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Old and new camping on river


The Channel 19 morning show is going to be there for breakfast, Channel 9 is going to be there at dinner, and in between Friday the Bengals get the first taste of a home training camp in the season's first workout at 3 p.m. on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields.

It's big stuff. But for Bengals president Mike Brown, whether it's Wilmington College or Georgetown College or even Bowling Green in the second year of Harry Truman's presidency, it's always big stuff.

It's football. Anywhere. And Brown, who turns 77 the day the Bengals open the preseason against the Jets in the stadium and has been going to pro football camps since he was 10, knows when he's got a team that has the potential to make history.

"We have good, young players. We think our future is bright," the notoriously cautious Brown said Tuesday at the club's training camp media luncheon. "It's not easy in this league. Every team thinks their future is bright at this time of the year but we're ready to go. I think they will get better and improve and we'll see how it goes."

For Brown, that's almost a Joe Willie Namath guarantee. And it reflects just how excited he is about this team that qualified last year as a Wild Card even though it was the youngest team in the AFC and started a rookie quarterback. The move from Georgetown to downtown has Brown enthused, but he's sure that's going to work. How the Sept. 10 opener in Baltimore on Monday night plays out is the work in progress.

"Most of all we can reach out to our fans," Brown said. "They don't have to drive far, they can watch us downtown. All those things are good. I'm excited for the same old reason. There's nothing new with me. I look forward to seeing the players up and at it. They are all fascinating for me to watch. We'll see how the team comes together."

The snap-crackle-pop of the city is drowning out any logistical fears when the Bengals take their 90 or so players inside the stadium.

"As far as football-wise, I don't think it's going to be that much different. I think the crowds will be bigger because it's more convenient for them," said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. "I think it will be better for the fans, obviously, and for the people who want to watch us. It should be good for those people in those big buildings over there. You can just watch from there. But I don't think it will be too much different other than starting to understand logistics and getting the players to understand this is training camp. It's not just a regular day.

"We'll make do. Hey, it's great for the fans, it's great for Cincinnati. The fans deserve it as much as anything. So what we have to practice at 60 yards a couple of times? So what? We'll make do."

There is seating for about 1,600 that have to be ticketed when the Bengals are on the practice fields. But when the team is in the stadium, no seating limit is expected for those practices on Aug 2 (6-8 p.m.), Aug. 4 (the intrasquad scrimmage at 3 p.m.), Aug. 5 (the Mock Game at 6 p.m.), Aug. 12 (3:30 p.m.) and Aug. 19 (4 p.m.). All but Aug. 2 are on the weekends.

Camp came home because of the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout a year ago at this time. There can only be one practice a day. It doesn't last more than three weeks. When Brown and Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham reminisced Tuesday about the days of six preseason games, they might as well have been talking about dinosaurs and continental plate shifts.

"We used to leave for training camp after the July 4 holiday and come back after Labor Day weekend. We were eight-and-a-half weeks at it," Brown recalled. "We used to have no offseason and now it is structured differently. I'm not sure which way is better, I could live with either one. The players prefer it this way. We used to go at it hard and practice twice a day. They have a little easier go of it physically. They are two different approaches. This is how we do it now and I'm satisfied."

Along with the CBA, the stunning avalanche of technology over the last five years has also dictated staying at home. The teaching tools of iPads, DVDs and computer networks were drastically compromised whenever the Bengals moved out of their cyber nest at PBS.

Of course, what's old is new again. It was Brown's father that invented the playbook and this is the camp head coach Marvin Lewis unveils the playbook iPads. The loose-leaf binder that Paul Brown made popular is deader than Jacob Marley's door nail.

Mike Brown doesn't know what Paul would think, but he thinks the iPad is better, although he is intrigued by the report out of Tampa that the Bucs believe there can be some abuses.

"We'll have to keep our eye on it. It's the latest but I look forward to seeing how it works," Brown said. "The way the original playbook worked, (Paul) would stand up and lecture and then they would write the play in with comments he made about how to run the play and then it evolved to where mimeographs did some of it with the basic outline where the players went. Then it got to more advanced stages where we do it by iPad. Is that better? I would think."

But Mike Brown has plenty of stories about those old-fashioned training camps. Even before VCRs and overhead projectors. He broke out his favorite Tuesday about sneaking upstairs into the Browns dorms at night and playing cards when he was a pre-teen.

"I had a great thing happen to me. The players were on the second and third floor of the dorms and sometimes they would go out," Brown recalled. "But the African-American players that we had–Bill Willis, Marion Motley and Horace Gillom–they were in a corner room and there wasn't much for them to do when they went out. They were my heroes and they would invite me to play hearts with them and I had the time of my life, of course. They would kid me along but I thought I was one of the group and the object was to put the Queen of Hearts on Marion Motley."

Now six decades later, Brown thinks they've drawn some aces downtown.

"It's new and different for us but not for most teams in the league," he said. "We have better facilities here than we could find anywhere else."

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