All eyes are on him.
How fast can he move?
What is his release point?
Just exactly how much baggage does he have?
No, no. Not rookie quarterback Andy Dalton.
Try Bengals equipment manager Jeff Brickner.
With media reports late Thursday night trumpeting that a collective bargaining agreement is virtually imminent as the owners conceded key points on the fifth-year compensation of a rookie wage scale, Brickner is poised to load his 48-foot semi for Georgetown College once he gets the OK from Bengals business manager Bill Connelly. That's one foot for every hour, a two-day move that gradually takes places over six weeks during a normal season.
You know it's the start of football season when you see that iconic picture of Brickner and assistant Adam Knollman overseeing the loading of the trucks like Tom Gray and Rob Recker before them. Brickner is ready to give the snapshot to you again.
"If we have to do it in two days, we'll do it in two days," Brickner said Thursday afternoon. "We'd like three or four days, of course, but we've done it before and we're mentally prepared for it. We're ready to get the guys from the visiting clubhouse in here to help and all our part-timers. But I don't want to load the semi and then have to put everything back on the shelves."
A source told NFL.com a handshake deal could be reached as soon as Tuesday with the owners meeting next Thursday in Atlanta. Other reports late Thursday said it could be even sooner that.
It's unclear how they've resolved some of the rights of free agents with less than six years of NFL experience, but the other main hurdle, the rookie wage scale, has reportedly been finalized.
How soon a deal can be signed and the lockout lifted after the owners approve the deal is not known. With players needing to get to Paul Brown Stadium for physicals and assuming four or five days of free agency takes place before camps open, the July 28 report date to Georgetown College could be pushed back or canceled.
One thing Brickner knows is that Bengals president Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis like to go away to camp, so they are preparing like they're going. There already has been a lot of what Brickner calls "prep work." The boxes for the 70 or so team employees and officials slated to attend training camp are poised against a wall in the equipment room waiting for the word.
Even if they don't go to Georgetown, Brickner and Knollman are still going to be in an onslaught like everybody in the NFL. The first day the players are allowed in, the doctors and trainers need them for physicals and public relations need them for head shots. And the equipment guys need them to fit them, most importantly for helmet sizes.
"We're going to piggy-back off the physicals and head shots," Bricker said. "We haven't seen these guys since January. We haven't had a minicamp or OTA where you can adjust sizes and work with them. We're going to have a couple of guys from the helmet company, Ridell, on call here to assist us. We've got to make sure their haircuts or their head sizes haven't changed and we have to check their pads. Shoes. Pants. Shorts. Of course, we don't know who the college free agents are going to be, or the free agents, so we're going to have to size them up, too. We've got a good inventory on jerseys and pads. And the beauty of the mail service is you can overnight."
And there isn't just the semi, which is full of soft goods. There are four flatbed trucks hauling field equipment and four lifts for the video department of Travis Brammer and Kent Stearman, not to mention two single-axle box trucks.
Among the other 853 issues that come up when talking to Brickner is the state of NFL free agents. How do they go on their tours around the league if half the teams are at a training camp? All Brickner knows is they'll keep the bare bones in Cincinnati for the physicals and the fittings, and the last thing they'll take with them are the individual bags for each player.
"We'll be able to do it because this is what we do," Brickner said. "It will get done."
QUAN Q AND A
Cincinnati sports talkmaster Lance McAlister had an excellent spot with Bengals wide receiver Quan Cosby this week. McAlister said the most interesting observations from the third-year player came when he talked about working with Dalton. Courtesy of McAlister's blog, Cosby said, "I'm very impressed. He's a rookie and he's taught me a lot about the offense. He ran it at TCU. I credit our scouts for going after a guy that knows Jay Gruden's offense. I'm pumped about the possibilities of him (starting) early this year."
Cosby, who has caught six balls in his two seasons, has enjoyed running around with these Xs and Os.
"It's very similar to what we ran at Texas ... tossing it around ... some deep balls ... but a lot of concepts. I think I can fit in very well," he told McAlister.
Cosby also has a great grasp of the work that is ahead for his new coordinator, new quarterback, and teammates adjusting to a new scheme. "I'm still on the basics," he said. "As a team we wouldn't be behind the 8-ball, we would be behind the beach ball. To say we have a lot of things to address would be a major understatement."
Get used to seeing Cosby for a variety of reasons as one of the more selfless, team-oriented guys in the room. Plus, the guy is absolutely money when he's back there catching punts. He maybe wasn't as explosive last year as he was his rookie year, but he never does anything to get his team beat. He has yet to fumble 114 punts on 70 returns and 44 fair catches. And now that cornerback Adam Jones has had a second neck procedure that makes his availability murky, Cosby is a solid incumbent.
Cosby, who has Carson Palmer agent David Dunn, was pretty adamant where his QB stands.
"He made his statement," Cosby told McAlister. "Being a guy of his character he's going to stick to it. He will be crucified no matter what, but he can't go back on his word now."
A contingent of NFL scribes, including The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy, went to a celebrity golf tournament this week in Lake Tahoe seeking comment from Palmer. As expected, Reedy said Palmer was pleasant in a 20-minute visit and appeared in good shape, but offered no comment on his future.