Notes: Palmer in charge

Posted: 5 a.m.

Like anything else that is hard to find and even harder to define, the word "leadership" gets thrown around way too much.

The Cincinnatian Potter Stewart could have been talking about leadership when the former Supreme Court justice once famously described obscenity as "I know it when I see it." Whatever it is, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has been exuding plenty of leadership this spring.

In the moments after he was drafted, Bengals No. 1 pick Keith Rivers found himself on the horn with Palmer. Rookie receivers Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell got the same welcome.

Last week, Palmer's newest weapon, Colts free agent tight end Ben Utecht, raved about his ability to teach him a new offense.

"He's a terrific communicator," says quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese of Palmer. "All he wants to be is one of the guys. He's never apart from the group. Ever. So it's easy for him to communicate on the level he needs to get the points across."

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Palmer

Palmer credits Zampese "for teaching me everything I've learned so far," and where else in the league has a Pro Bowl quarterback had the same position coach for his entire career?

"Just being a quarterback you have to be an extended coach," Palmer says. "There's an offensive coordinator and a receivers coach and they do 95 percent of the teaching. But there's five percent from experiencing it, from being in there during the play, seeing a certain blitz, having to react under pressure.

"That five percent that the quarterback can come up with and help the guys out with is tremendous for the whole offense. You can call a certain play a number of times, but until you experience it and run it and make a mistake and learn from it ... ."

Palmer has always had the one-of-the-guys ease because he's not faking it. Plus, it got reinforced at the pro level by the man Palmer backed up his first year in the league and also taught him the offense so well.

It was easy for Jon Kitna to be Everyman since he arrived as something like the No. 12 quarterback at Central Washington and wasn't drafted, but Palmer has always had the common touch of a free agent despite being the draft's No. 1 pick.

"That was one of the best things that happened to (Palmer)," Zampese says of Kitna's presence. "He had a veteran leader. Good guy with skins on the wall not feeling threatened and was wiling to share."

Palmer says Kitna went as far to make him teach the offense.

"I saw how he helped guys out, saw how much he learned of the offense and how quickly he learned it and then relaying what he learned on other guys," Palmer says. "That's kind of something he forced me to do when I first got here. I learned that from him."

All of which sounds and looks like leadership.

SLANTS AND SCREENS
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It looks like the most intense August roster fights are going to be at running back, receiver and safety.

If Rudi Johnson, Chris Perry, Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey are all healthy, which one goes? And don't forget about fullback. If the move with Daniel Coats from tight end to fullback doesn't light a fire under incumbent Jeremi Johnson, what will?

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If you're counting Antonio Chatman's ability to return punts, then five of the six wide receiver spots are taken with Chatman, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell. That could leave Glenn Holt battling with Marcus Maxwell for the last spot.

The 6-4, 205-pound Maxwell has taken advantage of the reps he's received without Johnson and Houshmandzadeh in camp and receivers coach Mike Sheppard says "he doesn't look out of place" when he runs with Chatman and Holt in the first group.

"The nice part is Glenn can play all three spots and Antonio can play two," Sheppard says, "so Marcus doesn't have to pull double duty. He can work at being good at one spot."

Sheppard referred to the 'X' receiver, one of the two outside spots.

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Besides the starting safeties, Dexter Jackson and Marvin White, there is the emerging Chinedum Ndukwe, as well as two of the more important special-teamers in Herana-Daze Jones and John Busing. Plus, CFL refugee Kyries Hebert, at 6-3, 220 pounds, has looked big and fast according to at least one coach. Then there is also sixth-rounder Corey Lynch. Usually the Bengals keep four or five safeties.

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The Bengals mandatory minicamp doesn't start for nearly two weeks, but the speculation is already rampant on Chad Johnson's attendance. An item in ProFootballTalk.com's Rumor Mill says Johnson is going to report but "not do anything."

PFT wonders if Johnson will show and pull up on routes and not listen to coaches in harkening back to what Terrell Owens did in 2005 in his training camp effort to get traded or cut.

Meanwhile NFL Network reported over the weekend that agent Drew Rosenhaus plans to talk with Johnson this week to find out if he'll attend the June 12-14 mandatory.

But, like T.J. Houshmandzadeh said last week, he's got an idea what Johnson is going to do, "but with Chad the ideas are never firm so I'm not going to say."

Asked if Johnson is still disgruntled, Houshmandzadeh said, "It just depends what day you catch him. I don't think much has changed."

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