On the Road: Day 13 … with the Bengals
(Editor’s note: In addition to his team reports, Jason Cole will share some off-field highlights and other observations of his preseason travel.)
Rain clouds and gusting wind chased me out of Anderson, Ind., site of the Indianapolis Colts’ training camp. The bad weather followed me into the Bluegrass State (Georgetown, Ky., to be precise). I don’t know if this is an omen, but I’m not feeling good about my five- or six-hour drive to Cleveland in the evening. Anyway, Georgetown is nice enough. Unlike a lot of towns in the South, the downtown area still looks nice and seems to have survived the crush of strip malls that run closer to the highways. It helps that Georgetown College is here. The school has fewer than 2,000 students, including roughly 500 graduate students. It’s affiliated with the Baptist Church, but the affiliation with the Bengals has put it on the map in recent years. The Bengals came here in 1995 when the school agreed to build a small stadium, three practice fields and some new dorms that more closely resemble a Residence Inn (can you tell I’m a Marriott guy?). Throw in a little stream that runs between the fields and you have a little slice of serenity amid football.
How ‘bout some football
The Bengals should be a lot more fun to watch this season now that they’ve upgraded their wide receiver position with Terrell Owens(notes) and Antonio Bryant(notes), not to mention the drafting of TE Jermaine Gresham(notes) (although he looks lost right now). The big question: How quickly can QB Carson Palmer(notes) get in sync with Owens and Bryant? Owens did some offseason work with Palmer in California. As for Bryant, he was limited all offseason by knee surgery. … Aside from the top three guys on the wide receiver depth chart (Owen, Bryant and Chad Ochocinco(notes)), the Bengals have a lot of nice prospects for backups. Jordan Shipley(notes) looks like an interesting slot guy, Jerome Simpson(notes) has terrific talent and finally seems to be getting the alignment stuff down, and Andre Caldwell(notes) can clearly play. On the flipside, former Jacksonville first-round pick Matt Jones(notes) isn’t getting much action. … If you follow the Bengals, you know that the cornerback tandem of Leon Hall(notes) and Johnathan Joseph(notes) is one of the best in the league. And the Bengals appear to have improved their backups quite a bit with the addition of Adam “Pacman” Jones and undrafted rookie Johnny Sears(notes). In fact, Sears did a great job jumping a route by Owens to intercept a pass from Carson Palmer during the first half of practice. … The Bengals’ decision to move Michael Johnson, a third-round pick from Georgia Tech last year, to linebacker could be a stroke of genius. Although the 6-foot-7, 268-pound Johnson is more of a pass rusher, he’s gifted enough to be a problem for offenses if he drops into coverage. … LT Andre Smith(notes), the team’s first-round pick last year, is inching along in the move toward the “bust” label. Smith, who is well over 350 pounds, has been working with trainers because of a lingering foot injury from last year. He isn’t participating in team drills. … Coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals will tour the Hall of Fame on Saturday night in advance of the exhibition opener Sunday night against Dallas. Lewis was asked what he thought WR Chad Ochocinco, who famously wore a mock Hall of Fame jacket on the sideline, might do in the Hall of Fame. The extremely dry-witted Lewis said, “Hopefully he learns a lot.”
Song of the morning
After a late night of driving and doing laundry at the luxurious Fairfield Inn (yeah, the life of a sportswriter is cool), I awoke feeling indifferent about the day. I hit shuffle and “Desire” by U2 popped up. Fair start. Then I progressed to “Me In Honey” by R.E.M. and Kate Pearson. Not bad, but still not quite right. Finally, the Cranberries come on with “Zombie.” It’s not a great song, but there’s something hypnotic about Dolores O’Riordan’s voice. She does haunting anger very well and she has one of the purest sounds in rock.
Eating on the road
I’m a long way from being a health nut, but I’m happy with the fact that I have yet to eat a single meal at a fast-food joint on this trip. One of the worst things about driving from camp to camp is the time crunch that makes it difficult to find decent food. It’s better to skip a meal than eat a Big Mac. That’s not a perfect solution, but it’s working on this trip. As for Georgetown, there’s not a lot, but Galvin’s on Main Street makes a nice sandwich. Anyway, Cleveland and its interesting bounty of restaurants (better than you think) awaits after my late-night drive.