Updated: 11-22-12, 12:55 p.m.
As The Streak has gone from eight games to nine, A.J. Green, currently the best wide receiver in the Milky Way has gone from passing T.J. Houshmandzadeh to being asked about Jerry Rice.
That will happen when nine straight games with a touchdown catch in a single season puts you with Lance Alworth in the record book for the fifth-longest streak of all time and draws you close to The Master himself. The year before Green was born Rice set the record with 12 straight.
"Four games is a lot; I don't know," Green said before Wednesday's practice. "I'd be blessed if I could get there, but I will be all right."
It's been even longer since another Cincinnatian chased another hallowed streak when Peter Edward Rose came within 12 games of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1978, but there's not near the cameras or hype.
Just as well. As he does with everything else, Green is ho-humming it.
"I don't really pay attention to all of that stuff until the end of the season," Green said. "Toward the end of the season, I'll be like, 'All right, I did OK.' But until then I will stay on this grind with my head down and keep playing."
If the fourth quarter come Sunday against the Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium and he still doesn't have No. 10?
"No, I don't worry about all that. As long as we come out of there with a W, I'm happy," he said.
Classic Green. Cool? As cool as Elvis in the '50s, the Beatles in the '60s and Jerry Rice in the '80s and 90s.
There's not much that bothers him. On or off the field. You can't tell if he's tracking down Jerry Rice or a text message.
"No, I don't worry," Green said. "You play this game; you can't get too high on yourself, you can't get too low on yourself. I stay even keel no matter what. No matter what's going on, anything in life I don't let anything bother me. You only live once, so … ."
Nothing? Not even a pet peeve?
"As long as people let me take my nap I'm good," he said. "Right after practice. If I don't get my nap, there's going to be trouble."
Which is where his foes are when the Bengals get inside the red zone. Green is tied for the NFL lead with 10 touchdowns, seven of them inside the 20-yard line. Seven reasons why the Bengals are 11th in scoring touchdowns down there after being in the bottom 10 of the league last season. At 6-4 with an NBA vertical leap, the advantages are obvious. Particularly on Sunday in Kansas City against 5-9 cornerback Javier Arenas. Safety Kendrick Lewis added to the improbable maze, but it was Arenas that Green scorched off the line of scrimmage.
It also helps to have hands like gloves and Green only needed one to make the wondrous four-yard catch coming back for quarterback Andy Dalton's pass just inside the sideline.
"That's the thing," Dalton said shaking his head, "is how he gets his feet down like that."
What's it like throwing to Green? Dalton picked out a scribe and said, "You could throw to him."
But it was Dalton who threaded it only where Green could get it, surprising even the unflappable.
"The safety rolled over, I guess he rolled over late and the corner was playing outside leverage so I didn't even know the ball was coming, so I just tried to get the best release," Green said. "I saw the ball in the air, I thought I could get two hands on it but it was a little out of my reach so I stuck my left hand out and tried to get my feet in."
Green was born the year Rice set the two-season record of 13 straight games with a TD catch to run the fade route in close. Which is, according to Green simply, "Break outside and look for the ball."
"I don't know if it's my best route. It's probably my best route in the red zone right now."
But you know it has to be Dalton's favorite red-zone route.
"Even the runs are tagged to a fade," Green said. "Even if it's a run play Andy can check it to a fade."
The catch was, of course, crazy. It would have to be in anybody's top five.
"It was all right," Green said. "Probably top five. Probably five. It was all right."
Ho hum. It's almost time for the best receiver in the universe to put another streak to sleep.
PALMER EXPECTS RUDE WELCOME: Former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer knows he's going to get a rude welcome when he returns to Paul Brown Stadium for Sunday's 1 p.m. game with the Raiders and he's talking along the lines of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and his front four.
During Wednesday's conference call with the Cincinnati media, Palmer nearly called defensive tackle Geno Atkins the NFL's Defensive MVP and said Leon Hall is probably the best slot corner in the NFL.
"It will keep you up at night watching these guys rush the passer," said Palmer, making his first start at PBS since the Bengals traded him to Oakland 13 months ago. "I've been seeing the versatility of the guys on the outside, guys like Nate Clements who's a corner who's doing a phenomenal job playing safety. And the different guys because of injuries they've had, guys kind of bouncing all over the place and still playing great football and not allowing big plays."
Hall and Atkins are just two of the 25 players remaining from when Palmer left after his trade demand and they have caught his eye.
"Geno wasn't playing much when I was there and right now he looks like the Defensive MVP of the league almost. Obvious Pro Bowler … tackles for loss, sacks," he said. "I don't know if he's being talked about in that light but he should be because he's that good. Our coaches saw it right when they turned the film on."
Other topics Palmer touched on his 23-minute conference call:
At a month shy of 33, is he as good as he's ever been for a 3-7 offense ranked ninth in the NFL while he's thrown for third-most yards among QBs? "No, I mean my body feels great, I'm healthy, I feel like I can still throw it as good as anybody. But we're at a point right now where our offense is in a little bit of a transition. It's kind of been like that all year long."
If then-Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell hadn't broken his collarbone the Sunday before the trade deadline, would Bengals president Mike Brown ever have dealt him? "I have no idea and nobody will ever know and he'll never say … it was time. It was definitely time to move on. I'm glad the way it worked out and I'm glad for the Bengals, I'm glad for the players and the fans. They're a great team going on for the next 5-6-7-8-10-12 years, however many years. They've got a great young quarterback, a bunch of really good young players and still some really good veterans and they're in a great place. I'm excited for the future of them."
What kind of reaction does he expect from the fans Sunday: "I expect it to be loud and extremely electric. I'm not exactly expecting a welcome back. But I know it's going to be loud, they always are extremely loud when the opposing offense is on the field and I'm sure it will be just a little bit louder with me out there."
What he would say to a fan that says he quit on the team with his trade demand: "I wouldn't agree with them. I came in right after the season and told Mr. Brown what my decision was. I disagree with that fan."
LEWIS ON PLAYOFF PUSH: When the Bengals came out of the bye week 3-4 and on a four-game losing streak, head coach Marvin Lewis began talking about a sense of urgency. Now that he thinks his team has to win out to win the AFC North, he thinks his young team has responded urgently.
"We're 2-1 with (urgency) and we're a quarter away from being 3-0 with it," Lewis said of the fourth-quarter loss to Denver. "We've got four new quarters coming up. One at a time. We just have to keep doing it."
Asked if Sunday's game is personal because of Palmer, Lewis believes the last six games are all quite personal.
"Because we put ourselves in a situation where they are nearly playoff games," Lewis said. "They are certainly playoff opportunities. Playoff implications for us are involved as we go these next six weeks. The last two (division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh) no doubt after the loss to the Broncos. We put ourselves in a situation in order to win the division, first of all, we have to basically, probably, win each game, and what happens after that happens. That's the first goal. In order to do that, in my opinion, is we're going to have to win them all, chances are, and I think our guys realize that."
HAWKINS OUT AGAIN: Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (knee) missed Thursday morning's practice after he didn't work Wednesday or play last Sunday. Cornerback Adam Jones (calf), who played last week with the injury, didn't practice Wednesday but went limited Thursday. Center Kyle Cook (ankle) began his second week back again on Nick Field for rehab with trainer Nick Cosgray on Wednesday.
Safety Reggie Nelson, who missed the last six practices and two games after injuring his hamstring against Denver, was back on the field Wednesday and Thursday. So was cornerback Terence Newman, who missed Sunday's second half with a concussion. Both went full both days. So did defensive back Nate Clements, who came back into the game Sunday after injuring his finger. Limited both days were wide receiver Marvin Jones (knee) and center Jeff Faine (hamstring). Tight end Richard Quinn (hamstring) was limited Wednesday and out Thursday.
HUE J.: Former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson, now a Bengals defensive/special teams assistant, had no comment on reports that have tied him to the University of California vacancy. But Jackson, one of the key men in the Carson Palmer deal, continues to be a big fan of the kid he recruited to USC and later became the Heisman Trophy winner and first pick in the draft.
Jackson, who was the Bengals receivers coach in Palmer's heyday of 2004-06, says he's a better player now than when he went to two Pro Bowls because he's more mature.
"He's playing great; there's not a throw he can't make," Jackson said after Wednesday's practice.
As for his future, Jackson said, "At this time what's intriguing is beating the Oakland Raiders. That's the only thing I can think about at this point."
COOL ORDER: Lewis knows there's a fine between being amped and ready to go, a la last week's grudge match between Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham and Chiefs safety Eric Berry that Gresham willed to win, and being too hyped up.
"We want to be the assassin, not the mass murderer," Lewis said. "You want to be the (military) sniper. I show a lot of sniper videos. You have to be cool and calm. When the sniper squeezes the trigger, he's got to check the wind and all those things. That's where we want to be. Very cool because you know what you're doing."
REY WAITS: Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga has appealed his $15,000 fine for a hit against a defenseless receiver a few weeks back and is expecting a letter in a few days.