Postcard from camp: Bengals
Bengals seem to be fat and happy at the skill positions
Pacman Jones is being mentored by coaching intern Rod Woodson
Antonio Bryant's role is uncertain after Terrell Owens' signing
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Peter King had to say about the Bengals camp in Georgetown, Ky. For an archive of all camp postcards, click here.
I'm in Georgetown, Ky., on the campus of Georgetown College, about 70 miles south of Cincinnati, a few miles north of the University of Kentucky. Funny, by the way, to see how the locals are covering the sordid Rick Pitino affair. SHE UNZIPPED ME, COACH TESTIFIES, screamed the front-page headline of the Lexington Herald-Leader this morning. You'll have to go elsewhere to get a summation of the ugly story, in which a local woman is accusing Pitino of rape and Pitino is denying it vehemently.
1. The Bengals have gone from being short at the skill positions to being fat and pretty happy. They were tight end-less last year, in effect, beset by injuries, and now they've added Jermaine Gresham (still unsigned), "the best tight end prospect to come out in the draft in the eight years I've been here,'' coach Marvin Lewis told me. The backfield is relatively intact, because with Cedric Benson back, they were never going to pay Larry Johnson anything substantive. And at receiver, they've added Antonio Bryant and Terrell Owens, along with third-round slot guy Jordan Shipley -- and the playing-to-be-seen-by-someone-else's-scouts Matt Jones, who had a good morning practice today.
2. Carson Palmer, whose arm and accuracy were suspect at the end of last year, looked very good throwing the ball this morning. He's determined to prove me, and a lot of others, very wrong.
3. The Bengals obviously have gone to the Jerry Jones School of Revenue-Generation. Uh, $15 to park your car at training camp? "Well,'' said the guy who extracted the money from me, "it is good for both practices today.'' Gee, thanks!
I'll write more about Pacman Jones in MMQB, but the most controversial Bengal who doesn't play wide receiver is chastened, working hard and taking lots of lessons from training camp coaching intern Rod Woodson. Jones attached himself to starting corners Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph through the offseason, working out with them regularly, and kept his nose clean off the field. "I'm here for football and football only,'' he told me on the field after practice. Time will tell.
Third-round pick Jordan Shipley all of a sudden is in a tough spot because of the addition of Owens, but expect offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski to find a few important snaps this fall for one of the best slot receivers in college football history. Shipley caught a school-record 248 balls with 33 touchdowns at the University of Texas -- and he was an efficient kick returners for the Longhorns. "The one thing we've got to be sure we do is find a way to get Jordan on the field, because we know he can help us,'' Lewis told me. The rookie looked smooth and able to get off the jam this morning in his first camp practice.
On the first snap of 11-on-11 drills, Pacman Jones lined up across from Chad Ochocinco. Jones played off-coverage, Palmer handed it to Benson, and Ocho blocked Pacman out of the play. The next time they lined up, with Ochocinco wide left, Chad drove Pacman upfield, stopped suddenly on a classic dig route, turned to the sideline and caught the pass easily from Palmer. About a 12-yard gain. Jones got there too late, and he slapped his hands angrily. Good competition.
Because I spent my lunch hour talking to Palmer and Lewis at length, I missed any semblance of what you might call a real lunch. So this served as my Bengals training camp meal: Two bottles of Gatorade G2 fierce grape (I believe 16 oz.) and a slightly green banana. Surprisingly, perhaps because I was famished, both were delicious.
1. The circus was in town this morning, but the ringmaster wasn't. T.O. missed a plane from Florida to Cincinnati, so he didn't arrive in the Queen City until the early afternoon. As one member of the Bengal hierarchy told me, "He will have to sign his contract first, then talk to his agent [Drew Rosenhaus]. Then I'm certain he will make a fairly grand entrance to our evening practice." He made a grand entrance, indeed, donning his customary No. 81 for the evening workouts.
2. I've heard there was some division in the Cincinnati brain trust about bringing in Owens. I've known Lewis for quite awhile and I spent 70 minutes with him today, and I got no sense of that whatsoever. My belief is the Bengals think they got Owens for the right price ($2 million in salary and $2 million in incentives, which will only be earned if T.O. has a good year).
3. As for what the addition of T.O. means to the WR depth chart, we all know he is going to cut into Bryant's playing time. Bryant, who signed a four-year, $28 million contract in March, will be practicing once a day to try to protect a knee he is still rehabbing. Bryant is saying all the right things, but what must he think when the Bengals drafted Shipley in the third round and now bring in Owens, who is determined to start alongside Ochocino.
4. Lewis is not happy with Andre Smith, the second-year tackle from Alabama. He doesn't think Alabama shot him straight with its pre-draft info (the kid's work ethic leaves a lot to be desired) and Smith was not diligent enough in the offseason rehabbing a foot injury. The Bengals expect him to be ready for the start of the season, but I wouldn't be surprised if: 1. The Bengals start him on the PUP list because he won't be in good shape; or 2. He doesn't start the season as a starter.
5. Expect linebacker movement on defense. Second-year man Michael Johnson is moving from defensive end to strongside linebacker, where coaches would like him to win the starting job. And this likely will be the year the Bengals move Rey Maualuga to middle linebacker and move Dhani Jones out of the starting role. Jones will still make the team as one of the key leaders, but there is a lot of sentiment among the coaching staff that Maualuga is ready.