Updated: 4:40 p.m.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Pat Sims, the first man off the bench in the Bengals run defense, is looking to make good on one of those Marvin Lewis axioms and expand his role on the defensive line after agreeing to a one-year deal last week.
"I'm a run-stuffer, but I'm looking to add some more rushing the passer. I want to become a three-down player," Sims said over the phone Monday as he headed to a workout.
The fact that Sims is working out already puts him ahead of last year when a knee ailment lingered, in part, because of the lockout. He's running on the ankle he broke against Cleveland on Thanksgiving weekend and is doing lateral drills.
"I'll be ready in plenty of time for when we get on the field in May," Sims said.
There is no mystery here. When Sims is healthy the Bengals do a pretty good job stopping the run. When he's not, they're not as good. There are other reasons, of course, but the 322-pound Sims is their biggest body and, as he says, "a run-stuffer." On his 297 snaps last season, 166 were runs. When Sims missed the last six games of the season, the Bengals gave up about 140 yards per game on the ground.
"When he went down, that really hurt them because they had no other tackle that could play first and second down (after the starters)," said John Thornton, the former Bengals defensive lineman who mentored Sims during his rookie year in 2008. "It was big to get him back because to lose all three, Pat, Frostee (Rucker) and (Jon) Fanene, would have been really bad. I thought the backups on the D-line were as good as the starters."
But Sims knows his injury history has hurt him. He broke his forearm in the last regular-season game in 2009. He fought through a knee injury in 2010. The ankle. He knows why the Bengals and others were talking about one-year deals.
"That doesn't bother me. I'm ready to go out and prove what I can do and get back to where I was before I got hurt. I understand that," Sims said. "I wanted to stay in the same scheme and not move. I like playing in Coach (Mike) Zimmer's system. It's the only one I've ever been in since I've been in the league.
"My injuries have been crazy. My teammate dislocated my forearm and last year one of the D-lineman threw a guy on the ground and he fell on my ankle."
Sims remembers it was middle linebacker Dhani Jones that inadvertently hit his forearm "coming up my back," but he can't remember who ended up on his ankle. With the departures of end/tackle Jon Fanene and end Frostee Rucker, Sims is going to have to get to know some new guys.
"I've played with (Rucker and Fanene) ever since I came into the league so I'll miss them. But that's the business and I hope they do well," Sims said. "I'm sure I'll get along with the new guys. We're just going to have to all come up with more production."
Sims has played at anywhere from 322 to 327 pounds, but he says his goal is to play this season between 315 and 320.
"It's not much different, playing at 315, but I just wanted to do something different this year and see if it helps me," he said.
Thornton advised Sims to stick in Cincinnati for the year as he gets right physically. Sims doesn't turn 27 until November as he heads into his fifth season and Thornton thinks he's a mature player that is going to draw heavy interest with a healthy year.
"He knows he's got to get in shape and stay healthy," Thornton said. "I told him it didn't make any sense to go somewhere else and rehab while also trying to learn a new system. I thought the best thing for him was to stay put and get the ankle ready. It's hard to rehab and get into shape. He couldn't move when he broke the forearm and then he had the knee. So I think he'll be ready to have a big year."
KRAFT SALUTES BJGE: Patriots owner Bob Kraft became close with new Bengals running back BenJarvis Green-Ellis during his stint in New England and was emotional about Green-Ellis's salute to his late wife after he scored a touchdown in the AFC championship game back in February.
"I'm so sorry he left us; you're getting a gem," Kraft said Monday at the league meetings. "He's one of the finest players to come through our system. He never fumbled once in four years. I think over (500) carries. He's a gentleman and a hard worker and I'm just sorry you paid him more ($9 million for three years according to reports) than we were willing to pay him."
OKOYE VISIT: According to NFL reporter Adam Caplan the Bengals have set up a visit with Bears defensive tackle Amobi Okoye after the league meetings.
Could the 6-2, 302-pound Okoye become the third defensive lineman drafted in the top 10 to make the Bengals his third team this month, joining Anderson and Harvey? If Sims is a run-stuffer, then Okoye is a pass rusher, although he hasn't reached the heights projected by the Texans when they picked him 10th in the 2007 draft. He had 11 sacks in four seasons with Houston before going to Chicago last year, where he had four sacks in 398 snaps rushing the passer. He played 615 total, third most on the Bears line.
Here is how the Bengals line depth looks now and they usually go with eight: DEs: Geathers, Johnson, Dunlap, Harvey; DTs: Peko, Atkins, Sims, Hayden; DE/DT: Anderson.
NOT DUMB LIKE A FOX: Broncos coach John Fox proved how good of a coach he is last year when he coaxed out a playoff win in his first year on the job. He won a lot of games in Carolina, too, and the winner of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes had to smile this week at the meetings: "Here I am 8,000 years old and I finally got a quarterback."
Fox also got former Bengals wide receiver Andre Caldwell on a two-year deal. "He's athletic and he runs good routes," he said.
VALUING VALUE: Kraft and Bengals president Mike Brown don't see eye-to-eye on most of the NFL's business issues. But the Bengals admire how the Pats win with good values and not extravagant salaries. Guess which owner had this to say Monday?
"If you're the first one in the marketplace, you're going to be paying top price ... we're in business long term. We don’t plan on selling the franchise and we try to be competitive every year and make the playoffs. The only way you're going to do that is to get quality depth management and have players at good values. You can only pay so many players top dollar and keep the team competitive."
That was Kraft, who says that skill is going to be needed in the next couple of years because he doesn't see the salary cap exploding like it has in the past with the new TV deal kicking in for 2014.
"You had certain spikes in the salary cap that allowed teams to overspend, to do things to even things out. I think what you'll see over the next five to six years is a smoother growth in the salary cap," Kraft said. "It won't be the kind of jump you saw in '06 and so I think it will require people to manage their resources as intelligently as they can. And I think there'll be a lot of free agents in the market and you just have to manage your cap wisely if you want to be competitive."
RULES COMMITTEE: The two biggest off-the-field rule changes the owners are mulling this week involve roster adjustments. One jacks the offseason roster to 90, including unsigned draft picks, and the other allows teams to designate a player on injured reserve with a major football injury the Tuesday after the first game that can return to the active roster in eight weeks.
It would be hard to vote against either proposal. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis likes the 90 players instead of 80 because it spurs development.
"One of the hardest things in my opinion is you have a guy bust their tail the entire offseason program and now you have to reduce," Lewis said of the draft pick signings. "This would put a hard cap at the number and you know what you’re working at. ... You could still (cut in spring ball) if they weren’t worthy, but you could develop them a little more.”
The rules for the IR designation are pretty similar to the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, except that a player must pass the training camp physical and must suffer the injury before or during the opener. Then it gets like PUP. He can return to practice in six weeks and has three weeks to get ready while still on IR. He's eligible to be active after eight weeks.
The Bengals haven't had anybody lately that would have qualified, reflecting the uniqueness of the situation. Tight end
The most significant on-field rule change in Lewis's opinion is the proposal to have an instant replay for all turnovers. With the league already reviewing all touchdowns, the bulk of what coaches challenge is now covered, so it opens up the opportunity to throw the challenge flag on other plays.
"Last year with the scoring plays and the challenges that absorbed the coaches' challenges and kept it in the pocket. That means you have another opportunity to challenge," Lewis said. "At the end of the day the coach doesn’t leave a game thinking he kept a challenge in his pocket. Sometimes you challenge for momentum, sometimes just to stop play rather than take the timeout. If there’s a shimmer of hope. There’s times when I challenge and I know there’s a 20-percent chance it might get overturned but I’d rather have the play stoppage."
Like in the Wild Card loss in Houston when he got rejected on his two challenges in the first half, the last on a disputed pass.
"We needed a chance to regroup,” he said.
NO COMPS: As expected the Bengals didn't get any compensatory picks in next month's draft because they had a net gain in free agency despite losing Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph. The highest comp went to the Raiders, a third-rounder.