CINCINNATI -- Remember the memory-zapping contraption from the movie "Men in Black"?
If Marvin Lewis could, he'd get his hands on one, call a franchisewide meeting and use it to flash every player, coach, trainer, scout and team personnel member who was around for the Cincinnati Bengals' disappointing early exit from January's playoffs. Lewis sees 2016 as a brand-new year. Nothing -- and he literally means zero -- from last season ought to carry over from 2015.
"It's what you do this year. That's what kind of motivates you -- or you're not here anymore," Lewis said, cracking a smile. "You can't wallow in last year. Only one team is happy about last year, and they're trying to block it out now."
For the seventh time in the 13 years Lewis has been in charge, the Bengals were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. It was their fifth wild-card loss in as many seasons. Making matters more frustrating for fans tired of feeling like perpetual also-rans was what caused this latest postseason defeat.
With less than two minutes remaining, it appeared the Bengals were going to win their first playoff game in 25 years. But a crucial lost fumble, a dramatic last-minute Pittsburgh Steelers comeback drive and a pair of costly 15-yard Bengals penalties ended Cincinnati's push to change their postseason narrative. The end result was a 35-yard Steelers field goal in the closing seconds to snatch victory away from the Bengals.
Earlier this offseason, some players admitted to needing several weeks before even trying to get over the loss. By April, though, a Lewis-issued edict had already forced them to move on. "Bury it" was the mantra of the spring; and it one of the first messages Lewis had for his team when it returned for voluntary workouts.
"Yeah, that's the end of it. That's what he told us to tell y'all," Bengals safety George Iloka told reporters at the time. "For us, it's just about moving forward and getting better, starting from today, and laying the foundation and being ready when the season comes around."
Well, now the season has come around. Training camp begins Friday in Cincinnati, with veteran players reporting Thursday. Rookies reported Tuesday.
"We can't remember what it felt like, because that's behind us," Lewis said Tuesday of the finish to the 2015 campaign. "We've got to move on to this year's football team. Last year's football team is way gone. And this year's football team has got to be a better football team, and it's got to have a newness about it, it's got to have a feel for it. Because we can't think that we're going to roll out what we did last year and think it's going to be worth anything. It doesn't win anything for us.
"And we've got to be better than we were last year."