Usually surprises at the end of training camp involve taking the team bowling or giving them a practice off. But none get as bigger as the one the Bengals got to conclude their public practices at Georgetown College.
A visit from one of the greatest sports icons of all time -- Muhammad Ali.
After watching the last couple minutes of practice, the former heavyweight champion of the world was driven on a golf cart and met the team in the center of the field. Coach Marvin Lewis said a couple words and then presented Ali with some Bengals shirts and hats while Ali gave Lewis a pair of signed boxing gloves.
The visit shocked the players but left them with one of the biggest moments of camp.
"That's the man right there," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "No one knew. They kept it pretty hush hush which was cool too. It's just amazing to see him in person. I've seen all his fights on ESPN but to see him in person is pretty awesome."
Lewis and Ali were at the Civil Rights luncheon in Cincinnati on June 20, but did not have a chance to meet each other until Monday's visit to Georgetown.
"I think it's a big deal. Someone who was at the pinnacle of sport, not just sports in general and one of the competitors and greatest athletes of all time," Lewis said.
--Through the first two episodes the ratings for "Hard Knocks: Training Camp" are up 44 percent nationally compared to last year's ratings, which featured the Dallas Cowboys. According to Nielsen, the first two episodes were especially strong among the key demographic of males ages 25-54, with an increase of 50 percent over last year. The ratings include only the first airings of episodes. The next new episode will air Aug. 26 at 10 p.m.
|Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis signs autographs after practice at their NFL football training camp , Sunday, Aug. 2, 2009, in Georgetown, Ky. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)|
--During the referees recent visit to training camp, a point of emphasis will be any lunge at the quarterback that targets the knees or below will be assessed a roughing penalty.
Carson Palmer was the victim of what some considered a lunge by Kimo von Oelhoffen during the 2005 AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium while a lunge by Kansas City's Bernard Pollard ended Brady's season last year.
A normal tackle below the knees will not be assessed a penalty, but a hit at the knees where there is a lunge will be. Defenders will also be allowed to swipe at the quarterback.
When asked if he thought the von Oelhoffen hit was preventable, Palmer said early this week: "No and I don't know if Tom's was preventable either. Bad things happen and guys get hurt. It's part of the deal. It's not fun but it's part of the game.
"You can't always protect everyone. Hopefully it saves some guys careers and seasons but we'll see."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nothing surprises me. All joking aside, he still kicked the ball through the uprights and it ended up winning the game. Some people think it's funny, but it's important." -- Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan on Chad Ochocinco's extra point.
There were no changes to the depth chart going into Thursday's game against St. Louis. The biggest personnel matter though involves getting Andre Smith signed.
Going into its fourth week, the two sides are separated by more than $10 million.
The Bengals last offer to Smith was five years at the base at $28 million and a maximum of $33 million. That's lower than what the Jets' Vernon Gholston received last year as the sixth pick (base of $32.5 million) and way lower than what Oakland's Darrius Heyward-Bey received as this year's seventh pick (base of $38.25 million).
With Smith unsigned, many are now looking at the holdout lasting to September or longer. Justin Smith, the Bengals' first-round pick in 2001, was out for 51 days while Ricky Hunley was unsigned by the team in 1994 before his rights were traded to Denver in midseason.
"That's the way it goes. This has happened somewhere every year like this," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "That's just part of life as a draft pick in the NFL. You just have to make do and move forward. When he gets signed, he'll work at getting up to speed as quickly as he can, and we'll look at where he will fit best."
--HB Marlon Lucky and WR David Richmond were waived. Both were signed as college free agents. Lucky had two carries for 15 yards against the Patriots while Richmond did not play in either preseason game.
--With the Bengals low on tight ends they signed J.P. Foschi and Kolo Kapanui. Foschi began camp with the Raiders before being released while Kapanui was waived by the Saints on May 6 after being charged with obscenity, disturbing the peace and lewd conduct for allegedly being drunk, urinating in public and exposing himself.
--C Dan Santucci was placed on injured reserve for the second straight year. Santucci suffered a foot injury in training camp on Aug. 5. Last year he suffered an ankle injury in the first preseason game. The third-year player was originally placed on waivers but cleared it.
--WR Chris Henry caught both of the Bengals' touchdown passes in the preseason and continues to make a bid for the third wide receiving spot with Andre Caldwell. Coach Marvin Lewis was not happy with Henry's antics near the Saints' sidelines after catching a pass in the first game, but was more pleased with his performance in the New England game.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Bernard Scott vs. DeDe Dorsey. Scott struggled with 6 yards on 5 carries against the Patriots while Dorsey re-emerged with 4 carries for 60 yards, including a nice 45-yarder up the left sideline.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Pat Sims will get more time with the first team at defensive tackle as he competes with Tank Johnson. The fullback spot remains a close three-way battle with Jeremi Johnson having a narrow advantage over rookies Fui Vakapuna and Chris Pressley.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: S Tom Nelson -- The undrafted college free agent had a sack in the second half, four tackles and saw action as a punt returner. But his best play came in the fourth quarter when he forced BenJarvus Green-Ellis to fumble the ball at the Bengals' 12, which was recovered by Marvin White.
KEY INJURIES: Out for the rest of the preseason are CB David Jones (foot) and TE Ben Utecht (concussion). WR Antonio Chatman (ankle) will be out for at least another week. Day to day are QB Carson Palmer (ankle), K Shayne Graham (groin) and DE Antwan Odom (bruised Achilles).
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