Paul Brown’s Words Ring True Four Decades Later

This week,’s Peter King has a gem for Bengals fans in his Monday Morning Quarterback column – the transcript of the speech that team founder Paul Brown gave to the team at the start of training camp in 1973.

On Tuesday, I asked Marvin Lewis if he had had the opportunity to read the transcript.

“I’ve had a copy of that speech since I came here so I’ve heard it many times,” Lewis told me with a grin.  “It was a different era because that was the first time that they saw the guys – they hadn’t seen them since the previous December.  We see these guys all of the time, but I think that some of the things in the speech are great.  I think the best part of Paul’s speeches was that he was so matter-of-fact and everything was so direct.”

Peter King first listened to the recording when he covered the Bengals for the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1984.  This summer he searched for his old cassette recording of Paul Brown’s speech and couldn’t find it so he contacted the Bengals.  The audio on the team’s copy had started to fade in spots, but the club was able to have the sound quality restored and provided King with a new copy.

The transcription of the speech is roughly 14,000 words long, and while the fine amounts are outdated for today’s salary structure (a mere $50 for being late to practice), the major themes ring true nearly 40 years later.

Here are a few examples.

Paul Brown on accepting criticism from the coaching staff:

When we happen to single you out, once in a while when I say something to you in an open meeting like this, it isn’t done to hurt your feelings. I don’t want you to start feeling sorry for yourself. Be a man about your errors. Do something about it. If you make a boo-boo, you’re sorry about it, we all are. It hurts us all. Coaches won’t be swearing at you. We’re not this shouting, haranguing type. They’ll treat you high class, but they aren’t really working for a popularity contest either. Your respect we want. Other than that, we want to make sense to you. Don’t misconstrue this kind of relationship as weakness. There has got to be mutual respect.

Paul Brown on the demands of playing for the Bengals:

While football is in session, we’re paying for you full time. We’re paying you to practice, to know our plans, to pay strict attention in all meetings. Football careers are ended mentally, not physically. Most of the good ones I’ve known, they can’t stay up to it mentally. You’ve got to enjoy the life that is pro football. You just don’t fool anybody if you don’t. If you aren’t this style and if it doesn’t mean this much to you, we’ll just have to get rid of you and it’ll probably shock you how well the sport will go on without you. As far as I’m concerned, the selfish fellow is the worst person of them all.

Paul Brown on what it takes to make the team:

Everything you do from now on will have a bearing on making it. It helps us make up our minds. Your general person, your conduct, your previous record, your attitude, how you take your warm-up routine, your calisthenics, how you take coaching, and above all, how you block and tackle. Enter into the tryout spirit. It will be tough, but be friends with the guys you’re competing with. One kind of guy, we always get a certain number of, is the fellow who figures out, ‘Oh boy, there’s three people at this position, three people too many at this position, they can only keep this, I’m in this kind of a predicament.’ Divorce this kind of thing from your mind. Just say to yourself, ‘I’m going to do the best I can do,’ and it will handle itself. If you’re good enough, there will be a place found for you somewhere. Don’t do our thinking for us. Just concentrate on the job and you’ll never have any regrets.

“I think his foundation was good and he had his sights on the right things,” said Bengals president Mike Brown.  “He wanted dedicated players that gave their full effort and he wanted them to behave off the field and reflect well on themselves and the club.  He wanted them to be healthy and successful as individuals.  He had his priorities in order and I think those priorities are still right in line.”

And still will be 40 years from now.

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