Updated: 5 p.m.
Bengals president Mike Brown's annual appointment with the local scribes lasted less than 10 minutes Tuesday. But he left no doubt that he agrees wholeheartedly with the belief that 2009 is a critical year for his team.
Given the team's quest to sell tickets in the middle of a stagnant economy and the NFL's uncertain labor future, Brown said he knows the importance of stemming a tide that has yielded three straight years of a declining record.
"Every year is the most important season, but as I stand here, is it an important season? You bet it's an important season," Brown said during the club's training camp media luncheon. "We're unhappy how we showed. Last year we disappointed ourselves as well as our public. That left a bad taste in the mouth. We want to get back on the field and prove we are a good team. We thought we should have been a good team last year. This year we want to prove we're a winning team. That it's the kind of team that can be a playoff team.
"We know this is an important year. That's felt by everyone in this organization. We disappointed our public and they let us know about it. It's something we didn't like hearing and we want to get out there and win them back."
The public figured prominently in Brown's decision to allow HBO and NFL Films to film *Hard Knocks *in the weeks leading up to the Sept. 13 regular-season opener at Paul Brown Stadium against the Broncos. He acknowledged it was "a risk but it also has a lot of opportunity for us."
"We did it because we think it will reach our fans and it will give them a chance to see us not only on the playing field but also on the practice field," Brown said. "They'll see our coaches work. We think they'll like what they see and it will serve to bind them further with the team. We did it to reach out to fans across the country who know us only by reports. Now they'll see us close up. We think that will give us a chance to set the record straight with them."
Brown indicated he was talking about the perception of some of the Bengals and mentioned wide receiver Chris Henry's efforts to get his life back on track after three NFL suspensions for off-field problems.
"Chris Henry is a good example. If you knew him only by hearsay you would think he is some kind of ogre," Brown said. "It's not true. He's a good person. When you see him up close, you'll find that you'll like him. He'll be soft spoken and a pleasant person. People who understand him to be differently (will) now know better. The same is true of other people. We have a lot of good guys. They're interesting as personalities as well as players and if that comes through in this program I think that helps the Cincinnati Bengals."
Brown won't be hiding from the cameras, either, at Georgetown if they ask Mike to be miked. He says he has "scarcely noticed" the NFL Films camera crews when they've been around now and again since May.
"I'm not going to be a movie star. I'm handsome enough to be one," Brown joked, looking at his 74th birthday next month during filming of a double sessions day. "I don't know if they're thinking I'm the one (to mike). If it's required, that I play my part, I'll play my part. I'm not going to pretend if I do it. I'm just going to be who I am."
Brown is certainly thinking what the fans are thinking after the Bengals finished the season with 12 training camp starters that couldn't finish the year because of injury.
"I'd like us to stay healthy," he said when asked if there is one area he'd like to see improve. "If we stay healthy. If Carson Palmer stays healthy. If our offensive line stays healthy. I could go on and on. We had an awful lot of injury that affected us adversely. You can't lose your critical people and be the same team that you thought you were going to be. Having said that, we have to go out and prove it."