Lewis wants to cut Bengal who leaked outburst

Updated: February 25, 2006, 11:02 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Although he is not one of the NFL head coaches who have embraced the "one voice" stance, and precluded his assistants from speaking to the media during the season, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis apparently feels his team had one voice too many in its season-ending playoff loss.

Appearing at the NFL scouting combine, Lewis stressed that the upstart Bengals must demonstrate improved maturity in 2006 to continue their progress, and also vowed to release the player who leaked to the media reports of an explosion by star wide receiver Chad Johnson at halftime of a Jan. 8 wild-card playoff game.

"Unfortunately, we had somebody else who was more selfish than Chad," Lewis said in discussing the incident. "That person won't be with us next year, I'll tell you that. Those people aren't good for you."

According to reports, Johnson, angry at not getting the ball enough, voiced his complaint at halftime of Cincinnati's 31-17 wild-card loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The reports suggested that, after a heated exchange with an assistant coach, during which he had to be restrained, Johnson swung at Lewis.

The Bengals coach, who in 2005 led the franchise to its first division title since 1990, earlier in the offseason acknowledged there was a halftime incident involving Johnson, but denied the wide receiver threw a punch at anyone.

Lewis said that the team's Pro Bowl receiver, who had two receptions in the first half and finished the game with just four catches for 59 yards, "raised his voice," but said that was the extent of the incident.

During his combine appearance Friday, however, Lewis vowed to rid his team of the player who leaked the report of the Johnson incident. It was a vow that, while keeping with Lewis' theme of accountability, could be difficult to keep. So far, no one has identified the source of the story, and Lewis could have trouble doing so, particularly after his promise to release the player. It could be a difficult move, too, if the player is a starter, as some Cincinnati veterans have hinted.

There could be repercussions from the NFL Players Association, as well, if Lewis tries to release any player he feels was the source for the leak. But in maintaining that his young team needs to come together as a unit, and subjugate the goals of individuals, Lewis said he will continue to investigate where the Johnson story originated.

"In the big scheme of things, that person needs to look at themselves," Lewis said. "Number one, for even speaking about [the incident], and number two, for embellishing on it. For not really telling the truth. That's even worse."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.