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Mutual admiration

Updated: 4:15 p.m.

The first-place Bengals split up for the bye weekend after Wednesday morning's practice, but they sounded as together as ever.

On a day Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week, running back Cedric Benson, the guy that very easily could have won, told him it has been a privilege to play with him. Benson and rookie running back Bernard Scott were talking about Palmer's play the last couple of weeks and so Benson told him how he felt.

Palmer's response?

"He said it's been a privilege, also," said Benson, who waxed poetic as he described catching a Palmer pass. "His are on this wonderful, imaginary line and it's like a pillow coming at you as opposed to a rock. The guy is amazing. It's a cool thing."

And here was Palmer talking about wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and saying in some ways he's better than the guy that once led the AFC in receiving yards four straight seasons.

"He's playing as well as he's played in his career, probably," Palmer said. "He's got a lot more experience. He's had more reps, more games. You can't digress from that. You can only go forward as far as knowing the game and system and he's taken steps forward."'

Benson has been to a Super Bowl with the '06 Bears and he thinks these guys can get there.

"This past game I really think is going to boost us into the rest of the season," Benson said. "Not to say we didn't know we had it, but the fact that we showed it, it had to feel good to a lot of guys. It sure felt good to me. I really believe it's going to propel us into the next nine games, I really do. At this time of year playoff talk gets a lurking. You really contend to put teams away because the weather changes, it's later in the season. I think the sparks are really finally starting to fly."

Sights and sounds of a bye week practice Wednesday morning inside Paul Brown Stadium:

» Palmer, named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in his career earlier in the day, was holding a blocking bag at middle linebacker early in practice. Later he did say he'll have post-season surgery on his sprained left thumb "to clean up a few things," but also said, "It feels fine. No problem." 

» Two players with knees injured in Sunday's win over the Bears, Bernard Scott and fullback Jeremi Johnson, didn't dress. All indications are they'll be ready for the next game. Safety Roy Williams, who the club thinks can play next week in the 1 p.m. home game against Baltimore, rested his forearm again.  Safety Chris Crocker also didn't dress, reason unknown.

» Defensive tackle Domata Peko (knee) also wasn't wearing a helmet on a day the Bengals went padless. But for the first time in a month they had numbered jerseys at practice. Seeking to shed the team of any individualism, head coach Marvin Lewis had doled out blank white and black jerseys. Asked why the change, Lewis said, "Mum's the word."

» It is Palmer's first league recognition since he was named AFC Player of the Month in September 2005 (eight TDs and two interceptions in the first three games) and his first Player of the Week award since he engineered 24 fourth-quarter points in the 27-26 win at Baltimore on Dec. 5, 2004. Stat guru and PR chief Jack Brennan noted that Palmer's five touchdown passes and no interceptions tied Boomer Esiason's club record for differential set 20 years ago in a game against Tampa.

» Palmer is now 6-0 against the NFC North with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions and has thrown at least three touchdowns in every game.

» Ochocinco is the most recent Bengal to win AFC Offensive Player of the Week for a 2007 performance against Tennessee in which he caught 12 balls for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Ironically, The Ocho had his most catches since that day on Sunday when he had 10 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

» You bet Bengals tight end J.P Foschi caught a few of the ESPN highlights Sunday, since he also scored his first NFL touchdown in his 24th game on a three-yard pass from Palmer when he was wide open on a play-action.

"It seemed like every time they said my name," he said, "it was like, 'Who is this guy? Foschi who?' That's the way I dreamed about it. It couldn't have been any better than that."

It's been so long since it happened he can't remember who he scored his last TD against. Some time his senior year at Georgia Tech.

"Wake Forest or Vanderbilt," he said. "One or the other."

Foschi, the first option, said he knew when the play was called "it had a good chance of" working and it did, in large part, because Foschi helped along the run fake by blocking linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer before releasing. Naturally, Hillenmeyer played at Vandy.

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