Q: Wondering what your thoughts on the 15-day rule with training camp were. It seems that since the Bengals don't play until August 11th they're not allowed to show up to camp until the 28th of July while many other NFL teams start training camp a week early. Does this hurt or help the team? Seems unfair to me in a sense, but it could keep the team a bit more fresh during camp. Interested in hearing your thoughts.
--Ryan F., Cincinnati, OH
RYAN: I'm with you and The Bard. The less time on the field, the better because of those dreaded injuries. And I think past seasons show it is much ado about nothing.
Take last year. The Bengals got into camp a few days before the Browns and Cleveland had a much better season. In fact, the Bengals were one of the first six teams to report last year and they had their first losing season under Marvin Lewis.
Actually, the only real difference is a couple of days, except for the two teams that play in the Hall of Fame Game because that's always about half a week before everybody else starts playing.
Last year the Steelers made the playoffs and the Saints didn't after they played in Canton. In '05, the Bears were in the Hall game and started practicing nearly a week before the Bengals did and when they played each other relatively early in the third game of the season, Cincinnati won handily on the road.
By the time the regular season starts and you take into account the preseason games, breaking training camp, and days off, it probably comes out that teams have been on the field about the same. Certainly not enough to make a difference, you would think, by the time they play in September.
The voluntary workouts in May and June also serve to lessen the impact of camp.
If anything, it's an advantage not to be on the field early. You not only save legs, maybe you prevent injury. Hey, in my mind, it's an advantage whenever you DON'T practice. That way, you're guaranteed nobody pulls up with a blown hamstring.
And maybe that the Bengals are one of the last two teams to report this year helps them because guys like Chad Johnson (ankle), DeDe Dorsey (hamstring), and Jeremi Johnson (conditioning) may not be 100 percent out of the gate.
Now, for the sake of competitive fairness the NFL would do well to let the 30 teams not playing in the Hall of Fame Game report to camp on the same day.
That way, it's not an issue. But, in reality, it doesn't look to be much of a factor in a league that is truly a marathon and not a sprint.
Q: How is it that Stacy Andrews can get franchised, and subsequently not sign a deal and hog up cap room this year when he's probably not guaranteed to start the whole year? Couple that with not having T.J.'s deal done and it shows why we've got one winning season in like 50 years. Are the Bengals really this inept or is there some reasonable explanation?
--Ryan, West Chester, OH
RYAN: I hear you. It's ridiculous to have a $7M utility man. But you know what's even more ridiculous? Having a $130 million investment like Carson Palmer protected by whim and hope.
If they cared this much about keeping the offensive line together 20 years ago, the '90s wouldn't have been so lost.
I thought they showed a lot of competence two years ago when they approached Andrews about extending his deal. If you've read this space before, you know we've been critical of management waiting too long to approach their own players, but they made this approach (as well as to Robert Geathers and Domata Peko) at the right time.
How can Andrews not be signed?
The agent must think he's going to get elite Pro Bowl money when he hits the market. And he probably will.
Should the Bengals have given Andrews that with two years left on his deal when he had three NFL starts? Or even after this season, his first ever starting at tackle and that because of injury?
You can debate if they should have given a guy who played 70 college snaps elite money at that point, but one thing is for sure now. After they took Kansas tackle Anthony Collins in the fourth round this April, there isn't the urgency to sign him up long-term.
If Willie Anderson hadn't got hurt last year, isn't it very doubtful they would have tagged Andrews with the franchise player? If they could have spent the $7M on a crystal ball, they probably would have.
It was clearly an insurance move because they didn't know how the 33-year-old Anderson would come back a year older from his knee problems and they needed a right tackle. Even perennial Bengal Killer John Clayton of ESPN.com agrees with them on that.
It looks like Willie is going to be OK, but how do you really know until training camp and a few preseason games? To me, this is opposite of the thinking that blew up the '90s.
First of all, they're hanging with a veteran coming off a knee injury and that was never the case. Maybe it's because Anderson is the best right tackle in the game when healthy, but whatever it is, they're doing it and they should.
Certainly if they had responded like that in keeping veteran linemen like Max Montoya and Bruce Reimers, the bad old days might not have been so bad. Or drafting linemen like Andrews and Collins instead of signing college free agents like Anthony Brown, Tom Scott and Tom Rayam.
And the fact they've swallowed Andrews' $7M for one season shows they want to win now. In the '90s and, really, before Marvin got here, they always seemed to be looking to the future and never would have spent that much on QB insurance.
So, no, the Andrews move seems to reflect that they've learned some lessons.
That said, now that Collins is in the fold, you can trade Andrews. Daniel M., of Hilliard, Ohio, is one of the many readers calling for a swap of Andrews and Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, a pair of franchise players that didn't get long-term deals.
Obviously you'd have to give the Titans more than Andrews, but give Tennessee next year's third and a fifth in 2010 and let's go. I agree with Daniel. I'd rather drop $7M on a D-lineman and if Willie can't go, put Collins at either left guard or right tackle and Andrew Whitworth in the other spot.
As for Houshmandzadeh, well, look, I'm a T.J. guy and we probably all are. But there are things that don't make it the no-brainer a lot of people think it is.
First of all, how much does T.J. want? Does he want more than Chad? The same? That's a delicate issue.
So is his age, 32 in September 2009. How much do you pay a 32-year-old receiver not Terrell Owens or Randy Moss? And, hey, if it was me, I'd give Housh $7M per for three years.
But does that also give you room to extend your record-breaking kicker, as well as veterans in their early to mid-20s like Whitworth and Johnathan Joseph?
Of course, if the two rookie receivers remain raw and don't get ready, you may have to make room for Houshmandzadeh.
And then there's the franchise tag, which started the whole discussion. Andrews won't get it again next year, but somebody else will.