Sights and sounds

Posted Jan 27, 2010

Carson Palmer

Posted: 8:40 a.m.

MOBILE, Ala. - Sights and sounds from the Senior Bowl:

The disconnect between some in Cincinnati and the many nationally on the subject of Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer only seems to grow. Jets head coach Rex Ryan checked in here fresh off his team’s loss in Sunday’s AFC title game. It was Palmer’s two subpar outings against the Jets in the season finale and the Wild Card game that accelerated talk Palmer is no longer an elite quarterback.

“I don’t think he is. I know he is,” Ryan said. “You put him out there on this field in front of these guys (NFL scouts and coaches) and it ain’t even close. He throws it better than almost anybody in this league. He’s a superstar.”

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen checked in on the media front. He’s been convinced there’s nothing wrong with Palmer physically ever since he asked him with six weeks left in the season if there was anything wrong with his arm and was told it was “fine.” He agrees that Palmer’s problem is his lack of receivers.

“I don’t hear a lot of negative stuff from people in the league about Carson,” Mortensen said. “When you have a quarterback like that it, it’s like anything else. You have to look at what a (Colts general manager) Bill Polian does for Peyton Manning: ‘I’m going to give him a Dallas Clark. I’m going to give him an Anthony Gonzalez. I’m going to give him a Reggie Wayne even though I already have Marvin Harrison.’  You’ve got to surround him with weapons. He’s absolutely OK.”

Which is why Mortensen and all other pundits are anticipating the Bengals taking a receiver or tight end at No. 21.

“There’s no question that they need to restructure their tight end situation on the depth chart,” he said. “They’ve got all question marks there and if there’s somebody like a no-brainer sitting there in the first round at around No. 20 like Brandon Pettigrew last year, I would think they have to do it. Obviously they need wide receivers, too.

“But you know what they need. I think the Bengals are going to be off the roller-coaster ride because of the signing of Coach (Mike) Zimmer. You know the defense is going to be stable and they’re going to be good.”

» Ryan, by the way, couldn’t say enough about running back Cedric Benson after his Bengals playoff-record 169 yards gave the Jets a run.

“That kid ran really hard. Sometimes going into a game you’re willing to give up some yards, but not that many, I can tell you that much,” Ryan said. “He’s got my respect, no question.”

» When the Jets were looking to trade up last year to get USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, there was a lot of interest in middle linebacker David Harris, a guy the Bengals targeted in the second round in 2007. “Right away I would always say, ‘No way. I’ve got the next Ray Lewis,’” Ryan said.

The Jets took Harris No. 47. The Bengals, at No. 49, took running back Kenny Irons, who never played after tearing up his knee in his preseason debut.

» Ryan thought the 37-0 win against the Bengals in the finale at The Meadowlands helped fuel his team’s playoff run.

“It might have showed people, Oh-Oh. That I was telling the truth. I believed our football team was dangerous,” he said. “In front of our fans, there was no way we were losing. ... I knew the players bought in and then with the fans behind us like that, that was going to be huge for us going forward.”

Ryan had to laugh when asked by The Boston Globe if the Jets were now favored to win the AFC East. “When I said we were favored to win the Super Bowl, that didn’t work out too well,” he said.

» The agents for Bengals free agents Reggie Kelly and Bobbie Williams said they have yet to hear from the club, but expect to. Kelly is coming off an Achilles injury and probably won’t get much play. But Williams, who turns 34 during the next season, had a good year. And the Bengals, who notoriously are leery of signing older players, realize the free-agent field is whittled in half because there is no salary cap and that Williams will get some play and all indications are they want him back.

Kelly’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, also represents Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. He may be the worst quarterback in this game, just don’t tell that to the faithful that have flocked to see him go through jumping jacks. In these parts he is part tele-evangelist, part rock star.

“TEBOW. GOD’S GIFT TO COLLEGE FOOTBALL,” said one sign held by a woman wearing a Florida shirt.

But at the moment, the NFL is looking skeptically at the gifts he has brought to practice.

» Former Bengals defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan still has his family based in Cincinnati and he’s still the coordinator for the Orlando franchise in the UFL. He has given a hearty recommendation for middle linebacker Odell Thurman to be reinstated to the NFL after his suspension for several off-field problems. Thurman was a big factor in the UFL’s unbeaten season that ended with a loss in the title game.

» In 2005, Bresnahan’s first season as coordinator, Thurman, a second-round pick, had a Rookie of the Year-like season with five interceptions and four forced fumbles in the middle of a division championship defense that lived off turnovers. He never played another down for the Bengals and don’t look for him to do it now. But look for him somewhere.

“Odell played lights-out football. It was really fun to watch him come back and do the things he loves to do,” Bresnahan said. “On the practice field, in the games, even in the meeting rooms during training camp and the season, he was incredible. His personality is infectious. He did a tremendous job.”

Bresnahan is hoping Thurman has overcome the demons.

“I would like to say yes because while he was there he was a model professional athlete,” Bresnahan said. “He did everything the right way. He studied. He abided by the rules. He did everything you asked him to do and he played lights-out football. I know there were (NFL) teams interested in the end, but he has to go through the reinstatement process. That’s up to him. I called on his behalf and really think the world of him as a football player and I think he has matured a lot and hopefully turned that corner for the positive.”

Bresnahan graciously admitted he took some pride in the Bengals’ rise to a No. 4 ranking in defense in the second season after Marvin Lewis parted company with him following a No. 27 ranking in 2007.

“Zim has to get the credit. He did a great job and so did Kevin (Coyle) and Louie (Cioffi) and Jay (Hayes). The whole defensive staff,” Bresnahan said of Zimmer and his assistants that also worked under him. “They’ve taken it to another level. To see guys like Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall, Domata (Peko) and Dhani Jones continue to improve and become consistent playmakers, that was a rewarding feeling. I just think that’s part of maturing as a football player.

“And the additions. You’ve got the two linebackers (Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers) coming in that replaced the two we lost in Odell and David Pollack and that adds to the total scheme and the total package. They did an outstanding job and Mike deserves a lot of credit for that.”

Bresnahan continues to look for an NFL job, but the UFL is an intriguing challenge for him. He’s looking for Orlando offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to be promoted to head coach to replace new NFL coordinator Jim Haslett and keep the staff intact.


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