Bengals camping out on talks


Marvin Lewis

Amid ESPN's report that the target date for a signed collected bargaining agreement is at the July 21 owners meeting in Atlanta, the Bengals still haven't called off training camp at Georgetown College.

The odds look to be about 50-50 as the club mulls the logistics of heading to Georgetown, Ky., with so many balls in the air, not the least of which is signing its eight draft picks and a class of college free agents to fill out a roster that ESPN says is going to have a limit of 90 players.

With the 15th Georgetown camp set to open July 28 when the Bengals report, they figure to start moving various parts of their operation on the day the owners could ratify the CBA in Atlanta. By the time the Bengals can get their equipment, training, weight and video rooms moved, they are looking at July 25 or so. According to ESPN's projected timeline of July 21 ratification, the league year with roster moves and free-agent signings would begin the same camp day opens, on the 28th.

It's unclear if the Bengals would hold some kind of conditioning camp at Paul Brown Stadium before they went to Georgetown, which means they may have to spit their staff and equipment into two places. It seems doubtful that head coach Marvin Lewis would put the team in pads right away even though the Aug. 12 preseason opener in Detroit looms. They still have to decide if the hardships caused by a condensed schedule are going to be outweighed by the benefits of being in Georgetown's cocoon.

Both Bengals president Mike Brown and Lewis favor going away to camp. Brown thinks it helps the team focus and Lewis likes the fact players can rest onsite. But they also know the Bengals have never faced logistics like this.

They could conceivably delay camp for a few days, but not more than that because of Georgetown's exit day of Aug. 22, the date the school needs the Bengals off campus to prepare for the academic year. With the Bengals playing the Jets on the road Aug. 20, they would figure to break camp Aug. 18 or 19.

The Bengals have planned to tell Georgetown by this Friday if they're coming, but that's not even set in stone. The college is already set for the Bengals to be on campus July 28, so there looks to be a grace period on that mid-July deadline.

But assuming a deal is going to get done in time for a July 21 ratification is only that; an assumption. One player told CBSSports.com via ProFootballTalk.com on Monday that no deal is close, and it has been reported there are hangups on a rookie wage scale and the number of veteran free agents teams can have the right to match, if any.

It looks more and more like the lockout won't end until there is a signed document, so players can't start reporting for physicals until then. Anything beyond July 21 ratification would appear to put the opening Aug. 12 preseason weekend in danger.

According to NFL.com, the owners have proposed that the top eight draft picks would get deals that include triggers for fifth-year earnings to 150 percent of the average starter's salary at that player's position. Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green qualifies as the fourth pick.

Players want fifth-year numbers derived from the average starter's salary in the year the player was drafted, not from the fifth season, the Web site said. It also says the owners are open to making the fifth year an option and have proposed a $6 million floor and $12 million ceiling for fifth-year earnings.

On Monday night, ProFootballTalk.com, citing info from the players' side, said the owners have proposed an overall dollar limit on rookie contracts of $840 million with no additional money for players taken in rounds two through seven above minimum salaries. The players, the site said, have proposed a total dollar limit of $884 million, which would provide players taken in rounds two through seven a chance to negotiate salaries higher than the minimum salaries.

PFT also said the players are balking at the league's proposal for penalties on rookies who hold out at some point during the term of their rookie contracts.

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