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1:25 p.m.

His signing has stirred the Chad-Is-On-The-Block stuff, but Laveranues Coles is looking forward to hooking up his 631 career catches with Chad Ocho Cinco's 612.

Coles spoke to him last night when Ocho Cinco called and told Coles he had heard that he signed with Cleveland. Coles let him know that he was joining him in Carson Palmer's arsenal.

! **Coles will wear No. 11 for the Bengals.**

"He was excited for me. He was disappointed we didn't get a chance to reunite (Wednesday), but he was excited with the fact I had a chance to be with a great quarterback like Carson," Coles said Thursday after his introductory news conference at Paul Brown Stadium.

"I'm his sidekick," Coles said of The Ocho. "He's Batman. I'm Robin. Carson is the leader of the bunch. We just need to follow him, grab a hold of Carson's coat tails and let him lead us to the Promised Land."

Despite the loss of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, head coach Marvin Lewis made it clear he thinks the club has upgraded in certain areas and sounded as if he was comparing Coles' career yards per catch of 12.8 to Houshmandzadeh's 11.4.

"If you look at his yards per catch, his average is very high and that's where we needed to improve. That's what we were looking to do regardless of some other people that were here in the past," Lewis said. "We needed to get better and we got better with Laveranues in that area. He pulled a quad muscle this year in preseason and didn't miss a practice. Those thing are important to me."

Whether that was in reference to the hamstring problem that sidelined Houshmandzadeh most of the last training camp is anyone's guess. Coles had some people guessing why he chose No. 11 after nine seasons of wearing No. 87.

Second-year wide receiver Andre Caldwell apparently isn't ready to give it up.

"It's a new start," he said, "maybe I need a new number."

There is no question that Palmer had been the draw in these negotiations. Stung by last year's trade of his close friend and long-time Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, Coles had an idea during last season that the club's quarterback situation was going to be unsettled in '09 because Brett Favre kept dropping retirement hints.

Then came the calls from Palmer last weekend. Coles had visited Buffalo on the first day of free agency, but he said he knew action would pick up when Houshmandzadeh signed "because he was on top of a lot of boards."

"Any time a quarterback of his caliber takes time out to call you to let you know how important he feels you would be to the team that he represents and plays for, I thought it was great and I needed to take a real good look at it. After speaking with my close friends and family, they felt like a quarterback of this caliber would help benefit me as a player and was one of the many (reasons) in wanting to come here.

"It's very rare a quarterback gives you a call and tells you how confident he is in his abilities and how accurate he is and how he thinks he can make you better," Coles said. "Anytime you have a guy with that type of confidence, you have to really, really be open to being somebody around him."

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