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Bengals Training Camp schedule; Andre Smith finds his way (eventually); rookies could dictate teams successes

The Cincinnati Bengals released their 2009 Training Camp schedule on Wednesday -- the most boring day of the week without Lost. The first session starts Friday, July 31, with their concluding session held on Monday August 17 (aka, best Monday of the year). The team's Intrasquad Scrimmage kickoffs at 6:30 p.m. on August 7. The Black-Orange Mock Game takes place the following afternoon.

Gil Brandt is liking the Bengals in 2009. His main argument is that the Bengals "had more starters lost to injury last year than any other team in the league." I bet that just boils those that hate it when people make excuses for Mike Brown the Bengals. The injury excuse. Is there anything worse?

Andre Smith got lost. Let's just file this under 'honest mistakes' happen and sometimes things happen.

Andre Smith’s adventurous offseason took another unexpected turn Tuesday. This time, the Outland Trophy winner and Cincinnati Bengals’ first-round draft pick got back on track relatively soon. | NFL page

Scheduled to help with the Midwest Lineman’s Camp at Illinois Wesleyan, the No. 6 overall pick out of Alabama took the long route to Bloomington. Ultimately, his search led him to a gas station.

“I said, ‘How far is Bloomington?’” said Smith, a 6-foot-4, 340-pound offensive tackle. “They said, ‘Which Bloomington?’ I went, ‘Ahhh, don’t tell me that.’”

It turns out Smith was closer to Bloomington, Ind., than our Bloomington. Thus, he arrived at IWU at 4:30 p.m., just as the second of Tuesday’s three sessions wrapped up.

If the Bengals are looking at free agency for any offensive linemen that will provide immediate help, then, ironically, it's probably Levi Jones.

Carson Palmer offers a little bit of advice for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo:

"If Tony just follows what he says and listens to him, he's going to have a huge year," Palmer said during an ESPN Radio interview.

The Bengals are one of five teams in which their season could hinge on how their rookies perform.

Like the Bills, the Bengals have a certain wide receiver who commands a great deal of attention and is presumed to hold the key to the team's fortunes. But Chad Ochocinco is a smaller part of the equation than the Bengals' offensive line. And the line absolutely needs first-round choice Andre Smith to be ready to step in at offensive tackle. Carson Palmer has to have have sufficient time to make the most of Ochocinco, newcomer Laveranues Coles and other receivers.

Smith is dogged by questions about his immaturity and there is speculation that he might not be under contract soon enough to participate fully in training camp, which figures to be an absolute must given the steep learning curve for an NFL offensive tackle. The Bengals' defense needs a big year from second-rounder Rey Maualuga, a big-hitting linebacker who should help against the run.

James Walker wrote "10 things that I learned" during his minicamp wrap. Three of them were about the Bengals -- team getting meaner, Chad Johnson is back, as is Carson Palmer (in a much different way).

10. Bengals are getting meaner

Analysis: Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis set the tone early with his team motto for 2009: "Fight back!" It's fitting because the Bengals have a lot to prove this year, especially with newfound expectations. The offense is trying to prove it can return to form with a healthy quarterback in Carson Palmer, and the defense is out to prove last year's solid performance wasn't a fluke. The result was multiple team fights and plenty of shoving and jawing during Cincinnati's three-day minicamp. When I joked with several players afterward that they're fighting too early and need to save it for cameras when "Hard Knocks" films training camp, one player hinted it was just the beginning. As long as no injuries occur, this could be good in the long run when the Bengals play tough rivals such as the Ravens and Steelers.

4. Ochocinco is back

Analysis: Cincinnati receiver Chad Ochocinco did something different this offseason: He stayed quiet. No one, including the Bengals, knew what he was up to until recently. It turns out Ochocinco worked extremely hard in Los Angeles to get back to his Pro Bowl form. Minus a few drops, he was clearly the most explosive receiver that I've seen in all four minicamps this offseason. Against a pretty good Bengals secondary, Ochocinco got behind the defense plenty of times for big plays and ran cat-quick short and intermediate routes. If he remains this motivated throughout the entire season, Ochocinco could be a problem for opponents once again this year.

3. Palmer is healthy, sharp

Analysis: As Ochocinco often says, there is not a No. 85 without No. 9. It wouldn't matter how hard Ochocinco worked this offseason if Palmer cannot remain healthy and upright this season. Palmer says his elbow is 100 percent after rest and rehab. The Bengals are being cautious by keeping him on a pitch count, but the football is accurate and zips like usual when he does throw in practices. Palmer has the potential to impact the AFC North more than any injured player from 2008, which is why many feel the Bengals have sleeper potential.

There's other things about the Steelers, Browns and Ravens. But, yea.

Carson Palmer broke into Pete Prisco's "Top 50".

Coming off shoulder problems, he's back throwing again, which is why he's this high. When he's healthy, he might be even higher. Bashers take note: Brady stays in the second spot coming off his injury, so Palmer stays this high.

For those of you that are newer to the site, one of my biggest pet peeves are lists about individual players. God, I hate them. There's nothing more useless than a list. Nothing supports it with substance, other than opinion. I don't have a problem with people that do them. That's their gig, their thing. Still I hate them. And while you read about my total disdain about lists, please don't avoid the fact that I'll reference other people's lists all the time. It makes me a better person for it. Clashing with things that I hate. Whatever.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis will be on hand (and is a speaker) Saturday while London High School honors native Dick LeBeau.