Posted: 7:30 a.m.
Boomer Esiason (right) likes what he sees in Carson Palmer.
At the invitation of the Bengals quarterbacks, Esiason got in the weekly "bucket drill" and dropped one in on one of his first left-handed tries at Friday's practice on the Paul Brown Stadium FieldTurf.
"You guys should have to go practice at Spinney on a nice rainy day like this," said Esiason as his eyes swept the cathedral-like locker room before practice.
Yes, Boomer came back with a few barbs and a few bombs to tape a feature on Palmer for Sunday's show on CBS that Esiason helps chair in the network studio. His legacy as the Last Quarterback To Take The Bengals To The Playoffs helped him get past head coach Marvin Lewis's quarantine of national media, and Lewis made it official when he asked Esiason to address the team before practice.
"What could I say? What is there to say?" asked Esiason, who said he talked about the importance of Steeler Week. "It's great to be back here. I wish I could get back more. It's great to be here with all this excitement."
Chad Johnson walked by and hollered, "Hey, Boom. You got any cleats?"
Esaison shook his head.
"Wanted to see if you could cover me," Johnson cackled, and he went off to join a receiving corps in which T.J. Houshmandzadeh worked for a second day with the plan of doing more than his first day back to practice on Thursday.
Esiason can't get enough of Palmer. Ever since that day he greeted him on the air at CBS at the end of his senior season at USC. With the Bengals assured the No. 1 pick, Esiason said, "As president of the Bengals Alumni Association, I welcome you to Cincinnati."
And while some people he worked with sat right in front of him and told Palmer to pull an Elway and force a trade out of Cincinnati, Esiason counseled how great a place it could be with a winning team.
"I still remember to this day what he said," Esiason recalled. "He said, 'I don't know what the problems are. But I want to be a part of the solution.' What a great kid."
Esiason and Willie Anderson made eight years disappear in a hug as Anderson hit the field and Esiason reminded him of their post-practice interview.
"I need you to bring your 'A' game," Esiason told Anderson, which is a little like telling Tiger Woods to bring his driver to the first tee.
Esiason gazed at Anderson, the last man to block his blind side in those last five wondrous games of his career at the end of 1997.
"How many years for you now?" Esiason asked, and when Anderson said, "10," Esiason said, "I'm so happy for you. The first seven must have been everybody around your locker asking why it was so bad."
The exchange with Anderson triggered a media guide fact.
"I was figuring it out and Willie and Richie Braham are the only guys left that I played with," Esiason said. "Nobody else knows who the hell I am."
Not true of course, through the magic box of TV. The quarterbacks certainly know, and Esiason automatically gravitated toward their corner in the locker room. He told them about some of his conversations with Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde.
"At 41. Imagine that," Esiason said of his beating last Sunday, and 33-year-old Jon Kitna nodded.
The 45-year-old Esiason, 17 years removed from his MVP season, sees another one developing in Palmer.
"Smooth," Esiason said as he snapped his fingers. "He's just so quick and anticipates so well. He's something special, I'll tell you that."
What more could he say? He told the team that when he picks them every week, he gets called, "Homer" by the broadcasting brood.
"And I tell them, 'You're right. I am,' and I'm enjoying this and so are all the other former players," Esiason said.
He is wary of talking about the old days when he feels the new guys deserve their day. Friday's talk is about the Steelers, of course, and how Esiason and Kitna have had big days passing against them.
"I don't know why," Esiason said. "I do know it's up to the offensive line to know who's coming when from where."
Offense looking for boost from T.J.
Palmer is hoping Houshmandzadeh is coming out of the tunnel Sunday. In Palmer's nine games of 100 plus ratings, Houshmandzadeh has caught 46 balls for 643 yards for a 14-yard average and five touchdowns, and he's missed the last two games with his injured hand.
"I just feel like I should win when it's one-on-one coverage," Houshmandzadeh said. "If they double Chad and leave me, well, I ought to win that one."
In that same stretch, Johnson has nine touchdowns for a 14.4 average on 64 catches for 919 yards. Lewis wasn't saying after Friday's practice if he would have his tandem back. As usual, the player says he can play, but it's up to the coach and the coach wants to keep the other coach guessing.
Houshmandzadeh had his first big game against the Steelers as a rookie in 2001 when he had nine catches for 98 yards in the only game the Bengals have beaten Pittsburgh at PBS.
On the sidelines, Esiason reminisced about his own receivers with Bengals president Mike Brown.
"Those guys never said anything," Esiason said. "They just walked back to the huddle."
Then they called him out for the bucket drill.
"Smooth," Lewis said. "He's so big and he just uses his motion."
A true throwback Friday as his Bengals keep trying to turn back the clock.