Chad: One big play

Updated: 8:45 p.m.

There have been no tantrums, outrageous pronouncements or head locks.

While the Bengals offense has melted down, Chad Ocho Cinco has stayed cool. In these first two weeks wreathed in offensive futility and just six catches, the man who once allegedly blew up a playoff locker room with the volcanic ash of frustration because he wasn't getting the ball has been an island of calm.

"I'm not going to be a problem," he said after troubleshooting for the newest Bengal, cornerback Geoff Pope.

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Lewis

Some believe the Marvin Lewis era is buried somewhere in that ash and like Pompei, 2005 is still preserved but dead.

But Lewis's daily two-hour practices belie that notion and suggest the era is still very much alive in a division that can get turned upside down at any moment.

This snippet also runs counter to the notion the locker room has turned into Three Mile Island:

After practice Wednesday, Pope went up to Ocho Cinco after he does after every practice and picked his brain on how he played this coverage and that leverage. The Ocho talked and pointed and pointed and talked and told him to hang in there.

Pope, who arrived here off waivers two weeks ago from the Giants, has been promoted to the active roster and may play Sunday because cornerback Johnathan Joseph (ankle) is questionable.

"Everything I've heard about him before I got here, totally not true," Pope said. "He's been cool with me; joking and everything. ... I pick Chad's brain because he's one of the older guys."

The Internet scouts say Ocho Cinco is older but not wiser. They say the tension is rising between he and quarterback Carson Palmer. But on this day in this locker room, The Ocho's tensions were team driven.

"One of the things that we need to do is what we did in '05 is Thursdays or Fridays the offense used to all go to dinner," Ocho Cinco said. "I think Big Willie used to do that. We need to tell Carson we should get back to that."

Willie Anderson is now dining in Baltimore and The Ocho admitted he's not much of an organizer ("That means I'd have to foot the bill," he said), but he's all for it.

"I don't know if that worked," he said. "Maybe it had something to do with it, but whatever it was it worked. Whatever it's going to take to get us back ... probably Carson. Guy with the most money pays."

Ocho Cinco candidly will say he's not one of the guys where Anderson's mantle of leadership fell.

"Carson, T.J.," he said. "I'm just a loudmouth."

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Ocho Cinco

He's much more of course. What he has not been since he arrived for training camp has been a distraction. What he is is the Bengals all-time leading receiver dutifully playing through a separated shoulder while insisting it hasn't hampered him.

"No. Somebody ask a better question than that," Ocho Cinco said when asked the hamper question.

"I don't think, really, to tell you the truth, any of us are playing with any confidence," he said. "I'm not sure why. We know the kind of swagger that I carry. My confidence is not where it needs to be at all. I'm sort of frustrated with the way things are going the past two games."

He says that outrageous streak of confidence that either makes him endearing or to be endured isn't where it was during his five previous Pro Bowl seasons.

And he never has until "you can get that play, that feeling, then it won't be right," Ocho Cinco said and when asked how often he has this crisis of confidence, he said, "Before every season. I've got no confidence until I start rolling."

The Ocho includes in the mix tag-team partner T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the man with whom he combined to catch 205 balls last season, and with whom he has caught just 11 this year. And none longer than 24 yards.

"T.J. has the same thing. We have no mojo until we get rolling, until we touch the ball," Ocho Cinco said. "Everybody is like that. I would think all the great ones that I've talked to that are still playing receiver. Randy (Moss), T.O. (Terrell) Owens. Myself. Housh. All of them. They don't have the swagger until they get that ball.

"It doesn't have to be a long ball. It can be a 15-yarder. It can be a dig route. You can catch a slant 20-30 yards."

Go back in his relationship with Carson Palmer, and there is usually a big play early in the season. Last year it was a 39-yard touchdown pass against the Ravens for the first touchdown of the season. In a '05 it was a 70-yard touchdown on the first series of the second game against Minnesota, and in Palmer's NFL debut he made a tumbling 53-yard catch in the 2004 opener that Palmer then called the greatest catch he'd seen.

That one was against the Jets. But it was in The Meadowlands, where the Bengals are headed this weekend.

The Bengals looked to be back in the groove on the last drive of the first half Sunday. Of the 11 plays, The Ocho caught three balls for 29 yards and one looked like the old days when he planted cornerback Cortland Finnegan on a third-and-six with a pivot move that allowed him to get the first down, as well as seven more yards.

"Almost," he said. "That was not big time. The (first-down catch) made me feel like a possession receiver. That ain't what I'm talking about."

What The Ocho was talking about Wednesday was the Madden '09 game between quarterbacks Donovan McNabb of Philadelphia and Tony Romo of Dallas Monday night in the 41-37 win by the Cowboys.

"We used to score 30 points for no damn reason at all," he said. "I was sick. They're good. The talent is equal. Watch those games and it starts up front. Looking at Tony and McNabb, yeah they get sacked sometimes. Yeah they get pressure every now and then. They're back there smoking a cigar getting ready to throw the ball.

"We've got one of the better lines in the NFL. It starts with them, not with us. ... Before you name the receivers, before you even name the quarterback, it all starts with that offensive line."

The Ocho doesn't think the offense has emphasized the run at the expense of the pass. He doesn't think there is much of a difference over past years.

Even though the Bengals have never led this season, they have run it one more time than they've passed it (52-51), although the three sacks would make it 54-52, pass. Still extremely balanced. Last year after two games (with sacks) it was 84-49, pass.

"What's wrong (with running) when you have one that can go 90, 80 every time he touches the ball?" said Ocho Cinco of Chris Perry. "Me and T.J. and Antonio (Chatman) and Glenn (Holt) are out there blocking our (butts) off for Chris. It's going to take one play and he might be the one to do it."

No hurricanes. Chad, like Ike now, is calm waters.

"We haven't had a decent game to go out and play," he said. "Baltimore, we got our feet wet, we hadn't played together. This will be our third game together. We're practicing well. Things look good in practice. You can't get any worse."

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Palmer

CARSON UPDATE: Carson Palmer said at his Wednesday news conference that the ankle that got rolled in Sunday's game is fine and he'll be practicing at the normal rate this week.

Palmer, the last-rated passer in the NFL, isn't going easy on himself.

"Not good at all. We're 0-2. Not where we want to be," said Palmer, when asked how he'd grade that guy. "There's never one thing to say this this is the reason. Fix it and everything's great. It's consistent play. Misjudging some balls in the wind to bad reads. A number of things.

"It's been a combination of teams saying, 'We're not going to let Chad beat us, we're not going to let T.J. beat us and also my fault. I need to do a better job getting the ball to the guys when their shots are called. We need to keep running the ball, be aggressive in the run game. Not let a defense take a guy out of the box and put him on Chad and take Chad out of the game."

Palmer said he likes rookie wide receiver Jerome Simpson's skills, "but until he proves he can go out and be perfect wth assignments, blocking, and line up in the right spot and always run the right route ... once that part of his game comes along, he can be a very effective player for us but it's still going to be a slow process." **

TIGHT ENDS DOWN:** With Ben Utecht not expected to play this week, it had to be a concern to see starting tight end Reggie Kelly in shorts on the sidelines with his playbook when practice opened Wednesday.

But maybe he's OK since the only roster move the Bengals made Tuesday addressed the ankle injury of cornerback Johnathan Joseph, not on the field Wednesday. This is where the release of Deltha O'Neal comes into question.

The total NFL games at cornerback behind Leon Hall are 11. Nine are from the projected starter in place of Joseph, David Jones, expected to make his first NFL start against the Super Bowl champs and Super Bowl MVP quarterback Ei Manning.

The other two games belong to free agent rookie Simeon Castille. Geoff Pope, activated from the practice squad Tuesday, has never played in a regular-season game after spendng last season on the Giants practice squad, but he did play about 20 snaps in New York's divisional win over Dallas and played special teams in the NFC title game at Green Bay before being inactive for the Super Bowl.

Pope can tell his new mates all about a team that started 0-2 with a new defensive coordinator and a struggling offense and went on to win the Super Bowl.

"The defense didn't look good at all and if you looked at the defense toward the end of the year you never would have thought they started 0-2," said Pope after Wednesday's practice. " Here the hope is definitely not over for us in terms of turning it around having a great year.

"We just stayed in the system Spags had put in," said Pope of first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. "We played hard and everybody started clicking."

Also out of practice Wednesday in the secondary were two guys Marvin Lewis had already ruled for this week: Safeties Dexter Jackson (thumb) and Herana-Daze Jones (hamstring), the only safety that has experience playing NFL corner. One guy who could be called in to pinch hit in some packages is rookie safety Corey Lynch.

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