Updated: 9:15 p.m.
GEORGETOWN, Ky. - When Carson Palmer checked into camp Thursday, he recalled how surprised he was the other day when someone told him neither of his starting wide receivers took a snap together during last year's blighted preseason.
Not this year. Even Chad Ochocinco showed up for a few workouts before minicamp to time it up with new starter Laveranues Coles, a guy that didn't miss a day in the spring.
For a minute Coles, with his 631 catches in nine seasons, almost seemed like the anti-Chad as he staked out his new digs Thursday. He earned a bit of a prickly reputation during the spring as he briskly went about the business of adjusting to his new team. He famously told The Associated Press back in June that he no longer had to talk to the media because The Ocho was here.
But he also kept intact his rep as a no-nonsense pro.
"I'm really laid back. I think that's what the guys will like about me. I don't crave any attention," Coles said. "The main thing is I'm trying to win ballgames and hopefully give my credit and success to my teammates. If we lose, put the blame on me. That's the way I am. I'm supposed to be the leader of this group and a leader of this team and that's the one thing I treasure about being Laveranues."
OK, so Coles used the third person exactly one more time than Rickey Henderson did in his Hall of Fame speech. But he admires how Ochocinco carries his name and considers to have a good relationship with him.
"Just being around him, you can tell the way the media portrays him he is not the person that he is, I can tell you that," Coles said. "When he's away from the camera and not Twittering, he's a great guy. He loves to have fun. He's a great teammate. I think he just enjoys being Chad and I think a lot of guys should enjoy themselves.
"We're all made up different," Coles said. "And he's one of those guys that loves what he's doing and likes the attention. That's one of the great things about him. He's one of those people that can go out and say things and still draw attention to himself and still go out and perform when he's double-teamed. Having a guy like that on your team makes it fun, makes it interesting, and it also get a lot of publicity."
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS: After carrying in a flat screen TV and his game controls into his dorm room here at Georgetown College, Ochocinco turned back the clock to 2001.
"Coming in as a rookie. Being excited about being in the NFL for the first time. I have that feeling," The Ocho said after he opened his door and was greeted by a Hard Knocks camera crew. "It's not really the physical shape that's important, it's the mental shape and right now it's as good as it's ever been."
But the most startling difference between this year and last is not that his video tweets have replaced his trade rants. He didn't limp into camp this year with an ankle scope like last year.
"I'm 85 million times better," The Ocho said of his physical shape.
He also knows what is asked of himself and quarterback Carson Palmer.
"With the most to prove as players, myself and Carson," he said. "We have a lot to prove off of what happened last year."
How can cameras phase a guy that did three video shows on his Twitter account Thursday?
"HBO is no different than the crowd that comes to watch practice; same thing," Ochocinco said. "Cameras have always been around me. Nothing different. Who wouldn't (like it?) If the camera's not following you, you're not doing something right."
Palmer agrees with The Ocho that they have the most to prove. They didn't hook up in California the last five weeks to throw because of conflicting schedules, but Palmer did throw with California resident Antonio Chatman.
"That's a fair assessment," Palmer said of The Ocho's call. "I think there are a lot of guys with a lot to prove. With me having an injury and Chad having a down year, we have a lot to work on."
Palmer made sure wide receiver Chris Henry made it to camp. Henry called him last night for a lift when his wife needed his car.
"He's a buddy of mine and his wife needs his car so we carpooled down together," Palmer said. "It's tough to figure out who our three wide receivers are going to be. Chris Henry is always the X factor."
Palmer said his throwing elbow is 100 percent and that he's ready to participate every day, including those days with double sessions.
"I threw all of July until the last seven days," he said. "That was probably a little bit too much, but good enough for me just to be confident going into camp."
More sights and sounds:
» Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski sped down the hill from the dining hall on his bike. Defensive end Frostee Rucker, injured in his first two preseasons, underscored the importance of staying healthy. Wide receiver Antonio Chatman leaped over a puddle while carrying a pillow after a classic central Kentucky downpour greeted the early arrivals.
» What's new, of course, are the HBO and NFL cameras at work on the Hard Knocks documentary, and each player and coach is handling it in his own way. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been saying for months that he learned from his appearance on the show with the Cowboys several years ago to shut off his microphone when he felt the need. Rucker conferred with new defensive tackle Tank Johnson in the spring about the Cowboys appearance last season.
"He told me, 'Just be yourself,' '' Rucker said."They're going to edit what they're going to edit and they're going to get a story out of whatever they're going to make. Just be yourself and play ball."
Rucker thinks it will be a good thing because the players are "going to want to put their best effort even more out there because there are going to be more cameras on them and it's going to be shown nationally."
As for Rucker, "I don't think I'll be different. I went to USC. I'm pretty used to all the cameras and stuff."
Rucker's former 'SC mate, linebacker Keith Rivers, was also an early arrival and sported a Dodgers hat. He said he went to a game in Dodger Stadium's dugout seats and made sure he bought the hat.
"I always buy something to bring back from a game," he said.
HBO VETS:Safety Roy Williams and Tank Johnson are going through the Hard Knocks gig a second straight season. Last year it was supposed to be a T.O. Fest in Dallas. This time it's supposed to be Ocho In The Round.
"A lot of people (are) wondering what's going on with this team, who's going to have an outburst or what's going to happen," Williams said. "It could be a good thing. At the same time, it could be bad thing. We'll see how it goes.
"I don't know what affected the Cowboys last year. Injuries? I don't know. I could care less what's going on with the Cowboys. I'm a Bengal. I don't think Hard Knocks was a curse to them by no way."
The Cowboys followed up their appearance with a surprising 9-7 mark that kept them out of the playoffs, but Johnson buys the Mike Brown argument and thinks it's a good move for the Bengals.
"I think it's going to give our team the exposure we need to show we're a quality team and a force to be reckoned with all year long," Johnson said. "It's not really a distraction. Cameras are cameras. They're part of our job, part of our business. It's also something that makes training camp more fun. Camp was hard, but just having the cameras around and you get to watch the show every week, it's fun."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
»When the Bengals appear on the practice Field Friday at 3 p.m., they will do so with the SpongeTech logo on their jerseys. SpongeTech Delivery Systems is a company which designs, produces and markets reusable cleaning products for household use.
» Defensive end Antwan Odom, who broke his foot in the first half hour of camp last season, only experienced G-town on crutches. No such pain this year even without crutches. He showed up with a Segway (an electric, standup two-wheeled scooter) and doesn't have to worry about anyone borrowing it: "It only starts with a key and I've got it."
» Defensive end Robert Geathers is keeping the tradition of former defensive lineman Bryan Robinson alive by hauling in a hyperbaric chamber with the help of defensive tackle Pat Sims. "I'm going to rent it out," Geathers said. "20 bucks for 30 minutes."
» If there is one thing rookie Rey Maualuga is supposed to do, it is inject the Bengals defense with the same brand of mean intensity and bone-rattling hits that marked his career at USC. As he checked into his room, he was quite aware the pads are coming on this weekend, probably Sunday.
"It will be a different story than OTAs and minicamp and all that," Maualuga said. " We can finally show our true colors. See who will back down. See who will flinch. ... I'm not going to back down from anything."
No one denies Maualuga is the middle linebacker of the future. But he breaks in as a backup SAM backer.
"The coaches seem to know what they're doing. They wouldn't have put me at outside if they didn't think I could play outside," Maualuga said. "I don't think it's anything hard that I won't pick up. ... Any position that can get me out on the field fastest is good for me."
» Some signs could point to an Andre Smith signing, such as the player drafted right behind Smith at No. 7, Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, agreeing to a deal Thursday. And the fact that Smith's agent, Alvin Keels, broke the deal on his Twitter account (according to ProFootballTalk.com).
The numbers are also very rich at a five-year base of $38.250 million, $23.5 million of it guaranteed and $54 million max, also according to PFT. With Smith now sandwiched around deals that ballooned over last year by more than 50 percent (Mark Sanchez at No. 5) and Heyward-Bay's 20 percent, there are at least some numbers out there.