Carson Palmer at his Raiders introductory press conference on Tuesday.
Updated: 11 p.m.
Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer insisted Tuesday night he never said the things attributed to him during his nine-month standoff with Mike Brown and that he respects the Bengals president for giving him his chance in the NFL.
“I never said I would never step foot in Paul Brown Stadium again,” Palmer told Bengals.com after his introductory news conference in Oakland. “I loved playing there. It’s a beautiful stadium. I never said any of that stuff.”
But he said enough to Brown back in January to get what he wanted Tuesday, which was a trade that gives him a fresh start after eight seasons in Cincinnati yielded two division titles and two Pro Bowls, but also two devastating injuries and two playoff losses.
“It was just time for a change. I don’t want to get into specifics,” Palmer said. “It had been eight seasons and it was time. We hadn’t done what we wanted to do. I knew they had talent at the end of last season and I thought what they could get for me would really help them.”
Palmer, who prides himself on his privacy and sincerity, said he never wanted his trade demand to become public and indicated he was horrified the way the story snowballed. He said he could understand Brown’s argument that he had signed a contract that had four years left “to a point," but he continued to believe a trade could benefit both sides.
“I know it was a selfish decision, but I thought it could work for both and I guess they didn’t think so until now,” Palmer said. “The hardest thing was being a distraction after fighting that kind of stuff for eight years. I love those guys in that locker room and that made it extremely tough.”
Palmer won’t elaborate why. He did say that the rehiring of head coach Marvin Lewis wasn’t a reason. He did say when he heard of a trade the Bengals turned down just before the regular season, he thought he was going to be retired for the rest of his life and began to think about other professions. In fact, when he went to bed at 10:30 Monday night with the trade deadline less than 18 hours away, he thought he was retired.
“I had no idea anything was going on until last night when I got a call from my agent,” Palmer said of David Dunn. “And even then I just didn’t think he’d trade me. Then I got a text at 4 a.m. that said to get on a plane to Oakland. It’s been a wild day.”
The day officially closed the book on the Palmer Era in Cincinnati and it will be a mix of chapters. Despite getting booed when it was announced he got his 20,000th passing yard and having garbage dumped on his lawn last season, Palmer isn’t bitter.
“It was time for a change for the fans, too,” Palmer said. “There are great fans there. With all they’ve been through and seen, you won’t find a more loyal fan base.”
Palmer says he’s excited about stepping in PBS again, which he’ll do next season. But he says he doesn’t want to play the Bengals in this year’s playoffs.
“Not with that defense. I don’t want to play that defense. I know what Zim (defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer) can do after practicing against them for years,” Palmer said.
Palmer authored some thrilling moments. The 24-point fourth quarter in Baltimore. The six-TD pass game in Cleveland. The 38-31 shootout win over Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger at Heinz Field that secured the 2005 AFC North title. The seven times in the last drive of a game or overtime he got the lead or a tie during the 2009 North title season.
“I don’t really remember games or individual plays,” he said. “The things I remember are going out to eat after games with the guys and their families. Just being around some great guys. They might have been great players or average players, but there were some great guys that came through there.”
Yes, Palmer has watched the Bengals on TV. He knows too many coaches and players not to pull for them. He likes the looks of his successor,
“He looks like a good kid,” Palmer said. “I know he can play because I watched him a lot last year. TCU always seemed to be on.”
Asked if he regretted not showing up for Jay Gruden’s new West Coast offense that now has a bunch of eager young receivers, Palmer said, “They’re doing well. I knew they were going to be good after what I saw at the end of last year.”
The trade means Palmer is going to have to scrub the 10-day hunting trip he had planned next month for nearby Georgetown, Ohio. He was going to hook up with a hunting buddy who lives in Georgetown and bring along some college friends and brother Jordan, another former Bengals quarterback.
“I know some fans wouldn’t like to see me,” he said. “But it’s a great place.”
Palmer leaves as the Bengals all-time leader in passer rating (86.9) and completion percentage (62.9) and has the three top passing seasons in club history. But the best way to sum up his career is to talk to his favorite target, former Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. They made third down a civic duty.
“You always knew you had a shot with Carson,” Houshmandzadeh said Tuesday. “You knew he was accurate downfield and he could make every throw. He could get it down there and I think he still can.
“I think what happened is that the personnel changed around him but the offense stayed the same. We got stale offensively. The two guys that made it work were the two tackles, Willie (Anderson) and Levi (Jones). People don’t realize how good they were. They blocked everybody one-on-one and we were able to drop seven steps all the time. Then it all changed and it got stale.”
Houshmandzadeh, a free agent who could end up in the Hue Jackson reunion tour in Oakland with Palmer, says Palmer still has that Pro Bowl ability. He should know. He’s been working out with Palmer all year. He insists that Palmer’s elbow, which shelved him for 12 games in 2008 with frayed ulna nerve, was hurt last year.
“I threw with him before last season and he was OK, but he wasn’t zipping it like he used to. I thought he was hurt,” Houshmandzadeh said. “This year, oh man, it’s about as good as I’ve ever seen him. He’s healthy. He’s throwing it like the Carson of old.”