Bengals president Mike Brown has attended an NFL training camp in parts of eight decades. On Friday he'll begin the 52nd season in Cincinnati helping open another one with a new head coach when he greets the team with his annual and brief opening address.
"I'm not a natural born orator," says Brown, who turns 84 next month when the Bengals open the preseason in Kansas City.
But virtually ever since he's been born he's been a camp lifer and Brown makes his Hobson's Choice Podcast debut to reminisce about camps past while looking forward to enjoying the setting of this one.
As a pre-teen with his father Paul Brown's Cleveland Browns, he rolled up T-shirts, shorts and socks into balls and put them in lockers to help out trainer Morrie Kono and 20 years later as his father's assistant general manager he helped out at that first Bengals training camp by driving the released players to the team's revolving door at the Wilmington bus station.
On his earliest camp memories in the late '40s when he was 10, 11 and 12 years old helping out the Browns: "They were my heroes. Bill Willis, Marion Motley and Horace Gillom. The three African-American players the Browns signed and broke the color barrier for pro football. They had a corner room up on the second floor of the dorm. I would go up there. I was probably 12 years old and they had card games. They played hearts and they made me a full-blown participant … I played a number of times. They were always very nice and kind. They were my heroes then and that was maybe '47 and they are my heroes still."
On new coach Zac Taylor comparing the duration of a camp practice to how Paul Brown did it: "That's what happened here in the offseason with Zac. They were on the field briefly. It's efficient. It's very highly organized. It doesn't waste time. His practices are the way I remember with my father … They think it's the best way to go about it….."
On his camp talk: "It's not something I give a thunderous amount of thought … The thing I want them to know is that the family, the ownership group here cares and we're going to be involved on a daily basis and we want to help them anyway we can and they should feel free to see us if they think they should. We're with them. The guy they're going have on a daily basis is Zac, not me. He's the coach. We're here behind him and we're behind them."
On holding camp in downtown Cincinnati as opposed to spending so many years away from home at campuses ranging from Bowling Green in Ohio to Georgetown College in Kentucky: "It is a beautiful setting. You can see the skyline, the trees that fringe the practice field … It's as convenient as it gets. You don't have to drive the 40 miles or 90 miles, whatever it would be to Wilmington or Georgetown. You just drive downtown and come on in and watch. We encourage them to come and hope they will."
Other topics: rookies Bob Johnson's brains and Bob Trumpy's weight in that first training camp, Forest Gregg's punishing practices in later ones and how he knows the players listened to Paul Brown's training camp intro that could last 90 minutes.