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Hawaii Nine-O

Posted: 5:30 a.m.



It can't be a surprise that Carson Palmer, maybe the most unassuming Bengals Pro Bowler ever, came away from his first Pro Bowl practice Tuesday impressed with another guy hard to impress in AFC head coach Bill Belichick.

After joking around with Belichick and the Chargers backfield of LaDainian Tomlinson and Lorenzo Neal at practice, the most competitive part of the day came when he dueled with Saints quarterback Drew Brees on the golf course.

"He's a good player, but he can't putt at all," said Palmer over the phone from Hawaii Tuesday night, clearly for Brees' benefit. Palmer confirmed an 82 but wouldn't give out a winner.

If it sounds like it's not very intense over there, it's not. Palmer figures Belichick, coach of the three-time Super Bowl champion Patriots, had the AFC on the field for about an hour.

"He's easy to be around. He's not going to change," Palmer said. "That's why guys have so much respect for him and want to play for him. He is who he is and he stays that way. He's here to win. Have a good time, but he's used to winning and he wants to win here."

Belichick is under some searing heat the week after former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson's accusation he played him with a concussion. But the laid-back Pro Bowl is immune to such controversy. The only edge appears during Saturday's game.

The age-old idea is to win so the $40,000 or so winner's share helps take care of those expenses. And Palmer has some of those. He's invited a bunch of folks this week, including his backups, Anthony Wright and Doug Johnson, as well as quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese and brother Jordan, among others.

"Doug Johnson shot 107," joked Palmer, who definitely said that for Johnson's benefit. "Those guys were with me all year, so I figured they ought to be here."

After Belichick congratulated him on a great year, Palmer noticed him also having fun with Tomlinson and Neal, and no one would have called that after Tomlinson became enraged with how the Patriots celebrated their playoff win over the Chargers on San Diego's home turf.

"No, they had no problems at all," Palmer said. "They were cool," and his Welcome-to-the-Pro-Bowl moment came when he saw a couple of tight ends from San Diego and Kansas City.

"You can tell out here that there is something special about all these guys. That these guys are the best at what they do," Palmer said. "You know, you look out there and see Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez on the field at the same time, that's pretty good."

Tuesday marked one of the first times Palmer threw the ball since he finished the season with a sore shoulder and said he felt fine while splitting snaps with the Titans' Vince Young in the Norm Chow Honorary Practice. Chow, Palmer's offensive coordinator at USC, steered Young to a Rookie of the Year season in Tennessee.

"Norm loves him," Palmer said. "He's a down-to-earth guy."

Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning is expected Wednesday to round out the AFC quarterbacks staff. Manning said in the locker room after the win over the Bears that he was looking forward to seeing Palmer, a guy he admires because of what he does at the line of scrimmage in the Bengals offense. Palmer said he took some encouragement from the Colts victory and is looking forward to spending some more time with Manning after seeing him around at other events.

"It was good to see a team that's not built around defense, like Pittsburgh or Chicago, win it," he said.

Palmer would like to light it up Saturday and he'll have some help because one of his wide receivers is there. He reported Chad Johnson "is pumped to be here," and he has seen on the premises Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson, shelved for the game by his rehabbing foot.

"I'll be throwing to whoever I can so we can win," he said. "It should be fun."

Why not? Wednesday is another short, early practice before more golf.

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