Carson Palmer heads back to Los Angeles after the Bengals' last and only practice of the bye week Wednesday and says he'll have another doctor look at the injured elbow that has taken him out of five of the Bengals' nine games.
But the only thing he would allow before practice is that a decision on whether he'll return this year is getting closer. Head coach Marvin Lewis hasn't ruled him out for the Nov. 16 Paul Brown Stadium game against the Eagles.
"We could still end up 8-8," Palmer said. "I've been in the league only six years but I've seen crazy things happen. You can't say right now that a team can or can't make the playoffs. You never know what's going to happen. Teams can fall off at the end of the year. You could somehow find a way slip into a Wild Card spot at 8-8. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but I'm not going to say it's not going to happen. All I can do is to continue to rehab and continue to try and get as healthy as possible so I can help the team."
Palmer said Lewis is talking about "rattling off" seven straight wins, something the Bengals haven't done since 1970 and Paul Brown's Bengals won the last seven games to make the playoffs at 8-6. The Bengals have won six straight twice since, but not since 1988.
"It's something we have a chance to do and believe we can do," Palmer said. "We just needed to win to kind of get that stress off, to get that monkey off our back. Now that we know we can go out on offense and dominate a very physical defense, hopefully that gives us the confidence we need offensively and all the defense has to do is keep playing the way they have all year."
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is also hoping the offense can keep the rhythm of Jacksonville.
"We're excited with this last game and the progression we've had the past few weeks," Fitzpatrick said. "We think we're doing some good stuff on offense that we weren't doing before. We ran the ball really well; that's something we hadn't done all year. Hopefully we can build on that."
"Eric, it's tough where you are, but it's not bad when you're 54th or so," is how Lewis recalled the discussion Wednesday after practice. "I'm glad we could get him up and get him some playing time because he's earned it."
After waiting two and a half years to make his NFL debut in Houston two weeks ago while jockeying between two positions, Henderson came back to play about a dozen snaps against Jacksonville on Sunday and got a hit on quarterback David Garrard to force an incompletion on third-and-11.
Henderson is one of these guys Lewis is talking about when the Bengals head coach says he's got more of his kind of players on the roster. Henderson's work ethic has made him one of the more popular guys on defense.
"I love it; I love the way they're using me," Henderson said before Wednesday's practice. "Obviously, I want to get more involved and be more productive but I'm just happy to finally get out there and contribute."
Unfortunately it was a devastating episode that gave Henderson the roster spot, an injury to first-round pick Keith Rivers. Fortunately, since he's been bouncing between defensive end and SAM linebacker, the Bengals have decided to use Henderson as both.
He signed as a defensive end in 2006 college free agency after one of the most prolific pass rushing careers at Georgia Tech and after spending that season on the practice squad he moved to SAM backer before his second season got cut short in training camp with a severely broken wrist.
He started the spring with new linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald, moved back to defensive end for training camp and then moved back to backer last month in the wake of the suspension of Darryl Blackstock and an injury to Corey Mays.
Much to the delight of Fitzgerald. Now he can use Henderson as the X-factor when the Bengals go with three defensive linemen and they can disguise Henderson as either an end or backer in what they call the "Frisco" package.
"We think that's a pretty good look for us with the linebacker," FitzGerald said. "We've done it with Keith and Blackstock and Eric has the knowledge of both the D-line and SAM. He can drop down and make it a four-man front or bounce back up and play the X linebacker position.
"He's got a huge heart. Great desire. Puts in extra time. He's a pleasure to work with, he has so much want to in him you're just happy we have an opportunity to get him up and play. What's neat is the other players know that. They know he's worked his butt off so when he gets an opportunity like he has the last couple of weeks, they're happy for him."
And Henderson is happy even though it's a dozen snaps here, eight snaps there, and a steady diet of special teams.
"It's just nice to be out there again in games," he said. "Whatever they need me to do."
STAPH MEETING: Despite an almost epidemic outbreak of staph infections in the NFL (Tom Brady, Kellen Winslow), Palmer said that won't have anything to do with the impending decision on his elbow. He noted that Bengals team doctor Angelo Colosimo does about 20 surgeries a day.
"I don't know the percentage of staph infections, but it's not very high," Palmer said. "That's just two guys in the limelight. That happened to be two heavily-covered guys. I don't think staph infections are the reason not to have surgery."
"It's all in fun and games; we got our licks off each other," Crocker said. "He's a great player. Some of my friends still in Cleveland called me a traitor, but you never know where you might end up."
Crocker visited Detroit last Tuesday and said he had an offer from the Lions before coming to see the Bengals on Wednesday. He opted to sign here in large part because he played for defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer last year in Atlanta.
"Knowing Zim (and his scheme), I thought that might get me on the field sooner," he said.
Crocker made his debut quick enough on special teams. Ocho Cinco, meanwhile, plans to take his bye in London to watch some soccer. **
RUNNIN' RYAN:** Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has carried the ball 24 times (at 7.2 yards per) and most of those carries have ended with him lowering his shoulder or diving with the ball outstretched instead of the obligatory feet first slide. For a team that is a hit away from its No. 3 quarterback, that has to be a little uncomfortable.
"I would think I would be more prone to injury trying to slide," said the 225-pound Fitzpatrick before Wednesday's practice. "It's something I've never done. I feel like I've avoided the contact pretty good in terms of getting down and doing the dive."