An NFL team with playoff aspirations rides a knife's edge when it comes to balancing experience and youth.
The Bengals are seeking a fifth consecutive playoff appearance with a mix of veteran talent and vast potential among its young players.
From cagey veterans Andrew Whitworth and cornerback Adam Jones to up-and-coming standouts Jeremy Hill and Dre Kirkpatrick, the Bengals have come a long way toward achieving the ultimate roster balance, which achieved, can bring future years of flourishing.
Lewis said he likes his current mix of talent and youth.
"We do," the coach said.
Then he invoked a chat he had Wednesday with offensive tackle Andre Smith, a seventh-year veteran.
"Speaking with Andre Smith this morning, I said, ‘Were you here in ’09?’ Thinking back to then, we have a lot of guys who aren’t that old but who have played a lot of football, and I think we’re fortunate that way," Lewis said. "They’re battle-tested; they’ve been through training camps, postseason. They know the grind at this time of camp after you’ve played a game and now have a long stretch where you have to focus in."
Lewis suggested that veteran leadership gives a team the ballast it needs in such situations.
“You can’t go out and wallow around the next five days," Lewis said. "We have to have great football days, great prep days, while still getting better as a football team being pointing toward the Oakland Raiders and the rest of the season. It’s important that we’re able to channel our focus that way because we have enough experienced guys to do that. They know what the task at hand is."
Lewis reminded that the NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint, something the veterans will be imparting upon the youngsters.
"We’re preparing for a 16-game season," said the coach, "and to make sure all the stuff we do; whether it be weight room, the eating, the meetings, it all has to be pointed in the right direction.”