Open Mike

Posted: 5:45 p.m.

Bengals president Mike Brown only talks once a year for the cameras and Tuesday was the day.

But he harmlessly hit a subject on which he's never to speak, since the NFL office has prohibited owners from discussing a collective bargaining agreement set to expire in a couple of years.

Yet he did support the current salary cap structure while also soothing fears that the Bengals may flounder economically in a system without a cap.

"It depends on how it's structured. We've been able to fend here," Brown said at the annual training camp media luncheon. "We don't have the revenues other teams have and we have cut the cloth accordingly and we do. And yet I think we can make it work doing it the way we're doing it. We can be competitive."

But a theme that Brown has had to discuss since the 2006 luncheon, which went off amid Odell Thurman's first suspension, has been character. It surfaced Tuesday because Thurman and Chris Henry are no longer on the roster after more problems with the NFL.

Although reports have said the Bengals are interested in re-signing the suspended Henry, head coach Marvin Lewis said resoundingly he has no interest in a player in and out of trouble so much that the Bengals released him three months ago.

Brown also said the Bengals have made a point of looking for good citizens as well as good players. Yet he also made it clear he still has that soft spot for second chances.

"I guess the world is divided up between redeemers and non-redeemers," Brown said. "I happen to be a redeemer. I think people can be made better and right. If that's a fault, so be it.

"These guys misstep. They've made mistakes that they've paid prices for it that have been verging on ruinous. But that doesn't mean I don't like them personally. I like them as people. I regret what's happened to them and I regret they're no longer here."

But that said, Brown followed by saying the club now looks at character more than it has before, although he did defend fifth-round pick Jason Shirley, a Fresno State defensive tackle the Bengals chose despite a DUI charge. The first trial ended in a hung jury and Shirley faces another one next month.

"He's a talented kid; a pleasant kid," Brown said. "I'm not sure I know what happened. I lean toward him and want him to get through this and get his life straightened out and come in here and be a productive player."

On Tuesday, Lewis was decidedly a non-redeemer when it came to Henry.

"It's not productive for our football team," Lewis said of signing Henry. "You have to be a productive part to be an NFL player. There is a responsibility to be an NFL player. It's a privilege, not a right."

After an offseason of angst with disgruntled Chad Johnson, Brown is ready to move on.

"Chad Johnson is one of the greatest players we've ever had here," Brown said. "We want him here. He makes our team better. I'm glad he's in the spirit of things. I'm happy with where we are going forward. Maybe there were times this wasn't going the way it should, but we're over that."

Brown also had a good time defending Carson Palmer over his anti-Ohio State remarks. Brown joked his father, Paul Brown, blew out Palmer's USC club twice when he coached the Buckeyes in the 1940s.

But, seriously, he said no one should take the remarks seriously. And he didn't leave any doubt what he thinks about this USC quarterback.

"He's our lead dog, isn't he?" Brown said. "We go as he goes. He's a splendid player. We're lucky to have him. I have great confidence in him."

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