The so-called "free" time that has been a luxury most of the spring and summer (here's the catch: on an NFL beat there really isn't too much of it) has already started melting away for yours truly.
By late Tuesday, it'll fade away even more. Come Thursday, it flat out will be obliterated.
Welcome to training camp.
Let's take a moment to keep our cool before the storm that's about to hit, and reflect about how the next few days will go for the Cincinnati Bengals.
I did a little of that myself Monday ahead of what will end up being a busy week chock full of Bengals stories, Bengals blogs, Bengals analysis, one-on-one interviews, media-scrum interviews, television hits, NFL Nation TV hits (we'll run the show on Thursday this week, by the way; due to the arrival of a special guest), radio spots and football practice viewing time.
I devoted the early portion of the day to getting organized for the week and lining up ideas for the ways I wanted to attack the first NFL training camp of my career. You'll recall I didn't make it to Cincinnati in time for the start of camp last season. I was still on my old beat, covering preseason camp at Florida State for the Orlando Sentinel around this time last year. I finally walked into Paul Brown Stadium for the first time Monday, Sept. 2 -- Labor Day -- just six days before the first regular season game of 2013.
Needless to say, I'm happy I'm getting a little time this season to actually see the team work out and compete before the real action starts this year.
After reflecting over the ideas and coverage options, I spent the latter part of Monday doing some slightly different reflecting when I took in an impromptu charity event a few Bengals decided to hold on their own. There were no press releases sent about this event. It wasn't coordinated by the team's community relations department. It was simply something these five players wanted to do without someone else telling them they had to.
I had been driving through the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati when I happened to pass rookie running back James Wilder Jr. walking down the street. Following an exchange of quick hellos, I asked him where he was headed. He told me he and a few other players were about to feed homeless Cincinnatians a few blocks away. After running a quick errand, I headed over to where he told me the event was.
Like I tweeted, I'm glad I went.
It's so easy in my business, especially this time of year, to only attach rankings and numbers and salaries and statistics to the players we cover. Sometimes you need a gentle reminder, or a little nudge to let you know they are often much more than that. These are men every bit as complex as the rest of us, and men who do want to see others around them uplifted.
After signing autographs and posing for photos with whomever around the city block wanted them, the players stood on the back of a truck's trailer bed and shared a couple of personal stories about some of the adverse conditions in their lives, and offered their reasons for wanting to be there at that moment. H-back Orson Charles, linebacker Emmanuel Lamur and defensive tackle Domata Peko were among those who spoke. Then, they opened up the food line.
Wilder helped hand out plates of spaghetti, meatballs, hamburgers and salad; it was food Peko's wife, Anna, spent about seven hours preparing.
Safety George Iloka also was there.
Hat tip to the guys at Bengals blog Cincy Jungle for seeing my tweets and sharing them Monday night. Also, even bigger kudos to cn|2 Sports Cincinnati's Kaci Kust for writing just this weekend about the group's spontaneous feedings at other times this offseason.
Here are a couple other really quick takes to know this Tuesday:
Kickoff luncheon: The Bengals are unofficially kicking off training camp with a media luncheon later Tuesday morning that will feature all three coordinators (that includes special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons), head coach Marvin Lewis and team president Mike Brown.
Flurry of moves: The Bengals were quite active Monday. In addition to signing big defensive tackle LaKendrick Ross, they also waived receiver Alex Neutz and placed nine on the active physically unable to perform list and three on the active non-football injury list. Most should be cleared by Thursday.
Dunlap's memorabilia stolen: According to WCIV in North Charleston, South Carolina, where defensive end Carlos Dunlap is from, thieves broke into Dunlap's father's home last week and stole about $30,000 in memorabilia. The items included jerseys Dunlap had signed, and his 2008 national championship ring from when he played at the University of Florida.