Hobson's Choice: Carson Rain or Shine

Q: Will the rain reduce Carson's playing time tonight? I would hate to see him go out to play and slip and have a setback with his knee. I want to see him play but the next 10 years would be a lot better if the risks are to great to take.
**--Todd E., Chauncey, OH

TODD:** If this was 2006 B.T. (Before FieldTurf), you'd probably think about it. But after Marvin Lewis had him practice on the wet grass at Georgetown two weeks ago (and rewarded a certain reporter with a dirty look for asking about it), I think he'll roll him out there Monday with the rain having no effect on playing time.

For one thing, that's the beauty of FieldTurf. It's a rain-or-shine surface. Compared to a well-maintained AstroTurf field and a well-maintained grass field, a well-maintained FieldTurf surface is preferable.

In fact, it probably helps Palmer if it is raining because that would give the field the same consistency. What scares some people are the fields that have some dry spots running into wet spots with the change in surfaces causing footing problems. And part of the field maintenance is wetting down the turf to keep that consistency and limit the static electricity.

So the field shouldn't be a problem. Plus, with the doctors saying the knee is medically ready, then what is the difference? He's going to have to play on a wet field at some point, and this is the exact reason why he needs the snaps now that he has decided he can play.

It's a mental game now. And he has to be confident in every situation, and that ranges from standing in the pocket, avoiding the rush while also ignoring it, scrambling out of the pocket, taking a hit, playing on a wet field. It's simply part of this preseason package that he bought with the rehab.

Q: I was looking at the standings of the entire division on the Web site today. I hadn't realized that the Steelers haven't won a game yet. Ever since they lost Randle El and one or two other key players, I've been saying that I don't think they would be quite as dominant this year as they were last year.

Now it looks as though that just might be true. I remember seeing a stat somewhere about preseason records. I don't remember the exact details, but the general understanding was that it is very unlikely to make it to the playoffs without a winning preseason record, and almost impossible to get to the Super Bowl without one.

I am curious about your thoughts on how the rest of the division, especially the Steelers, is stacking up to the Bengals so far.
**--BJ C., Columbus, OH

BJ:** Sorry, after watching the Colts go 0-5 last preseason (ending it with a 38-0 loss in Cincinnati) and then winning 13 to start the season, I've checked out until September.

Yes, yes there are these great stats compiled by the incomparable Jack Brennan, the Bengals public relations director: The past 10 Super Bowl champs are 29-12 in the preseason and since 1996 nearly 70 percent of the 132 playoff teams were .500 or better in the preseason. And last season's teams that made the AFC and NFC title games went 11-5 in the preseason.

But, explain the Colts. Explain the 2004 Marvin Lewis Bengals that went 2-2 in preseason and were out of the playoff chase at 6-8. Explain the 2005 Marvin Lewis Bengals that won the division at 11-5 and also went 2-2 in preseason.

Anybody think the Steelers are going to have a losing record now? No way. Roethlisberger is going to be sharper. Palmer won't be the Palmer of Monday night come November. He'll be so much better then. McNair is better than any quarterback either Baltimore team has had since Bert Jones. All three are playing the tough NFC South and all three wish their quarterback situations were better and healthier.

Yes, you're right. Pittsburgh has fallen a bit, but they have merely come back to the pack and not to the bottom. Baltimore is better. Cincy will be as good as Palmer and even a Palmer between what he did in '04 and '05 keeps them in it.

To heck with August. This will still be a tractor-pull of a division with all three contenders taking shots from the NFC South and each other. To heck with Sept. 1. It still comes down to Dec. 31 at Paul Brown Stadium when the 8-7 Bengals play the 8-7 Steelers for the AFC North title and the loser goes home.

Call it Carson's Revenge and he hasn't even had a preseason yet.

Sorry, but I just can't get excited about these games. You can't tell me these games that don't count in the standings count for something.

Q: Is Odell Thurman gonna play at all this preseason even though he is suspended through the first four games of the season?
**--Ben, Xenia, OH

BEN:** He's eligible, but whether he does is another matter entirely and it looks doubtful right now as the Bengals try to sift through their rookie middle backers even with starter Brian Simmons questionable for Monday night.

Two of the guys that have backed up Simmons during the preseason - third-year man Caleb Miller and fifth-round pick A.J. Nicholson - are involved in a hellacious roster battle with the Bengals figuring to keep seven linebackers.

The other middle backer, Ahmad Brooks, is going to make it as the third-round supplemental pick from last month. But he needs reps because he's so far behind from not playing during the spring.

So there doesn't look to be many snaps for Thurman, since he won't be eligible to practice once the regular-season starts until the Bengals bye week.

But since he can work out on his own at the facility and still attend meetings during the suspension, two weeks of practice when he comes back is going to mean more then than playing games now to get him ready for Oct. 15 in Tampa Bay.

Suffice to say if he gets any work in the next two games, it will probably be very little.

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