Bengals president Mike Brown isn't budging on moving quarterback Carson Palmer, but the team is looking at moving its training camp to Paul Brown Stadium next season and has reached an agreement with the University of Cincinnati to move practices indoors on bad weather days this season.
In an interview earlier this week with Bengals.com and The Cincinnati Enquirer, Brown also said he believes Andy Dalton is the quarterback of the future and praised his coaches for coming out of the gate with a 3-2 record with such a young team.
"I give them real credit. We're doing well in my book in almost every way," Brown said of head coach Marvin Lewis's staff. "The defense is rated No. 1 in the National Football League. We haven't managed that for how many years (28) but here we are, that's pretty good. Someone must be doing something right. On offense, we are starting out with a lot of new players at key positions and they're doing well. Someone is getting them to do what they should do. I think they are showing they are good coaches."
While reiterating he's not trading Palmer, Brown had high praise for his successor. During last week's NFL meeting in Houston, Brown said he was greeted by people from around the league with Texas ties that said they're not surprised at Dalton's success. One of the conversations was with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
"We knew we were in very real ways starting over. It is a challenge to start over in this league with young players and I feel good about the young guys we have, we have a lot of them but Dalton of course is key," Brown said. "He has come in and shown real leadership. He takes responsibility. He's won the confidence of the players. That is quite remarkable for a young player to get to that point as quickly as we have."
But Brown also has his mind on off-field issues for a team that has a bye next Sunday before heading to Seattle and Tennessee. He says the dwindling attendance that reached a PBS nadir against the Bills (41,142) had Bengals management thinking about possibly covering seats in order to get sellouts, but they decided against. Brown said it could still be a consideration but he's hopeful the fans come back with the victories.
"We have to earn back our people. They lost belief in what we were doing. I think we're starting to do that," Brown said. "We have a good young group of players who are getting better and better, people see that and if we can keep it going the way we're pointing we'll win on the field and people will respond."
They haven't yet. Sunday's game against the Colts (1 p.m.-ESPN 1530) was announced as a local TV blackout on Tuesday, 48 hours before the deadline.
"We have been aware that we were in the position as early as last fall and we knew how it was shaping up and that we would have a shortfall," he said. "I think you have to have a winning team, a team that people believe in and get excited about and once again we have a group of young guys who look to be a good future for the Bengals and I think as they come on and do well the public will see that and get enthusiastic about the team once more."
Fans may be able to get a closer look at them during training camp. Usually the Bengals have announced their deal with Georgetown College by now, but with no deal imminent Brown admitted the new collective bargaining agreement that limits practices and the possibility of an 18-game schedule in the next few seasons has the club mulling staying at home to train for the first time in its 43 years.
"It is different now in the way you practice. With the new restrictions that are on. What we found is that we're really just practicing once a day," Brown said. "And when you practice once a day, is it necessary to go away to training camp with dorms and all the stuff that you have? The purpose of the dorms is to give the players a chance to rest when you're practicing twice a day. That's a big change and it plays into our thinking. Again, the schedule could change. I don't know when or if that could happen. What you are seeing across the league is a tendency by teams to stay at their own location."
While Brown suggested stands won't be installed at the practice fields across the street from PBS, he indicated the stadium could be opened during camp for various night practices, as well as the intrasquad scrimmage.
Brown said he's still looking at building an indoor facility at PBS, but he said the club plans to use the University of Cincinnati this season.
"They come down here and practice and play and we've made an arrangement with them," Brown said. "(Later in) the year when the weather changes, if it's not a conflict with what we're doing we can have time and space in their place and see how that works and then go from there."
Brown also said he welcomes UC playing games in the future at PBS as the Bearcats try to decipher the conference crisis.
"We would like them to play here if it's their choice. They have to make that call," Brown said. "If they wanted to play down here we would look forward to talking with them about it. They do it in Tampa and Pittsburgh. It wouldn't be unusual."
THE FULL INTERVIEW
Q: What do you think of the attendance so far?
MB: Our attendance is off and it's a result of having had a terrifically disappointing season a year ago. We have to earn back our people. They lost belief in what we were doing. I think we're starting to do that. We have good young group of players who are getting better and better, people see that and if we can keep it going the way we're pointing we'll win on the field and people will respond.
Q: Disappointing, though, despite the 3-2 record you had to declare a blackout on Tuesday?
MB: Yes, we have been aware that we were in the position as early as last fall and we knew how it was shaping up and that we would have a shortfall and then the rest of the answer would be to go back to where I was before.
Q: What do you think it will take for the fans to come back because even in 2009 when you won the division it took five extensions to get sellouts?
MB: I think you have to have a winning team, a team that people believe in and get excited about and once again we have a group of young guys who look to be a good future for the Bengals and I think as they come on and do well the public will see that and get enthusiastic about the team once more.
Q: Do you think in '09 were they not excited, or do you think the economy was a factor?
MB: There are other factors. This isn't just here. Down in Jacksonville it was scarcely better. What you're seeing now are other factors and everyone is aware of it. The economy is a factor and another factor is television. Television at home is actually real competition, you can sit at home and watch it and see it very well.
Q: Jacksonville since '04 has tarped sections of their stadium in order to limit the capacity. Have you thought about doing it here?
MB: We decided not to do that. Whether it is something to think about in the future is an issue for the future.
Q: Are you surprised with how the team is doing?
MB: We're pleased with how they are doing. We have worked hard to get this team put together. A lot of people here have. We knew we were in very real ways starting over. It is a challenge to start over in this league with young players and I feel good about the young guys we have, we have a lot of them but Dalton of course is key. He has come in and shown real leadership. He takes responsibility. He has won the confidence of the players. That is quite remarkable for a young player to get to that point as quickly as we have.
Then we have some young guys who are looking to be real important to us in the future. A.J. Green, (Jermaine) Gresham are going to be good players in this league. Defensively we have done well. Put together well by Mike Zimmer and we have a mix of youngish players who are coming on with some veteran guys thrown in. It's performed very well.
Q: When you look at the talent on this team, one of the knocks is your ability to find talent:
MB: I think the talent speaks for itself. We have good talent and, yes, I think we find them. The number of new young players on our team, by that I don't mean just rookies but guys one to two years into it, is disproportionate and they are showing well. We've acquired some guys in free agency -- (Thomas) Howard comes to mind, (Nate) Clements is helping us, so we've gotten some help there.
Look at our defensive line, they are two- to three-year olds in the league (plus) guys who are veterans. (Frostee) Rucker and (Jon) Fanene. None of them are 30 years old. It's a very, very young team and the thing that if you're around that is noticeable is the spirit is good. They are a sparky group and are beginning to believe in themselves and that's what you want.
Q: Do you like the resiliency of this group? There have been some years where one play would affect this team:
MB: I would differ with you. This is a close league and your question isn't an unfair question. We have played five games, they have all been one-play games. Switch around one play and it goes the other way. We've won three, we've lost two. We could have won five, we could have lost five. Last year if you look at it closely there were a lot of games that were one-play games, but honest to God we lost almost every one of them. The year before we won them.
I don't know you can say there's a reason for that other than someone drops the ball or somebody steps out of bounds or misses their assignment on that play and it's a key play that turns it all around. It is a very close run thing, this league. Except when you get the two or three top teams, maybe it's three or four, that have established veteran quarterbacks who drive their team to a high level.
Q: Seems like things relatively got quickly back to normal after the lockout:
MB: I expected it but it wasn't easy. It had different challenges than what you had in a normal year but these guys are football players, it's what they do and you put them out there, they quickly get to it. It doesn't take too long to get up and going.
Q: You've seen a lot of quarterbacks come through here, you've scouted them. Where does Dalton fit in coming in learning the system and playing?
MB: He has a remarkable presence.
Q: Can you compare it to anyone who has come through?
MB: I do compare them in my own mind and they all are different. They all have strengths and they all have weaknesses. His strength is his leadership ability and that means he takes his work seriously, he knows what he's supposed to do. He's still learning but he works very hard at it and it shows. He'll get better and better as he gets used to seeing all the different things there are to be seen. But he's been quite exceptional in this area. He is poised. We've had guys around here who didn't reach that level of poise for three years at quarterback. Some very good ones but he has a remarkable presence.
Q: But he's done things as a rookie that Kenny (Anderson) and Carson (Palmer) and Boomer (Esiason) didn't:
MB: I don't want to get into comparisons in that way. Heck, in Carson's case he didn't even play his first year. Jon Kitna played.
Q: He's done things I guess Carson didn't do his second year:
MB: Well, I've made the comment I want to make on it. When we were down at the league meetings (this past week) in Houston and it was interesting because all sorts of Texans would come up and say 'What about Dalton? We knew about him and he's doing well. We thought he would.' And it was sort of interesting. People in the league, Jerry Jones would be an example and a couple others with other teams who had a Texas background. They were very aware of him as a person. They knew what we are finding out there.
Q: Seen a rookie who has had the presence that A.J. has had?
MB: A.J. Green has shown already that he can be a big-time player in this league. He makes plays and has the physical tools to do it. He has the presence. So far he's doing exceptionally well. That's what I was referring to earlier. We have a group of young guys who are real prospects for the future and as the public understands that I think they'll come back and be a part of it.
Q: The franchise extended the contracts of three players the week before the season. Are others in the works?
MB: We don't announce the extensions until we make the deal. You probably have thoughts on that, so do we. We'll see what happens.
Q: Are you surprised Chad Ochocinco doesn't have more catches in New England? I know you thought he had some productive years left:
MB: Chad was a great player for us when he was here. He's someone else's player now and I'm not going to editorialize on that one.
Q: At the league meetings there was the announcement that the International Series games will continue through 2015. Some of the teams who have been designated the home teams have been ones with attendance problems. Could you see one of the Bengals home games being shifted to England?
MB: We want to play here. We're a Cincinnati team and that is our focus. We're not looking to go to England to play football games.
Q: Usually around this time there has been the announcement of an extension with Georgetown College for training camp. It hasn't happened yet:
MB: We haven't gotten around to making a decision on training camp for next year. The league still has some open business. I don't know if we will get to an extended schedule at some point or not. If we do I don't know when that might happen. We are waiting until later to sort through how we're going to handle training camp moving forward. We could do like most teams do now, which is just stay here and work at our own facility but we haven't made a decision.
Q: When do you have to make a decision?
MB: I don't have to make it as I sit here and I don't know if there is a distinct deadline on it.
Q: What are some of the issues that you're looking at as you're trying to decide?
MB: It is different now in the way you practice. With the new restrictions that are on. What we found is that we're really just practicing once a day. And when you practice once a day is it necessary to go away to training camp with dorms and all the stuff that you have. The purpose of the dorms is to give the players a chance to rest when you're practicing twice a day. That's a big change and it plays into our thinking. Again the schedule could change. I don't know when or if that could happen. What you are seeing across the league is a tendency by teams to stay at their own location.
Q: Could you do that here? I guess you could set up stands?
MB: I don't know that we would do that. I don't think most teams that practice at their own facilities do that. You could practice in the stadium and open it on some occasions.
Q: I know you were asked (by NFL Network) at the league meetings, do you envision any moves by the trade deadline?
MB: No. I don't think there's likely to be any trades made by us. There are none being discussed or processed as we speak.
Q: Have any teams called on Carson? I take it your position on him has not changed?
MB: I don't have anything more to say on that. I've had my say on that and it remains all there is to say.
Q: If you don't trade him by Tuesday, the next opportunity would not be until March (start of the new league year)?
MB: I guess that's right. I'm not focused on it.
Q: Would that be an option?
MB: It would be an option to trade any player but we have not looked that far ahead.
Q: Do you feel like Andy is your quarterback of the future?
MB: I think he's our quarterback right now and doing very well. I'm pleased with how he's doing. I think he can be the guy here.
Q: How would you assess Marvin and his staff because there were a couple changes?
MB: I give them real credit. We're doing well in my book in almost every way. The defense is rated No. 1 in the National Football League. We haven't managed that for how many years (since the end of the 1983 season) but here we are, that's pretty good. Someone must be doing something right. On offense, we are starting out with a lot of new players at key positions and they're doing well. Someone is getting them to do what they should do. I think they are showing they are good coaches and I felt to tell you the truth that last year they were good coaches too.
Coaches are teachers and sometimes you can teach but the student still can't multiply seven times nine. He doesn't learn it. Is that the teacher's fault? Not always. In our business someone steps out of bounds or jumps offside or a multitude of things that fall short but that is not always the teacher and I'm just making the point that our coaches are good coaches, they were good coaches. I think we have some new guys here that are helping and making a difference and that we're stronger because of the addition of them. When you don't win someone is at fault in the public's mind and there's a tendency to be critical.
Q: What do you like about Jay Gruden?
MB: I think he's done very well. His system is still growing and getting installed. We're in a different position than normally because we have new people and material and it takes time to get it all to come together. But we're ahead of schedule in my book and I think it shows on the field. That is to put on a caution light. We have real challenges ahead of us and we know it. Yet I feel good about how it has gone to this point and I am encouraged about the future.
Q: In terms of an indoor facility has there been any progress or timetable as far as adding one?
MB: It's something that we look at. The thing we're going to do this year is go up to UC. They come down here and practice and play and we've made an arrangement with them that later in the year when the weather changes if it's not a conflict with what we're doing we can have time and space in their place and see how that works and then go from there.
Q: With UC, could you see more games being played here?
MB: We would like them to play here if it's their choice. They have to make that call. If they wanted to play down here we would look forward to talking with them about it. They do it in Tampa and Pittsburgh. It wouldn't be unusual.
Q: The advantage compared to the other two stadiums is the surface here is field turf (artificial):
MB: It could be made to work. There would be some issues. You have to clean up and get ready for the next event. They go first and we go second. They do it in Tampa and Pittsburgh and we could get it done too.
Q: There was the letter from the County as far as the Stadium of which the team hasn't commented on. In terms of improvements a new playing surface is planned for next year:
MB: I'm not going to get into that here. There are things being discussed. We've carried our full load with this thing. Believe me we have. We've made a lot of improvements here at our expense without saying anything and we're not looking to make the problem difficult for the county.
We want to make it succeed in every way and it's important for us that it succeeds for the county. We are a renter and if you rent an apartment and suddenly the stove goes bad well you have to get the stove fixed and normally the landlord is the one who fixes the stove. It's no different here. Things do change as you go through time. There are new things that come on, everyone knows what they are. Scoreboards are the big issue currently. Ours seems to work well enough at the moment. I hope it can continue to do so.