The Bengals don't report to training camp until next week, don't practice until Thursday and don't practice publicly until Friday (3-5 p.m.), but already the Hard Knocks cameras are rolling.
A few weeks back an NFL Films crew ventured to Houston to film quarterback Andy Dalton working with some of his receivers and even as head coach Marvin Lewis and producer Ross Ketover held a noon news conference Thursday a staff of about 30 had already been at Paul Brown Stadium working out of two hastily-built offices.
With PBS hosting training camp for the second straight year, Ketover is looking to make Cincinnati one of the stars of the series. A mini-helicopter went into the air manned by a film crew on Wednesday.
"We're shooting openings and they got some coming over the train tracks to look at the stadium and coming across the river," Ketover said. "We're hoping to get some shots of Cincinnati. It's a good-looking city with the river right there."
Lewis is banking on a locker room stocked with veterans to deflect the glare that comes with the cameras. Guys like 11-year cornerback Terence Newman, who appeared on the series with the Cowboys several years ago.
"I wasn't really on it. I participated in it. I tore my groin," Newman said of that training camp in Dallas. "It's much easier for veteran guys, the guys that have been around (at least) one, two years. It's the young guys you have to worry about looking at the camera. But at the same time, we play a game where there are cameras every day. ... It can be a distraction if you let it, but that would be an excuse."
Newman says he doesn't have HBO, but he has managed to watch it and enjoy it. Lewis says one of the myths is that players act for the cameras.
"I think people are who they are," he said.
Ketover presented Lewis with the Emmy the series won in 2009 with the Bengals. That season ended with a Wild Card loss, just like Cincinnati's other three trips to the playoffs under Lewis, an 0-4 run that he has compared to the Emmy drought of soap opera queen Susan Lucci. Now Lewis and Lucci each have Emmys.
"That's not the trophy we're striving for," he said with a laugh.
Despite most teams turning down Hard Knocks, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told Bengals.com on a visit to Cincinnati last month that he wants more clubs to participate.
"We're talking about some kind of formal rotation where teams participate in the show on a more regular basis," Goodell said. "Not necessarily more frequently, but on a regular basis so that it is a shared obligation and it would give more teams an opportunity to have this."
Ketover is just saying how happy he is the series is back with the Bengals, an experience the late NFL Films icon Steve Sabol said was so successful because of the club's accessibility.
"That's up to (Goodell) and the ownership," Ketover said after announcing an extension of the series with NFL Films. "We want teams that want us there, but if the ownership agrees, that's all the better."
Lewis joked that he hoped the four-day trip to Georgia to practice with the Falcons and then play the Aug. 8 preseason game on ESPN would knock the Bengals off the show if the Falcons objected.
"It was my last out; that they would put the kibosh on it," Lewis said. "Their response was, I guess, they'll make a cameo."
Lewis said he told Bengals president Mike Brown if he was OK with doing the show again, so was he as they came off a productive offseason in the front office.
"I told Mike if you want to do it, we'll do it," Lewis said. "But my job doesn't change. I've got one job to do and that's to get this team to win the Super Bowl. If you feel like you want to go forward with it, I'm fine with it. Because that's what matters. It would be an excuse.
"We've got to go do what we've got to do regardless of that. That's the same thing I told our coaching staff. I don't want to hear anything about it. We're doing it and let's just go and do your job and that's what counts."