04-28-2004-UNKNOWN

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Carson Palmer, last year's No. 1 pick, didn't really sit down and watch the NFL's Draft Day this year. But he couldn't help catch the fallout from this year's No. 1 controversy.

"For me not to come here probably would have been one of the biggest mistakes I could have made," said Palmer Wednesday as he reflected on the Bengals' new regime taking him a year later. "But it wasn't going to happen."

Palmer is the first to tell you that maybe he shouldn't talk about Eli Manning's situation because he doesn't know why the Ole Miss quarterback told the Chargers he didn't want to play in San Diego and forced a trade to the Giants. It helped that the Bengals' front office, buoyed by the hiring of head coach Marvin Lewis, came out of the box a month before the draft with a solid long-term plan and contract offer, but all Palmer knows is that he wasn't going to use his position to engineer a trade.

Palmer said 90 percent of the agents that he interviewed to represent him told him, "You don't want to go to Cincinnati. We'll work something out," and he told them the conversation was now over. Then he settled on David Dunn, who had been part of four first-round negotiations with the Bengals before he and the club agreed on Palmer's six-year contract ranging between $40-49 million two days before the draft.

"I didn't want to do that. I didn't have any reason not to go to Cincinnati," Palmer said. "I don't know what Eli's reasons are, I'm just saying that nothing like that crossed my mind. Coming out of college, I was humbled. I didn't care. I was just so excited about playing in the NFL. The last thing I wanted to do is not play for a certain team, not play for a certain NFL franchise. I just wanted to play for somebody. I shouldn't talk about it because I don't now the whole situation, but in my case it wasn't a decision I made."

Last year, Palmer saw the Bengals take three offensive players on the first day, including himself. This year, it was four defensive players on the first day and seven in all, and he's puzzled by the criticism.

"I was happy to get defensive guys. You can't be selfish and always want the receivers and linemen," Palmer said. "There was a lot of negative stuff said about it, but the thing is that Marvin is in control and everybody on this team and in this organization, we trust what he's doing and where he's going. I don't think anyone in this locker room questions our draft. He's a smart man. There's a reason he's here and the reason is to get this changed and that's the direction he's going in."

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