It seems I picked the perfect day to return from vacation, with the lockout ending and the league back in business, the next few days and weeks will prove both exciting and challenging not only for the league's 32 teams but also for us writers trying to keep up with them.
On Tuesday morning at the Bengals annual training camp luncheon, Coach Marvin Lewis and Owner Mike Brown took the time to speak to the media about the state of the franchise and the time-line for the coming days and weeks, whilst touching on some other issues concerning Bengaldom.
Amongst what felt like a myriad of information in comparison to the months of relative silence we have endured, Lewis announced that the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals will take to the field at Georgetown College this Saturday afternoon for their first official practice.
Lewis spoke first on the business side of the ball, commenting on the teams current push to sign college free agents, and bringing those prospects to Cincinnati for evaluations, stating that "We've had a good start to the college free agency period with some of the guys we've been able to commit to come here, and we'll continue that way as we go forward over the next 72 hours at least".
The next order of business is to contact other teams and other free agents and perhaps most importantly extending the contracts of current players, with pundits believing Johnathan Joseph's status to be a particularly important consideration. Lewis expects draft picks to be signed quickly with the leagues new rules making the process less "cumbersome", something the Bengals have suffered the ills of in the past with the train wreck that was Andre Smith's holdout in 2009.
With the floor open to questions, the usual suspects cropped up, with Lewis downplaying any feud with Chad Ochocinco when asked if they were "cool" Lewis responded "He's a player here on the Cincinnati Bengals; whatever your definition of cool is, let it be."
With yet another Cedric Benson arrest in the books, his status with the team, once considered integral to their success, is now up in the air. With the possibility that Benson could face a ban, Lewis will have to plan for his absence, but as of right now Lewis admitted there was a "big percentage" on him being back in 2011.
Both Brown and Lewis expressed a desire not to "rehash" Carson Palmer stories, their stance on which topic has not changed. Brown said that he would not "reward" Palmer with a trade, going on to say "I honestly like Carson Palmer, he was a splendid player for us; he's a good person. I wish him well, and he has retired. That was his choice. Carson signed a contract, he made a commitment, he gave his word (and) we relied on his word. We relied on his commitment. We expected him to perform here. He's going to walk away from his commitment; we aren't going to reward him for doing it."
On the topic of a potential veteran QB joining the ranks, both Lewis and Brown were open about the need to do their "due diligence" in that area, though they were unsure as to "whether or not they would be the starting quarterback or to be able to support whoever ends up being the starting quarterback," both seemed sold on second round pick Andy Dalton, and with Brown aware that the team's fans need a reason to get excited now more than ever, the addition of Gruden-familiar consensus front-runner Bruce Gradkowski as the starter may not be the image boost the team needs at this juncture.
With Mike Brown often being the focal point of Bengals fans' disdain, he did however prove to be a respected and level-headed asset in the CBA negotiations, and Brown is not one to sugarcoat the damage such disputes have to the game, "This wasn't good stuff," Brown said. "(Fans) don't want to sit and watch two rich guys figure out who gets 2 percent more or less of some incredible revenue stream. They have their own problems. They want to see someone who's concerned about football, concerned about Bengals, concerned about them."
- Two-a-Days: Lewis see's the rule change as a non-issue as the Bengals are not ones to regularly use back to back padded practices.
- Lewis expects preparation of the 2011 Bengals offense to be classroom heavy
- Lewis stressed 'change', with a lot of how the Bengals plan for and execute a football season going under changes. Plus the addition of new medical staff etc.