Posted: 9:30 p.m.
MOBILE, Ala. - After talking to Carson Palmer, Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is convinced his quarterback is back to his optimistic self and that they'll continue to have what he calls "a very close relationship."
As he watched the North practice Tuesday at the Senior Bowl, Bratkowski said he has talked to Palmer and that he "is ready and willing to do anything in the draft and free agency" to help.
"He was willing to do everything we want to do," said Bratkowski of Palmer's offer to find out about the bunch of prospects at his alma mater of USC.
Palmer left at the end of the season indicating he advocated changes in the coaching staff. Palmer didn't go to the media with a manifesto, but answered a "No," when asked if he thought changes could occur with the same coaches.
Bratkowski said Palmer "went out of his way" to assure him that he wasn't talking about Bratkowski or quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese.
"I didn't think he was when I heard it because the three of us have a good working relationship," Bratkowski said. "He will say anything to me that's on his mind and I to him. I will say things to him that I won't say in front of the offense or the rest of the team. That's the kind of relationship we have.
"It's like all of us. At the end of the season, with all the wear and tear and the hours and the pressures, everything seems gloom and doom the day after the season. But after you get a chance to rest and get refreshed and step back from it, I think the optimism comes back and you're energized and excited. 'Here we go. Let's get back and fix it.' That's exactly where he's at and where all the coaches are at."
First on the list to fix is the running game. The Bengals finished 10th in offense but near the bottom in rushing and, consequently, Palmer threw a career-high 20 interceptions while the Bengals failed to score points in the red zone. One of the things Bratkowski is going to study heavily this offseason is what happened when the Bengals ran the ball out of the no-huddle with Palmer basically calling the plays.
"There are a lot of different ways people feel we can get better," Bratkowski said. "He's a big fan of the running game. He does a good job with it in the no-huddle. He looks for those opportunities to throw because he's very talented. You've got to get him to stay with the run a little bit more in the no-huddle, but he does a good job with it and he understands the running game is his best friend. It's a matter of doing (the no-huddle) more and more and recognizing the opportunities and getting the run to where you want it. He's improved in that every year with his understanding of the big picture."
Kenny Zuckerman, who got left tackle Levi Jones into training camp on time with a first-round deal in 2002 and negotiated a six-year extension for him before the '06 season, said at Tuesday's South practice he is representing Williams as he heads into free agency.
The agreement has just been finalized so Zuckerman says he hasn't had a chance to contact the Bengals yet. But he indicated he'd be open to doing a deal before free agency begins in March.
"He's a great character kid; a good person," Zuckerman said. "I think he would like to stay with the Bengals. He's very committed and loyal and I'm sure he'll give them the first opportunity to make something happen."
Williams figures to be one of the top safeties on the board because of his ability to also play some cornerback. One possible suitor? Former Bengals defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, now working in Minnesota, was with the Bengals when they took Williams in the second round in 2004.