Marvin Lewis sat at one of 16 tables set aside for head coaches inside the sprawling Ritz-Carlton Hotel ballroom. There, this annual rite of spring, the AFC coaches' media breakfast at the league meetings, slogged on for over an hour.

Reporters sauntered to Lewis' table, asked questions. After a few minutes, they'd disperse, soon replaced by another pulling up a chair with queries of his own.

The media members changed. The message stayed the same.

Marvin Lewis believes in Andy Dalton. And he'd prefer an extension done. Soon.

"We are hopeful we can get a deal done that works and Andy can put it behind him," Lewis said. "He can get back focusing on football. He doesn't have to go into the season and worry about this contract thing, every week someone is going to ask him a question … all those things that come into play later on. Let's get it behind us."

Between clearing of plates and refills of water, Lewis served up his point of view. Dalton lined up with the starting group since the first time he strapped on a Bengals helmet. No. 14 owns 51 consecutive starts since that day. Only four other quarterbacks in history can claim they reached the playoffs their first three seasons.

Defense of Dalton wasn't new. Lewis stood proudly in his quarterback's corner since drafting him in the second round in 2011. The difference in this meal centered around Lewis' urgency to see Dalton receive an extension.