Bengals go cautious with Palmer, Graham

Updated: 5:25 p.m.

There is still optimism that quarterback Carson Palmer's sprained ankle isn't serious, but the odds of him playing in Thursday night's Paul Brown Stadium opener went longer Saturday when he didn't appear on the field at the beginning of practice. That usually means he's going to spend the workout rehabbing with trainer Nick Cosgray

Talking to reporters before practice, Palmer was non-commital about playing and emphasized the caution with which he wants to approach the coming weeks leading up to the opener.

The same thing seems to be going on with kicker Shayne Graham's groin problem. He didn't practice Saturday and head coach Marvin Lewis said the chances ae the Bengals are going to sign a kicker this week. Graham did run on the field with the trainers.

Graham sounded like he may take at least part of the remaining preseason off to rest his groin injury. He thinks he'll be back for the Sept. 13 opener.

"I'm not worried about it. I know I'll come back strong. It will give me time to rehab it," said Graham, who said he's had some of his best years when he rested in the preseason. "I would say (that I'll kick in the opener), but I'll just take it a day at a time."

Asked about Graham and defensive end Antwan Odom (Achilles), head coach Marvin Lewis called them day-to-day and said, "The most important thing is they're ready for the opener."

He also said, "Chances are we'll bring in somebody this week" to kick and indications are they'll have some tryouts over the weekend.

Also Saturday, the agent for first-round pick Andre Smith said he's coming into Cincinnati for face-to-face talks Sunday but there are no indications that Alvin Keels and the team are any closer than the huge $5-10 million gap that has been described in media reports.

Smith, the No. 6 pick, and Michael Crabtree, the Niners No. 10 pick, are the NFL's last unsigned draft choices. There seems to be no movement on the principles driving each side. Keels wants a deal better than the No. 7 pick and the Bengals want a deal more in line with the average first-round increases over 2008.

Graham had a similar injury last year in which he missed his first two games as a Bengal in seven seasons. The team picked up Dave Rayner to kick against the Jets and Steelers in October, but he's in another training camp with the Redskins and the Bengals may now have to look younger to pick up a guy to kick this Thursday night against the Rams and maybe the week after in the preseason finale against the Colts.

So don't look for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco to repeat Thursday night's gala against the Patriots. If rookie punter Kevin Huber had been right-footed, we may never have seen The Ocho. Huber kicks lefty, but the Bengals didn't have a guy that has held from the left side yet in camp.

"He's still our emergency guy," Lewis said. "An emergency quarterback (Andre Caldwell?). A very accurate emergency kicker."

The Bengals have been here before with Graham.

"I've had injuries like this in the preseason and I had some of my best years after having preseason injuries," Graham said. "I've been to a Pro Bowl after having a couple of weeks in the preseason off for an injury and been a Pro Bowl alternate when I had a preseason injury."

The last time, in 2007, the Bengals claimed Aaron Elling off waivers from Jacksonville just to give Graham a rest for the preseason finale against the Colts. Two days later in the game, Elling ripped his ACL following a kickoff and punter Kyle Larson had to finish. But Graham went on that season to set Bengals records with 31 field goals in a year on 91.2 percent accuracy, seven in a game, and 21 straight.

Graham began his '05 Pro Bowl season by geting hurt in the middle of training camp and the Bengals signed Carter Warley to get them through. Later in the preseason Graham and Warley alternated in games and the Bengals kept Warley until the final cutdown on Sept. 3.

Graham's latest tweaking came during pregame warmups Thursday night and gave rise to the Great Ocho Kick of '09. Special teams coach Darrin Simmons said the coaches made the call not to risk Graham only when presented with the 44-yarder early in the first quarter that they elected to pass on.

At that point, Graham started tutoring The Ocho and said Saturday he couldn't help but be impressed.

"I had seen him do it before. I knew he could do it from seeing him screw around in practice and he'd always ask me some things," Graham said. "Obviously not at the level of an NFL kicker yet, but he looked pretty dagonne good. It looked good. I was impressed when I saw it.

"I was wondering how he would take the advice or how he would use it when he was out there. He used my advice on how far away from the ball it needs to be. When to start his approach based on the snap and the hold. Watching it on film and it looked pretty good. I was impressed. He was like a little kid on the first day of school when he made it."

Also taking Saturday off were Odom, center Jonathan Luigs, linebacker Rashad Jeanty, defensive tackle Pernell Phillips and tight end Matt Sherry.

Also, two Bengals who have been among the players who have played the least this preseason were released Saturday with the departure of rookie free agents Marlon Lucky and David Richmond. Lucky, a running back out of Nebraska, didn't play until Thursday night and carried twice for 15 yards. Richmond, a wide receiver from San Jose State, didn't play in either preseason game.

The move gives the Bengals 77 players on their roster, which has an 80-man limit until the cut to 75 Sept. 1.

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