These aren't your father's OTAs. Or mandatory minicamp. Which is just fine with NFL Players Association president Eric Winston and former Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Welcome to the Generation Gap, NFL style. Houshmandzadeh's last spring playing for head coach Marvin Lewis came in 2008, three years before a new collective bargaining agreement.
"This practice was like eating a cup cake and our practices were like being a Navy Seal. It's completely different," said Houshmandzadeh, who served as one of the club's minority coaching interns the past two weeks.
Lewis ended the mandatory minicamp and with it all the spring workouts when he faked the guys out Thursday afternoon. After putting the ball on the 1-yard line with about 10 minutes left in Thursday's session and instructing the offense to drive the ball, Lewis abruptly called the end of practice. Winston, who doubles as the Bengals backup tackle, found himself jumping up and down leading the cheers since the Bengals won't return for five more weeks until the start of training camp.
Since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement has cut down on spring hours on and off the field, there has been less instead of more in the name of safety and Winston, in his first Bengals spring, liked the way Lewis handled it.
Lewis has a rep for his tough-minded approach, so it was no surprise that he didn't mimic what some teams did and simply called off the last minicamp practice. He did that last week when he took them to sand volleyball instead of holding the last voluntary practice.
"I think it's been pretty fair," Winston said. "I think it's been pretty normal compared to where I've been. I don't think it was overly done. He didn't throw us any bones or anything. The volleyball was pretty fun, though."
Houshmandzadeh spent the last part of his career taking complaints from teammates about the toughness of the practices to Lewis. But he says there's no question Lewis has adapted to the rules.
"Marvin and I never ever ever ever would have had a problem if I was practicing in these types of situations," Houshmandzadeh said. "They're easy. The receivers aren't running as much. They're not taking as many reps as we were."
Winston's sense is the players like the current spring setup.
"The vast majority of guys, I think, like the way it is now," he said. "You're always going to have one or two guys that want things a certain way. But there is a lot freedom. Guys can come in and if they want to work out, they can come in as much as they want here. They can get a spot from a weight coach. I think there have been a lot of misconceptions. 'They can't work out at the facility.' That's not true. I'm talking about in the weight room, if they need a spot from a weight coach, the weight coach can spot him. I think most of the guys like where they are."
Houshmandzadeh knows training camp is going to be much easier because he worked under Lewis where there were two practices a day and now there are no such things. And Houshmandzadeh said he does plan to come to training camp. This time he'll bring his cleats and get on the field to show the receivers what he's teaching.
It doesn't matter whether it was hard or easy because Lewis liked what he saw. For one thing, he said, each player got enough on tape so he can study the iPad over the break.
"I was pleased with the attention and intensity," Lewis said. "I thought we put in good situational work. When someone rolls out the ball, no matter what the situation, whatever the down and distance, no matter where the ball is, we've got to be ready to play and I thought our guys responded to that well."
DUNLAP STUNNED: Left end Carlos Dunlap felt better after practice Thursday when he heard the suspect in the Charleston, S.C., church massacre had been caught. Although Dunlap is from North Charleston, the news was chilling. And even though Goodwin Middle School, where Dunlap's mother is the principal, is also in North Charleston and not near Emmanuel AME, it was still on lockdown Thursday morning with the killer on the loose.
"I texted my family this morning and all of them are fine and they say everyone we know is fine," said Dunlap, recalling he's been by the building many times. "It's a crazy thing that it can happen anywhere, let alone happen in my hometown. I still can't believe anyone would go into a church and do that."
GREEN NO. 37: Four-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green just wants to play. Named the 37th best player in the league in NFL Network's annual player survey, Green left for home Thursday after participating in everything the Bengals had to offer as he heads into his contract year.
That's what he does. He practices. He plays. He goes home. And forget the drama. Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Dallas' Dez Bryant aren't exactly in the same situation. They've both been tagged as franchise free agents and have sat out this spring as they try to get long-term deals with Bryant threatening to sit out the opener.
Green could be tagged at this time next year, too, but he thinks he and the Bengals can strike a long-term deal before that happens. Sitting out now didn't cross his mind this year, when he's slated to make $10.4 million.
"That's not me. I just want to play football," Green said. "I'm not in any rush. I'm pretty sure they're (the Bengals) are going to try and get something done before the season."