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Desert notes: Bengals peruse free agents


PHOENIX, Ariz. - The Bengals are in that mode of free agency where things evolve from week to week. Which is to say the end.  That's why they were represented at Sunday's first combine for veterans still free agents after the first two weeks.

Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin and Steven Radicevic, their West Coast scout, watched about 100 players work out by position at the Cardinals training facility in nearby Tempe even though they look to be more intent on signing their own players. But they plan to use the exercise for good.

The workouts came on the same day the NFL annual owners' meeting got underway at the Arizona Biltmore with a variety of committee meetings before Monday morning's formal start.

"We always have a ready list and we can go back and tweak it off of this," Tobin said. "We've already got game tape on every player, so this is just a chance to see who's in shape, who's ready to go, and if there is anybody that catches the eye. If they're going to be here working out, we're going to be here watching."

It's believed the Bengals would prefer to finish out the month before the draft re-signing niche players like special teams co-captain Cedric Peerman and nickel linebacker Taylor Mays. It's unclear where they are on backup quarterback Jason Campbell, but they seem to believe 2015 fifth-rounder A.J. McCarron is ready to compete for the backup job and they also don't have the appetite to pay much more than the minimum after spending about $23 million under this year's salary cap on two released free agents (starting defensive end Michael Johnson) and utility linebacker A.J. Hawk) and four of their own free agents in middle backer Rey Maualuga, left guard Clint Boling, kicker Mike Nugent, and backup tackle Eric Winston).

Among former Bengals who worked out Sunday were quarterback Zac Robinson, defensive end Jamaal Anderson, and defensive tackle Larry Black. The Bengals are thought to be looking for a blocking tight end and a backup defensive tackle and possibly a backup quarterback, but Tobin won't stop there.

"We've got enough spots on the roster that I wouldn't rule out any position," he said. "If we like somebody here and wanted them to sign, we'd still have to bring them in for a physical by our doctors. We wouldn't have to work them out, but they'd have to see our doctors.

"It's the first year, so we're working through it to see what kind of impact it's going to have."

MEETING NOTES:  The competitive juices really came out when the Bengals and the Vikings, coached by former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, vied for the services of Johnson last weekend.  Zimmer hosted him Friday night, the Bengals got him Saturday night and no one wanted to lose to the other.

Zimmer brought a lot of things to the Bengals and one of them was a contagious competitiveness. No one is more competitive than Zimmer and the Bengals coaches knew they had to be on their games. The three coaches who attended Johnson's dinner were all proven recruiters in college and they even went to the other side of the ball with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson joining head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive line coach Jay Hayes.

Zimmer was polite in the lobby Sunday but admitted, "I hate losing." …

To those who watched Carson Palmer come back from his torn ACL nine years ago that occurred in the first week of January in the Bengals' Wild Card Game against the Steelers, there can be no surprise that Cardinals coach Bruce Arians believes Palmer is going to be ready for the first day of training camp.

"He's telling me he'll be ready for minicamp, but I'm not going to have him go through that," Arians said. "I was watching the film the other day and how he was moving so fast through the bags, it's kind of scary doing it so fast this soon. It's crazy; he'll be more than ready."

At age 27, Palmer was back in time to start and tear up the third preseason game of 2006, a stretch of about seven months. At age 36, Palmer is looking at a late July return after the Nov. 9 injury.

"He knows exactly what to do and not to do," Arians said of the second rehab. "He's fired up."

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