If several media reports have it right, the NFL lockout could be heading into its final days. But Georgetown College hasn't altered any plans and is preparing for the Bengals' arrival July 28, 15 days before their preseason opener in Detroit.
Stacy Varney, the training camp's director, said Tuesday her staff continues to work on the fields, conference center and townhomes in anticipation of the club's 15th camp at the Georgetown, Ky., campus and the ninth under the direction of head coach Marvin Lewis.
"If they end up not coming, then they'll be ready for our students," Varney said. "But at this point we're working on the Bengals until we hear something else."
Varney said the drop-dead date for the school to have an answer is mid-July with some flexibility built in before classes start Aug. 29. She said the Bengals would have to be off campus by Aug. 22 in order to get it ready for the school year. Usually Lewis breaks camp about two weeks before school starts, but as Varney well knows this isn't a normal year.
If teams have time for anything, it would probably be for a quick conditioning camp before training camp and not a football minicamp.
"It's still very much up in the air, so we just have to go on the assumption they're going to be here," Varney said.
Even if there is a collective bargaining agreement in principle in the next week or so, the media speculation is that it would take at least another week for the deal to get to paper and start the NFL year with trades, free agency, and other roster moves. Some reports have indicated camps probably won't open before free agency, so crunch time is officially here if there are to be no delays in the preseason.
It won't take long for the Bengals to pack for Georgetown once they get the go-ahead. Equipment manager Jeff Brickner and assistant Adam Knollman usually start loading their four trucks six weeks before camp, but Brickner says they can do it in a couple of days by working around the clock while loading up his guys with pizza, Metallica, AC/DC and Brickner favorite Kenny Chesney.
"It's a mindset," Brickner said. "It won't be a problem."
Georgetown is coming off a record-setting year for attendance and even though the Bengals were 4-12 last season and won't have the top camp attraction of 2010 in Terrell Owens (and maybe not Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer, either), Varney thinks the fans will still show up in solid numbers. With the Bengals preparing to pass the torch to rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and No. 4 pick A.J. Green's enormous talents at wide receiver, there is the curiosity factor.
Throw in the fact that Georgetown would be the first place everyone will be on the field at the same time and the camp takes on a first-look mojo.
"No one really knows about this team and I think they'll want to see what they've got," Varney said. "There are some new faces that the fans really want to get to see."
Varney's staff has more familiar faces than the offense as she heads into her 11th year running the show. She's undergoing a transition in the wake of co-camp director Eric Ward's resignation as athletic director, but the rest of her staff is intact.
"We've had very little turnover, so it has become a pretty smooth process for us," Varney said. "I've got a great staff and they know what they're doing and what's expected because we've been at it so long."
Varney won't get into the financial workings of the one-year deal with the Bengals and what kind of guarantees are involved, but she said a canceled camp would be a big blow to the local hotels and restaurants, not to mention the revenue the school gets from the $15 per car parking rate and the camp's corporate sponsorships.
She did say there have been no discussions yet about extending the deal to 2012 but that doesn't mean there won't be.
"First things first," Varney said. "I think everyone just wants to see what happens this year and go from there."