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Bengals begin QB search

Posted Feb 25, 2011

Updated: 6:35 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS - The hunt for Carson Palmer's possible successor officially began Friday night here at the NFL scouting combine with the Bengals set to interview such top quarterback prospects as Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert.

All indications are that Bengals president Mike Brown still has no plans to trade his franchise quarterback despite his trade me-or-mothball me threat reverberated across Bengaldom last month. But earlier Friday in a session with Cincinnati media during a break in the combine, head coach Marvin Lewis said the club is proceeding like Palmer won't report.

Palmer confirmed last month he asked Bengals president Mike Brown about a trade and it has been reported he'll retire if the request isn't granted.

Friday was not a promising day for a Carson Comeback. After revealing he has spoken with Palmer recently, Lewis said he could only go on what he's heard and he indicated that meant preparing like Palmer won't be there. 

Asked if his starting 2011 quarterback is on his roster, Lewis said, "I don't know that. All I know is what's been said. I just get to take it from what we know, from what I've been told, what's been said. That's the way I'm proceeding."

Palmer's agent, David Dunn, in town for the NFL agents' annual meeting, was seen sitting with Lewis Thursday night at a downtown restaurant. But as Dunn left he had no comment, as he has since the Jan. 24 statement in which his client called for a separation from the Bengals.


Palmer
Although Lewis is excited about new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's ability to "develop our offense through the eyes of a quarterback," it apparently hasn't had an impact on Palmer. And Lewis said it's not Gruden responsibility to recruit him before teams are blacked out from talking to their players next week in case of a lockout.

But the Bengals do seem to be sticking to their plans not to trade Palmer with four years left on his deal.

"I think Mike made statements on that stuff," Lewis said of a possible trade and if it was different than wide receiver Chad Ochocinco's 2008 trade demand.

"I don't even know what (Brown) said. I'm just aware he made statements, so I'm not going to spend time or waste our fans' time to talk about speculation about No. 1, what Chad said in the past or what this guy said at this time. I just have no answer for you with that."

But he said since the Bengals are picking No. 4, they would have interviewed Newton anyway without the Palmer situation.

"You have to see if he's got the value of the fourth pick," Lewis said.

The Bengals are also delving into Gabbert and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett to see if they have the kind of value to usher in a new era. Friday's buzz belonged to Newton.

Lewis clearly is uncomfortable with Newton's vow to be an entertainer and icon. He is just as clearly tired of Ochocinco's same stated aim and how his team has been dismissed as some kind of vaudeville act.

"I’d like to talk to (Newton) a little bit about that because that’s not what he needs to be right now," Lewis said. "I think everyone wants to see him be a football player. We’re about football. Nobody gives two cents about you as an entertainer if you can’t play football. As good looking a guy as he is and charismatic and what he’s accomplished this is now a different level.

"He looks like a No. 1 draft pick. He has to be ready to work because that’s what comes with being the No. 1 draft pick."

Lewis is also uneasy about Newton playing only one season in Division I. He realizes it "doesn't translate well to the NFL" because the young QBs who have the track record of making it (Palmer, Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan) "played a lot of ball."

But he likes the quarterback group and thinks some of them will be starting NFL quarterbacks rather quickly.

"I think it’s a good class of quarterbacks. I haven’t mentally spent time with them that way. In just watching them it seems to be a class that's been very productive in college," Lewis said. "You've got some guys that have been long-term starters in college and have productive numbers. Then you got Cam Newton that obviously wasn't a long-time starter but obviously accomplished what everyone else wanted to and that's win a national championship. It has kind of a wide range of both prospects, stories and experience and abilities and offenses.

"One  thing about these guys: They were all in offenses that threw the ball quite a bit. When you're looking for an NFL quarterback, one of the things you want to watch them do is throw the football. You can put the videotape on and these guys are throwing 350-plus passes in their last season, 350 the year before and 350-400 the year before that. You get a thorough look at their whole body of work."

Just don't ask him if they'll start early in Cincy.

"We're not going to sit here and speculate today who we're going to take in the draft unless you tell me who everybody else picks," Lewis said. "I haven't watched enough tape to tell you all of it yet. In a couple of months tell me every pick and I'll tell you who we pick. Some of these guys look like they have the opportunity to be early players in the NFL."

While many believe The Ocho has caught his last pass as a Bengal, on Thursday Lewis continued to say "he's got another year on his contract," and contined to dig him that he wants more from the club's all-time leading receiver. The Ocho got upset late last season at Lewis when he didn't think his public comments took into account he was hobbled by bone spurs in his ankle, and Lewis hasn't backed off. 

"Chad didn't have as strong a year as I hoped he would have had," Lewis said. "He didn't finish because of injury, he didn’t finish as well and he had a chance right there at the end to keep going, but he wasn't able to do that the last three or four games. He didn't have a quick start to the season and he kind of got it going because coverage began to shift a little bit.

"As I say many times, all the time the receiver's role is dictated by what goes on. They're not as in control of the game as they think they are. If I want to go out there, I can shut out any receiver I want. Any defensive coach can. It's easy."

Lewis also said Friday the club is talking to cornerback Johnathan Joseph and running back Cedric Benson in the hopes of reaching deals before the collective bargaining agreement expires March 4. In an effort to keep peace with the league, Lewis refused to address issues surrounding the CBA uncertainty.

He did say he expects cornerback Adam Jones, rehabbing from surgery for a herniated neck disk, to be ready by the start of training camp. He's not as sure about right tackle Andre Smith, rehabbing from foot surgery, but he's hopeful.

More Lewis:

» If the Bengals lose Dhani Jones to free agency, they're poised to move Rey Maualuga to middle linebacker.

» They'll delve into free agency (whenever it is) to find some offensive linemen, safeties and tight ends.

» The Bengals are not ready to move out veteran defensive ends Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom until Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson prove they can play as consistently as they did late in the year. 

 

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