Posted: 6 p.m.
Lewis: No letup
The Bengals leave behind a foamy wake of attendance, merchandise and concession records here at Marvin Gardens even though their 10th Georgetown camp was its shortest. The club breaks fast Saturday morning, 14 days after it checked in.
But there is still a bunch of grueling training camp left as head coach Marvin Lewis plans another arduous two weeks at Paul Brown Stadium, highlighted by next Wednesday's two-a-day, just 48 hours before the second preseason game at Buffalo.
"He didn't back down this year. We still were physical and had the pads on and it looks like it's going to be the same thing when we go back," said defensive tackle John Thornton. "A lot of guys were surprised last year when we broke camp and thought that was it, but he put it on us pretty good that first week back. We've got a two-a-day Wednesday, so we're still going at it pretty good."
Whatever Lewis did last year worked because the notoriously slow starting Bengals got off 4-0 for their best start in 17 years. If anything, this camp may have been a little more demanding.
"I think it was more physical in a way," said Pro Bowl tackle Willie Anderson, who has lived through 11 of these things. "We've had live goal line about three or four times this year and I remember only doing it once last year. When you get on the goal line, that's as physical as it gets. Everyone gets amped up on the goal line - coaches and players."
There was no power outage when it came to Bengaldom at this camp. Fans lined up five hours before the first practice and never stopped coming. Under cloudy skies Friday, the camp's smallest crowd of 750 jacked the overall attendance to an estimated 58,000, 13,000 more than last year despite the fewer dates.
Georgetown took in an estimated $250,000, its biggest take ever with records of more than $100,000 in parking, $125,000 in concessions, and $35,000 in corporate sponsorships.
The Bengals also took home a hefty sum in this high tide of Bengaldom. Monty Montague, the club's merchandise manager, said he sold as much the first week of camp as he did the entire 2005 session, estimating a 100-percent increase over last season.
The club sold an estimated 1,500 in Sharpies alone and Montague had to make a handful of trips back to Cincinnati during the camp to re-stock the items that get autographed the most, primarily yearbooks and pennants. The crowds were well behaved, but the numbers have the college re-thinking its 2007 strategy.
"We're going to get more security. More of a uniform presence," said Stacy Varney, director of Georgetown's Conference Center. "It's not that we couldn't control them. We did and everyone acted well, but I think it just offers the fans more protection, not us."
The crowds weren't only big, they were enthused with the adrenaline of an AFC North title. They chanted as they asked for autographs. They cheered during the drills. Even a downed punt.
When Palmer met with Madden earlier Friday, Madden told him the Monday Night game he worked at Paul Brown Stadium for ABC in 2004 was the most electric crowd they'd ever seen. Palmer told him to expect the same Sunday night.
"It will be just like that. The atmosphere will be like a playoff game because that's just the way Bengals fans are and the way they support us," Palmer said. "It will be electric in that stadium even though it's a preseason game."
But Lewis is still preaching the nuts and bolts of camp. Last year he broke camp before the second preseason game. But since the Bengals follow Sunday night's game with a Thursday flight to Buffalo for Friday's game, Lewis thought it would have been absurd to come back to practice just Tuesday and Wednesday.
"The first thing we looked at is that we only had two weeks of camp," Thornton said. "But then we remembered what happened last year, so we know we've still got some work to do. I know some guys were really tired last year when we went to Philly and they were a lot fresher than we were."
After their first week of practice last year at PBS, the listless Bengals got lit by the Eagles, 27-17. But Lewis made it clear in his final camp meeting with reporters Friday that they are still going to pound it.
"Nothing's changed," Lewis said. "We'll still have two-a-days and we'll work like we did here. At some point we had to go through a transition and this was the best time."
The Bengals are on one-year deals with Georgetown and the next couple of weeks are going to show the plusses of it. With these long training camp days now back in Cincinnati, players will be commuting early in the morning and late in the evening.
"We'll be getting air mattresses at the stadium," said one player.
Plus, where else do you get treated like a celebrity every inch you walk? How big were the Bengals here? When the rookies put on their camp-ending skit Thursday night, they came up with the idea of "Celebrity Jeopardy," and anointed rookie quarterback Erik Meyer as Chad Johnson.
Meyer took the role so seriously that he gave himself a Chad-like Mohawk.
"Oh yeah," he's (a celebrity)," said Meyer as the credits rolled on the most celebrated Bengals camp ever. "That fit right into our skit."