Unless he's watching his kid, Greg Lloyd doesn't watch much football anymore. Not the NFL. It's turning into flag football, he says. "Very, very boring," is how he sees it.
But he's seen enough to believe that the man who replaced him as the heart, soul and bad boy of the Steelers defense can help give the Bengals some nostalgic new blood.
"I think the kid will be fine," Lloyd said of James Harrison, resurfacing as he always does this weekend for the Marvin Lewis Golf Classic. "I think he's going to bring some spark. Kind of like Ray Lewis brought to the Ravens. He's one of the guys who never was in any trouble in Pittsburgh. The guy played football. His only trouble was when he knocked people out. As a coach, I don't have a problem with that."
Lloyd, 47, last took a snap in the NFL in 1998. He last took a snap for Marvin Lewis in 1995. But the bond between the two is framed for posterity in the picture in Lewis's office of the famously surly Lloyd in his prime wearing the shirt that reads, "I wasn't hired for my disposition."
Lloyd had more than half of his 54.5 career sacks when Lewis was his linebackers coach in Pittsburgh for four seasons. But truth be told, it was Lloyd that broke Lewis into the NFL, showing him how dedication, toughness, attitude and professionalism trumped everything ranging from scouting reports to Xs and Os.
Get Lewis and Lloyd together, like after Saturday's practice run at Shaker Run Golf Course in Lebanon, Ohio, and later that night at the VIP party in downtown Cincinnati, and the stories flow like info coming from the neighboring IRS office.
That's the charm of the 10th annual event, culminating Sunday at Shaker for the celebrity tournament that raises the money for the $20,000 college scholarships from the Marvin Lewis Community Fund that he'll present to five Tri-State high school seniors.
Fitting, really, that Lloyd should be talking about Harrison because the event always does such a nice job mixing old and new. Isaac Curtis, the first Bengals draft pick from 40 years ago who went on to become the team's greatest wide receiver, hustled back Saturday night from former Steeler Andy Russell's tournament in Pittsburgh. If he looked on the auction table, there was a signed football from this year's Bengals No. 1 pick, Notre Dame tight end
In the middle of the meet-and-greet Saturday night, Lewis, as usual, balanced huddling with celebs like Ohio State coach Urban Meyer along with thanking the donors. In between, he acknowledged Lloyd and Harrison have more similarities than just playing the same outside linebacker spot in Pittsburgh.
"Both no-nonsense guys," Lewis said. "That's how they approach the game."
Lloyd became well-known for being a guy that didn't suffer fools when it came to the game. The stories are stocked with how he practiced at the same speed as he played ("The only difference was he wore shoulder pads on Sunday," Lewis says) and how the sixth-rounder from Fort Valley State tortured the high draft picks when they just didn't have it.
"My shirt said it all," Lloyd said. "I was hired as an outside linebacker. Shaking hands, talking, and trying to be friends with people, if you got that from me, it was a bonus. I'm not one of those guys, you put the microphone in front of my face and he'll be nice to you. If I had a bad game, stay away from me. I think this guy is like that.
"But there are those guys, we care about the game. Some guys don't care about the game. Some guys care only about what's in their bank account or what kind of house they've got. We cared about the game. This guy plays like that, so he's kind of an old throwback a little bit."
Lewis shakes his head. The 6-2 Lloyd played at 228 pounds and when he got to 233 he would tell Lewis he was too heavy. He played with a frightening ferocity, much the same way Harrison does, another guy supposedly too small—at 5-11—to make it.
Lloyd, as you would expect, has no problems with the way Harrison plays the game and defends his numerous fines from the league office.
"You don't ever take a play off. You don't ever pull up on a guy because you think you're going to get fined. When you start doing that … it's not the commissioner you have to answer to," Lloyd said. "Because back when I played, the commissioner didn't sign my checks. (Steelers owner Dan) Rooney signed my checks. As long as Mr. Rooney didn't have a problem with it, I didn't care what the commissioner said.
"That's what James Harrison's mentality is. We respect the commissioner. He has a job to do. But when I'm out on the field, and I think this guy feels the same way, I have a job to do."
No surprise here, either, that Lloyd thinks Harrison can make the switch from a 3-4 outside baker to a 4-3 SAM. He repeats the Lewis Law: a linebacker is a linebacker.
"If you don't have four good linebackers, you don't have a good 3-4. When you're in a 4-3, it's more about defensive linemen than outside linebackers," Lloyd said. "That being said, I think Cincinnati has a better group of defensive linemen than they will have backers."
But for Lloyd, it all comes down to the shirt.
"What James Harrison brings to the table is, the kid can play. He plays with this uncanny ability to go to the football," he said. "If Cincinnati wants to play with the Steelers and play with Baltimore, they're going to have to do that. I think this guy is one of the guys that will come in and he'll set that tone for the kind of football that is supposed to be played, whether it's 3-4 or 4-3."