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Hobson's Choice: Only thing to heal is knee

Q: Is there a brewing issue in regards to when Carson will return? It looks like Marvin and Carson have different ideas. Plus Marvin's "We need to fish or cut bait" comment makes me nervous.
**--Tony R., South Weber, UT

TONY:** I don't think there's a rift. I do think they are on the same page, but it took awhile to get there after Marvin seemed to spew some I-Wish-It-Was-This-Way coaching frustration at the Old Coach and was surprised Madden quoted him about Buffalo.

And, like Marvin said, he has to take the hit for that. There is one school of thought that says Lewis said that to Madden because he knew it would be repeated and it would put pressure on Palmer to decide to play.

I don't buy it. Marvin has a partnership with Palmer that is really just about equal since Palmer signed the mega extension back in December. What's amazing is that the junior partner, Palmer, is defter around the national media. Palmer treats everyone the same but I think at times Marvin believes he can say some things privately to coaches and players in the media and he's still learning that's not always the case.

He admitted as much but, look, you pay him to coach and not to craft position papers. The guy could have legitimately been Coach of the Year two of his last three years here so why fillet him over something like that?

And, really, it's also an example of how Lewis has done a good job of building a team of guys that are maturing and won't pull a Three Mile Island at the first sign of a crisis. Palmer handled it beautifully. If this was five years ago, there would be yellow tape around the lockers. Or even maybe at halftime of the January Wild Card game.

Lewis certainly put the onus of the decision on Palmer but I think everyone knows that's where it is and has been since March. As long as the doctors say you're OK, just let us know, No. 9, when you're ready and that's fine with us.

And Palmer's a big boy. If you have confidence in anyone making the right call around here, it's Carson. The kid is just terrific that way, so level-headed.

I did definitely sense some frustration from Marvin in Tuesday's news conference, and not because of Carson, although it sure sounds as if he'd like a better grip on reading his mind because Palmer just doesn't say a whole lot.

But ever since he's been a head coach Lewis has always been so meticulous in making sure he had a clear-cut quarterback and now he does have a clear-cut quarterback but he can't use him and he doesn't know when he can.

And he knows how tough that is on the other quarterbacks and the offense. At some point he's got to get a quarterback ready for Kansas City and right now the guy getting most of the snaps doesn't know if he'll be ready by then and that's no one's fault. Well, maybe Kimo von Oelhoffen's. But you can certainly see why Lewis is frustrated at the circumstances and not the player.

A brewing issue? Of course. Heck, it's the only issue. But it's not between Lewis and Palmer. It's between Palmer and his left knee and it always has been.

Q: As teams begin to pare down rosters heading to the regular season, do you see the Bengals being big players in the cut player market? Everyone talks about tight ends, but with the complexity of the offense, it seems that a final roster cut tight end wouldn't be able to help much, anyway; and there are only so many footballs to go around. Do you see a position where the Bengals might be looking to pick up a released player prior to the regular season?
**--Patrick L., Vevay, IN

PATRICK:** So much depends on injuries in the preseason. The Bengals weren't in the market for veteran safeties or linebackers at this time last year. But linebackers Nate Webster and Caleb Miller didn't respond in camp to injuries, plus safety Kim Herring was lost for the season and so the Bengals signed linebacker Hannibal Navies (Packers) and safety Ifeanyi Ohalete (Cardinals) off the waiver wire.

But you'd have to say they are a lot deeper at those two spots for sure, and probably all the way across the board, so you figure they can reload from within a little easier.

Usually at this point, you're looking to make the bottom of your roster better. So if you see a guy that's better than your sixth receiver, third tight end, or fourth safety, you go claim him or sign him.

But, yeah, you're right. I don't see them making a push to sign a big name, particularly on offense because everyone is so set with the scheme. At least that seemed to be a big part of the thinking when they unceremoniously traded quarterback Dave Ragone after he'd been here less than a month.

When this offense falls out of the top 10 and fails to average 26 points per game (like it did last season) then the populace can gripe about not having a receiving tight end.

Q: D-Line question. Kind of interesting how it looks like Marvin got it right the second time. Taking Peko in the 4th round from MSU seems like it's going to work out much better than Matthias Askew in the 4th in '04. Given it is preseason and his first pro action, Peko was as active as I've seen a Bengal interior lineman be in a long time. Also, any thoughts as to Eric Henderson's chances to stick around?
**--Matt, Clifton, OH

MATT:** I agree. Peko is an intriguing guy because he can really run around, yet he looks to be quite stout playing the run. At 320 pounds, he could be the athletic run-stuffer they've sought for years. At the very least, he looks like he's a guy that's going to be around here for awhile.

(How about his team-high six tackles on Sunday and Askew's seven tackles over six games in two seasons? No wonder the Bengals cut Askew on Tuesday with Lewis saying just flat out that he wasn't good enough to make the team.)

Henderson, the undrafted rookie defensive end from Georgia Tech, is another one of these kids that lives off speed and hunger. There just doesn't seem to be a spot for him, but you've got to believe he's playing for a spot on the practice squad.

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