FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Bengals are coming to the Falcons’ training camp. HBO’s Hard Knocks cameras will be waiting.
Cincinnati is the star of this year’s documentary series. The Bengals will share Atlanta’s training camp facility today and Tuesday before the teams meet in their preseason opener Thursday night.
Atlanta often holds combined practices with other teams in camp. Having the HBO crew on site adds a new twist to two-a-day doldrums. The Falcons turned down an offer to star in the series last year.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he was careful to talk with Falcons coach Mike Smith about the HBO arrangement.
“Smitty and I talked about it quite a bit,” Lewis said, adding Smith has “the same concerns” about protecting certain information.
“He knows what the parameters are and he’ll have an opportunity to meet with the people down there,” Lewis said. “Obviously this is a unique thing.”
The Falcons’ stance is they are playing host to the Bengals, but they are only visitors in the TV show.
“We will not have any of our players miked,” Smith said. “This show is about the Cincinnati Bengals.”
Smith said he was an assistant with Baltimore and Jacksonville when the HBO series focused on those teams.
Roddy White, one of the Falcons’ most talkative players, said he wanted no part of having his practice chatter captured for TV.
“I’m not really a miked-up guy,” White said after Sunday’s practice. “I just like to come out here and practice. I don’t want them to hear what I’m saying because I don’t want them to say it on TV. We’ll be going over signals and things like that, so I don’t want to give away our calls early in the season.”
Smith said his close relationship with Lewis made it easy to work out the details for the combined practices. Smith was a position coach with Baltimore from 1999-2002 when Lewis was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator.
“Marvin is a mentor to me,” Smith said. “We speak regularly during the season unless we’re playing one another. And we communicate in the off-season. Marvin is one of my closest friends in this business.”
Smith said the goal is “to come out and compete against each other. Have fun and play smart. That’s what we want to do.”
HBO executive producer Ross Ketover said he made sure there will be no surprises for Smith and
“We’ve worked a lot with coach Smith,” Ketover said. “In fact, we spent a summer with the Jaguars one year when he was the coordinator down there. So I don’t expect any issues with the Falcons.”
Ketover said it was difficult to predict how much the Falcons would be seen.
“I think it will be based on what happens, if there’s a lot of interaction,” Ketover said. “Look, we’re covering the making of the Cincinnati Bengals, so if there’s a lot of interaction with the Falcons either on game day or during practices that are relevant to that story, we’ll cover it. It’s not going to be half of that show’s going to be about one team and half’s going to be about the other.”
White said the Atlanta players have talked about avoiding negative exposure.
“The only thing we talked about was not getting in a fight to give anything to the cameras to tune in and watch on HBO,” White said. “That’s about it.”
The Falcons have shared practice fields with other teams during training camp.
The Falcons and Tennessee Titans held a joint practice at Coahulla High School in Dalton, Ga., last year. In 2010, the Jaguars and New England Patriots worked at the Falcons’ facility. The Falcons traveled to Jacksonville in 2011 for combined practices.