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Cook Understands Caution

Once upon a time when Greg Cook was the Midwest's answer to Broadway Joe, there were no such things as MRIs, arthroscopic surgery, and salary caps.

It was nearly 40 years ago when Cook injured his throwing shoulder during his brilliant rookie season. When the dust settled from an AFL Rookie of the Year run and his 9.4 yards-per attempt were in the books, he would only throw three more passes the rest of his career.

The Bengals' first franchise quarterback admits he's concerned about the current franchise quarterback's inflamed elbow.

"I'm a little worried about Carson," Cook said Wednesday after he taped a TV interview at Paul Brown Stadium. "Anytime you're working on joints, shoulder, elbow, knee, you might have some problems. They're taking a cautious approach, which is what they should do."

After Cook, 61, sat down for an interview with Jeff Piecoro as part of FoxSports Ohio's "Bengals' Spotlight" series, head coach Marvin Lewis said in his Wednesday news conference that Palmer doesn't need surgery "right now," and that the club is trying to figure out how much rest he needs.

The Bengals may be trying to figure out whether to shut him down for the season, so it's significant that the man at the top, Bengals president Mike Brown, is a veteran of the Cook tragedy as the club's assistant general manager.

"Mike has to be thinking that, not so much in relation to me," Cook said. "But you've got a franchise quarterback that they're paying so much money and the way it's going losing the first six games you're not going to go to the playoffs unless a miracle happens."

It was Brown who said Cook, if he didn't get hurt, would have been a Hall of Famer and led the Bengals to more than one Super Bowl title. Bill Walsh, himself a Hall of Fame quarterback guru, called Cook the greatest talent he ever saw at the position.

The only similarity between the injuries of Cook and Palmer are that they came when both were playing quarterback for the Bengals in September.

Cook suffered the injury more than 10 years before Palmer was born. Palmer's problem is a sore elbow not a torn shoulder. And the diagnosis is that Palmer needs rest and not surgery.

But Cook still likes the conservative approach.

"It's the smart thing," he said. "There was no arthroscopic surgery or MRIs so they weren't able to determine exactly what was wrong. If I hadn't finished the first year and been operated on, I more than likely would have come back and played and been all right."

But Cook doesn't blame head coach Paul Brown or the medical staff because everyone was operating in the prehistoric era of sports medicine.

"They thought it was just a sprain, a dislocation and it would pop back in and I'd be OK," he said. "Kind of like Chad (Ocho Cinco) today. X-rays wouldn't show what the injury was.

"When you're 23, you're going to play at all costs, and it was at all costs."

Cook got hurt in the third game of the season, a 24-19 win over the soon-to-be Super Bowl champion Chiefs at Nippert Stadium. It was on the University of Cincinnati field where he starred as a collegian and "two linebackers chased me down and speared me," he said.

Cook remembers he sat the next three games and then "I kept aggravating it," and he hurt it again that season against the Jets and Raiders.

But Cook, the UC art student and prolific painter, has no brushes of bitterness.

"You'd go crazy if you always thought, 'what if?' " Cook said. "You want to control your own destiny; you dont want anybody else controlling it for you, like getting injured."

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