weekly news conference, Lewis emphasized that it’s important for players to watch what they do and say.

“In this case, no one was willing to bring you aboard for a long time and then we ended up doing it late, so don’t hurt yourself in that situation as you go forward,” Lewis said, referring to Owens’ inability to find a team in the offseason. “There’s a lesson there and make sure. Unfortunately once we say something, we don’t get the chance to take it back. We try, but we don’t get to and it’s too late sometimes.”

Owens has a history of criticizing teammates. As Cincinnati’s losing streak has endured, Owens has become more outspoken in the last few weeks, suggesting the Bengals were getting outcoached.

“That’s not the first time in my career where either I or anybody has said it starts from the top down or players have felt like our coaches have gotten outcoached or what have you,” Owens said. “So, it’s just not here. I have said that elsewhere.”

Bengals players generally shy away from even indirect criticism of owner Mike Brown, who runs the team and values loyalty. When asked his opinion Wednesday of the role the front office and the coaches have played in the lousy season, Ochocinco declined to get drawn into the conversation.

“I don’t even cross those boundaries,” he said, “and you know that.”

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was disappointed that Owens made the comments.

“As a team, you like to keep things in-house,” Whitworth said. “You hate to have that rift. You want to be on the same page. You want to be together.”

Running back Cedric Benson wasn’t aware of Owens’ comments on his cable show, saying he watched something else on Tuesday night.

“I think,” Benson said, “Scooby-Doo was on.”