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Hobson's Choice: Playing It Smart

Q: I'm a big Carson fan and I don't want to see him hurt his arm anymore this season. We all know the season is over and we should just start playing the younger guys and play for the No. 1 pick in '09. Should he just sit out the rest of the season and have surgery if he needs it?
--Andrew G., Unadilla, N.Y.

ANDREW: I'd base everything on the protection. If they can't protect Palmer any better than they have up to this point, give him two airline tickets to Buenos Aires for he and the lovely wife, tell him to get back by March 1, and have it figured out by then so it never happens again at any cost.

Protection includes the running game. If they can't get it to 4.0 yards per carry behind an offensive line that should be moving lines like the Jets unit that muscled them through the Meadowlands, throw in a trip to Paris.

The commissioner might give Pacman Jones an endless amount of second chances, but he probably wouldn't look kindly on the Bengals playing for the No. 1 pick, so that's not a good idea. And here's one of the 88 reasons Mike Brown wants to win:

He'd rather have dinner with Art Modell than pay a top 10 draft pick. No one in the league wants to pay those guys. Fifty million bucks for a guy that has a 50-50 chance to make it.

But at what cost do you try to get out of the top 10?

If the doctors are saying rest will take care of Palmer's inflamed elbow and it's good to go after the Nov. 9 bye, why not?

But if they're saying one more hit and he needs surgery, how can you risk that? You know the three defenses they have after the bye?

Philly. Pittsburgh. Baltimore. The Eagles and Steelers are 1-2 in sacks per pass and Baltimore is Baltimore with two sacks and numerous hits against Palmer Opening Day.

I'm guessing he's seen more doctors than Grey's Anatomy and Scrubs combined and no one probably has the same opinion. But if they're waiting to see if he needs surgery at some point, do it as soon as possible and make sure he gets into Training Camp '09. That has to be the focus.

There is no dilemma here. You need wins to sell tickets, establish the proper mindset, and secure credibility. You need Palmer for the next decade to win, sell tickets, establish the proper mindset, and secure credibility.

It all depends on the doctors, of course, but if there is any question is there a question?

Q: With the postseason such a long shot at this point, what are the chances of the younger backup players getting additional playing time to improve the depth of experience on the team for next year?
--Sean, Tucson, AZ

SEAN: It sounds like we're there and the question that always gets asked after a guy like Pat Sims surfaces and shows he belongs is, "What took you so long?"

You can see the coaches' side. It's an NFL Fact of Life. Coaches need to win now and they're going to hang with veterans as long as they can. The other side of the coin is how can a rookie like wide receiver Jerome Simpson polish the skills everyone is saying are so raw if he doesn't play in games?

Never mind that, but here's an offense that hasn't had a completion to a wide receiver longer than 26 yards (and that was a month ago) and Simpson is a guy that can at least run and make a play down the field.

Hard to believe, but his 42-yard catch off a jump ball in the preseason has stood up as their longest pass for two months.

But it looks like it's going that way because of injuries. Marvin said Wednesday that both Simpson and rookie receiver Andre Caldwell could be dressed for the same game Sunday for the first time. With Glenn Holt nursing a gimpy ankle, it appears Caldwell is going to have to at least return his first NFL kick.

Sims looked good in his debut that was six weeks coming and you'd like to think at 320 pounds he's going to supply some badly needed push for the next several years. With John Thornton's contract up this year, Sims figures to get plenty of work the rest of the way.

And as much as Lewis says big Jason Shirley, a 350-pound tackle, isn't ready, you could see him getting some time.

It will be interesting to see what they do with left tackle Anthony Collins. They think he can play and pretty quickly. The fear was having a rookie at such a key position protecting a franchise player.

But it remains to be seen if you have that the rest of the way.

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