Dalton gets first shot as Bengals’ QB

Published 11:17 pm Saturday, July 30, 2011

GEORGETOWN, Ky. (AP) — Quarterback Andy Dalton was warming up on the field when a storm moved in, forcing him and the rest of the Cincinnati Bengals to run for cover.

Another setback in Cincinnati’s rough year.

The Bengals’ first scheduled practice of training camp had to be pushed back several hours on Saturday because of a storm. Dalton, a second-round pick from TCU, was on the field with teammates warming up in an orange No. 14 jersey when heavy rain and lightning arrived.

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Players ran to the locker room, then returned a few minutes later after the rain abated. They were out there for only four minutes when another cloudburst forced the team to reschedule practice for the evening.

That’s how it’s gone for Cincinnati.

Whether it’s Carson Palmer retiring or Johnathan Joseph leaving or Chad Ochocinco finally getting his trade, the Bengals have been weathering one long storm for months.

Their first practice summed up the seismic change from a year ago, when the Bengals were coming off an AFC North title and signed receiver Terrell Owens right before their first practice. Fans greeted Owens at the airport in Cincinnati, and packed the stands at Georgetown College that night for his first workout.

So much has changed.

Only about a hundred were in the stands on Saturday night when the Bengals took the field to warm up for the rescheduled practice, many of them wearing the jerseys of departed players.

“It was not quite as empty last year,” said Brandon Wilson, 22, from the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood. “They were coming off a good year, they had T.O. and the big guys. Now they’re all gone and they didn’t have such a good year. Not a lot of people want to show up for that.”

Two boys wearing Palmer and Joseph jerseys leaned over a railing and watched players take the field. Grant Young, 30, from Cincinnati, sat in the stands wearing an Owens jersey that he bought on clearance at the end of last season.

“I hope we win at least one game this year,” Young said.

Expectations are low coming off a 4-12 season. Palmer decided to retire if he’s not traded. Owens left as a free agent. Ochocinco was traded to New England. The Bengals failed to keep Joseph, one of their top cornerbacks.

With the co-hosts of “The T.Ocho Show” gone — just like the cable reality show — the Bengals are relying on a corps of receivers that features rookie A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson (three seasons, 21 catches), Andre Caldwell (three seasons, 87 catches) and Jordan Shipley (one season, 52 catches).

And Dalton gets the first crack at the starting job. The red-haired rookie lined up with the offense for the first drill on Saturday night, threw a pair of dump-off passes to running back Chris Pressley, then had a short completion to Green.

Owner Mike Brown said at the start of camp that he thinks Dalton can handle the job, even though there will be some growing pains. The Bengals signed free agent quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who can’t practice until next week when the new labor agreement is completed. They also have Jordan Palmer, who was the No. 2 quarterback last year.

For now, it’s Dalton’s day — storms and all.