John Clay: Bengals camp has different feel away from Georgetown

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJuly 24, 2012 

Bengals Daltons Stadium Football

Andy Dalton opens his second training camp with the Bengals on Friday, but don't look for the QB in Georgetown.

AL BEHRMAN — ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Important Bengals dates

    Friday through Aug. 19: Training camp at Paul Brown Stadium

    Aug. 10: Exhibition opener vs. New York Jets

    Sept. 10: Regular-season opener at Baltimore

    Sept. 16: Home opener vs. Cleveland

CINCINNATI — It's the classic breakup case of "It's not you, it's me."

It had nothing to do with Georgetown College.

Instead, the separation had everything to do with the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement, with logistics, with deciding that the best way for the Cincinnati Bengals to use all that downtime was to bring training camp to downtown Cincinnati.

"We had a great relationship with the people at Georgetown from (college president) Bill Crouch on down. We liked it there," insisted Bengals owner Mike Brown on Tuesday. "Times have required a change. Most teams are practicing now at their own facilities. We're following along in that trend, but that is not a reflection on Georgetown.

"If you wanted to go away for a training camp, there's no better place that I can think of than going down to Georgetown."

After traveling each year since 1997 to the accommodating small college off I-75 about 70 miles south of Cincinnati, the Bengals will open camp Friday at the team's own practice facility on the banks of the Ohio River.

"It was the time to do it," Brown said.

The new OTA (Organized Team Activities) rules played a major role in the decision, the guidelines all but rendering the old tradition of two-a-day practices a relic of the past. With the number of practices reduced, that will leave more downtime for players to lift weights, watch video and meet with coaches.

Given the new circumstances, Brown felt the home base at Paul Brown Stadium was better suited to those activities than are the dorms at Georgetown, which were used more for the rest required between practices.

"We'll go from having three (practice) fields to working on 60 yards of one field," said Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer at the team's annual pre-camp luncheon at PBS on Tuesday. "But that's OK. We'll deal with it. I think it's great for the fans. The fans deserve it."

Indeed, the Bengals are stressing how the fresh approach will be better for those who wish to attend the workouts. The club is also tying in with civic events downtown during camp, including an intra-squad scrimmage to be held after the Reds-Pirates baseball game on Aug. 5.

"I think it will be a great thing for the fans," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "Georgetown bent over backward to accommodate us, but we're excited to work with the people back home."

The home folks are excited about the Bengals, coming off a 9-7 playoff season that ended with a wild-card loss at Houston. Back is second-year quarterback Andy Dalton, budding star receiver A.J. Green and a young, aggressive defense.

"I think I know a little more about our football team than I did at this point last year," Lewis said. "I think we took a step in confidence last season."

"What am I looking for from Andy? Everything," said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden when asked about Dalton. "We know that 9-8 is not good enough. We know that losing in the first round of the playoffs is not good enough. We had a good year but we've got to get better."

In the past, the quest for improvement meant starting training camp at a remote location where a team could bond and focus on nothing but football. In its new/old surroundings this time around, that might be difficult. Camping at home might feel too much like home.

"They have to realize and make everyone around them realize that they are at training camp," Lewis said. "They'll have some time off, but when we're going, we're going and it's no different than training camp. We've changed our location, basically, that's it."

"That'll be the big thing," Zimmer said, "getting the players to understand that this is training camp."

Even if it is no longer Bengals training camp at Georgetown College.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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