Posted: Monday August 21, 2006 9:52AM; Updated: Monday August 21, 2006 1:39PM
Carson Palmer has moved well in camp, but he has had to deal with swelling in his surgically repaired knee.
Thomas E. Witte/SI
INDIANAPOLIS -- Carson Palmer. Terrell Owens. Bill Cowher.
Finally, someone to share the stage with T.O.! We're free from all T.O., all the time. And these other stories are pretty meaningful.
Let's briefly examine each of them.
Palmer 'expects' to play next Monday against the Packers.
That's what he said Sunday night after practice in Cincinnati. Now it's getting to the point where Palmer is doing so much on the field before preseason games -- sprinting out, throwing on the run, reversing directions -- that people see him and say, "Why in the world is he not playing?'' I can tell you for a fact that several players on other teams are openly wondering that and wondering what his teammates must be thinking when Palmer is pirouetting like Nureyev at 7:30 p.m. and standing next to Marvin Lewis at 8:30.
"He doesn't want to go out there before he feels like he is whole to do his job,'' Lewis said Sunday afternoon. "That's a good thing. We have time, and that's what he's very conscious of.''
Later on Sunday, Palmer told reporters he "expects'' to play against Green Bay, assuming he has no more swelling in his surgically repaired knee this week.
We're approaching touchy territory here. Lewis has to say all the right things about being cautious with Palmer, and surely this is a this-too-shall-pass episode in what will likely be a happy and long marriage between the Bengals and their franchise quarterback. But living in the moment, you have to know how players are. Some of them -- on the Bengals and on other teams -- have been quietly questioning how Palmer can look as nimble as he always has in warmups and then say he can't play.
Palmer is a sensitive guy, and I'm sure he feels the pressure to get out there for his team in time for the Sept. 10 opener at Kansas City. But he also feels pressure to get out there only when he feels he'll be able to escape the rush and play with the confidence that made him a mini-Peyton the last couple of years.
My feeling is Palmer will struggle a bit next Monday. Still, it's a good setting for his debut. It's at home. He'll be facing a team with a limited pass-rush. The one thing I'll be looking for: When the traffic comes, and when he feels pressure around his legs, will Palmer throw the ball away nervously, or will he hang in there and take a couple of good pops? Next Monday should be must-see TV. Imagine Brett Favre and the season debut of the Franchise. Could be a ratings monster, as ratings monsters go in the preseason.