Updated: 4:50 p.m.
As far as head coach Marvin Lewis is concerned, the best news that came out of the Bengals' spring is no news.
The Bengals wrapped up their five-practice, three-day mandatory minicamp Thursday and sent their players and coaches into summer vacation with a fairly crisp workout under partly sunny and pleasant skies. Just the fact they had everybody show up with no sound bites of controversy separated them from the majority of NFL teams suffering from contract angst headed into the last year of a labor deal.
"Just the way we went about our business every day," Lewis said about his happiest observation of the 12 OTAs and minicamp. "Our guys understand the business of the NFL. They understand the way to earn opportunity and earn value is be the best player you can be and that's helpful for the team. I'm proud of our players in this offseason. We've not had to deal with the things some clubs are dealing with around the National Football League."
» If the camp had a Best Newcomer it was probably rookie wide receiver Jordan Shipley, the third-round draft pick from Texas. He had a particularly productive day Thursday, as did the passing game in what seemed to be its most synced up performance of the week.
Quarterback Carson Palmer hit six of eight passes in the one-minute drill, three over the middle to Shipley as he flashed his slot moves against a variety of defenders. After getting behind safety Gibril Wilson, on the next snap Shipley beat 11-year middle linebacker Dhani Jones over the middle and ripped the ball away from the tight coverage. Standing up for his new man, Palmer didn't like it when Shipley ended up hitting the deck on the play and let the defense know everyone is supposed to stay on their feet in no-contact drills.
» The emergence of Shipley, the route running of sixth-rounder Dez Briscoe, the size of Matt Jones, and the speed of Andre Caldwell ("He plays faster than anybody at our position and we've got guys as fast as he is," says receiver coach Mike Sheppard) has Sheppard believing this is the best competition he's had in his three seasons here.
The coaches have talked about Shipley's naturalness in the slot and Sheppard is impressed with his after-hours approach.
"He's got plenty of tape on T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) and Wes Welker and the other good slot players in the league and he'll watch it," Sheppard said. "He's the guy walking into my office about three hours after practice and says, 'What are you doing?' and I say, 'I'm waiting for you.' 'Good, can we watch practice?' "
Sheppard says that Jones is showing the same kind of thoroughness and that the former Arkansas quarterback actually watches practice tape with the quarterbacks.
"That's awesome because those guys are comfortable telling you where they want you and what they want you doing," Sheppard said. "That's healthy for him and he works extra. We just have a good group of core guys. I think in the long run that will benefit us."
» The kicking derby ended just about even heading into camp. Mike Nugent and Dave Rayner each went 4-for-4 the first two days until Rayner was short by about two yards on his last try, a 54-yarder. Rayner finished 11-for-12 while Mike Nugent hit all 12 that included his 54-yarder just after Rayner's miss. Nugent also hit from 40, 44 and 52 while Rayner hit from 34, 38 and 52 Thursday. A big question about Nugent is his power on kickoffs, but it looked like he went longer than Rayner on Thursday with one to the goal line and a couple close to it.
» The Bengals figure to cut some players in the next day or two to begin whittling the roster from 89 to the mandatory 80 for training camp, but it is doubtful one of the kickers is going to be an immediate cut.
» Wide receiver Antonio Bryant sat out another practice Thursday after missing the Wednesday morning workout. Bryant is still dealing with getting his knee back to 100 percent after he had surgery to repair torn cartilage during the last training camp and while there is some concern, the feeling is they can rest him enough to get the production needed out of him.
» On the other hand, SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga, rehabbing from a surgical procedure to ease pain in his lower leg, came sprinting across the field full tilt to get lined up for stretching exercises at the beginning of Thursday's practice and drew a "Rey!" rebuke from Lewis before stopping.
Asked if he had any pain, Maualuga said, "No, but you don't want to mess with the big man."
» Maualuga is expected back the first day of training camp, as is Bryant. Running back Bernard Scott (ankle) and right tackle Andre Smith (foot), who sat out all three days, are supposed to be back. So are rookie linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy, who broke his hand Tuesday working off a block, and safety Roy Williams, who pulled a groin Tuesday.
» Three reasons why the Bengals are going to contend for back-to-back division championships surfaced in the media room after practice Thursday and it is no coincidence they are three of the eight first-round draft picks in the Lewis era: The very first one in Palmer and the two starting cornerbacks, Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. They were on hand to accept plaques from The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy, president of the Cincinnati chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. The local scribes voted Joseph and Hall co-MVPs for last season and Palmer got the Good Guy Award.
After Palmer said it was an honor to accept the award in a locker room full of good guys and good players, Joseph and Hall thanked each other, the calls of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, and their teammates. Lewis couldn't have written it better.
"That's what kind of help steers this football team. It is those guys," Lewis said or their leadership. "When you have good guys at the top of the draft it makes things much easier. Those two cornerbacks have grown up so much with each other and Carson has been exemplary from the time we drafted him that way as a leader."
» Mark Murphy, the CEO of the Packers, revealed this week that the NFL is talking to the NFL Players Association about eliminating the final two preseason games.
Murphy is a former player who sounds like Bengals president Mike Brown did in the previous decade when he talked about the evolutuion of the preseason.
"It has completely changed over the 20 years that I was away," Murphy said in a conference call. "Preseason games are treated much differently now. I think it is very clear to a lot of us that the players and the teams don't need four games to get ready for the regular season."
The Bengals would no doubt be for an 18-game regular season.