Thursday Reads: Hard Knocks on Tap


The Cincinnati Bengals have all but admitted that today’s noon announcement of a “major development” for the 2009 preseason is that they’ll be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Not surprisingly, the news has players fired up.

"“Cool,” said Carson Palmer of the possibility that became reality Wednesday night with reports of a Thursday noon press conference at Paul Brown Stadium featuring Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and NFL Films titan Steve reported the Bengals would be featured in the behind-the-scenes series last month, so the players have had plenty of time to digest it. HBO sought to spring the news during the joint announcement with the team, but how can a behind-the-scenes show be kept secret for longer than a two-minute drill?“It will be probably be about Chad (Ochocinco) at the end of the day. He’s the face of the program when it comes to stuff like that,” said defensive end Frostee Rucker. “As long as it shows we’re working hard, that’s all I care about. It gives fans a good look inside how it plays out up to that first game. I want fans to see what we go through in the meeting rooms and the strenuous hours and what it takes to get to the first game. I don’t know what the commentaries are going to be, but we’re around cameras all the time.”Safety Chris Crocker agreed that there are plenty more distractions than HBO. The tiny Georgetown College campus figures to get blanketed with cameras and microphones 24-7.“You’re all distractions. You’re every day. You’re more of a distraction,” said Crocker with a smile of the media. “It’s a chance not only for us, the secondary, to get exposure, but also for our team. I don’t think people know a lot about the Cincinnati Bengals.”"

It’s an absolutely fascinating development. It’s a win for the Bengals organization, which gets a mountain of free publicity that can only help the team’s sagging revenues. And it’s a win for the players, many of whom deserve more recognition than they normally get as players on a small-market team. And if there’s anything that will reignite Chad, it has to be the prospect of an entire training camp on TV. The only downside I see is that fans can forget about “flying under the radar” this year. Instead, Hard Knocks is almost certain to send them into the season with high expectations.

Cross your fingers, folks.

Moving from hard knocks to last knocks, former Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson has apparently called it a career. The Baltimore Ravens have placed Big Willie on their reserve/retired list. A first-round pick in 1996, Anderson was one of the few bright spots during the long dark of the Lost Decade: Pro Bowler, locker-room leader and good character guy. Most Bengals fans were aghast at the way the front office unceremoniously dumped him last August, after Anderson refused to take a $2 million pay cut, and there’s strong sentiment that Cincinnati should approach him about signing a one-day contract so he can retire as a Bengal. After last year, would Willie be interested? I don’t know, but they should make the call.

In other Ravens news, Baltimore has inked former Bengals wideout Kelley Washington,

Memo from the Hell Has Frozen Over Dep’t: ESPN’s James Walker actually gives the Bengals some props, labeling them a sleeper team for 2009. He cites the return of Carson Palmer, an improving defense and a weak schedule as factors in their favor (yeah, I know, duh, duh and duh) and say their performance against division foes Baltimore and Pittsburgh will be key to any success. Uh-huh. Duh again. But at least he’s got the basics down. So there’s that.