Palmer: "There's a negative outlook on us, and you just don't get those nationally-televised games year-in and year-out like some of the bigger market teams."
Updated: 5 a.m.
The Pro Bowl snub is a nice fit into the Scrap Heap Bengals script and their unloved and unappreciated rise to the top of the AFC North. But it left some hard feelings, especially at the top of the roster.
Like most everybody else, quarterback Carson Palmer thought cornerbacks Jonhathan Joseph and Leon Hall deserved it, as well as running back Cedric Benson and maybe some guys up front people haven't noticed, like right guard Bobbie Williams and left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
"Very disappointed. I thought one of our corners would make it, at least somebody on defense," Palmer said. "As good as our defense is, I can't believe somebody on defense didn't make it. I would've loved to have seen Ced make it; Bobbie (Williams), who's been playing great for a long time. Whitworth is the best tackle in football, AFC or NFC, and the fact that he's not on it is a joke."
The club didn't announce alternates but from piecing together interviews out of the Wednesday locker room period it appears Benson, Joseph, Williams, defensive tackle Domata Peko and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco were named second alternates and that Palmer was a third and cornerback Leon Hall a fourth.
"I wasn't surprised," Joseph said of not getting the call. "It's my fourth year in the league. I know how it goes. Every year some guys that should get in don't get in. It's no big deal. You move forward and I'm looking forward to the game this week. If I did, I did. If I didn't, I didn't. I'm going to compete the same way."
Head coach Marvin Lewis has preached team defense since 2003 and now he's got the ultimate example: A top five defense (No. 4) with no Pro Bowlers.
"It's great for the team concept, but I think a lot of people were deserving; it's almost a disrespect," said middle linebacker Dhani Jones. "A disrespect to their hard work. Leon and J-Joe did a great job. Cedric did a great job. Carson did a great job."
Peko had to admit that he was surprised the league's fourth best defense had no Pro Bowlers. But he reminded the media what he said in the preseason.
"I told you guys," he said. "Everyone is doubting us. Still to this day. When your backs are against the wall, there's only one place to go. That's forward. And we're going to to go get it. We're just going to keep our nose to the grindstone.
"It's kind of weird that no one made it from our team being we're one of the top defenses. It's just another thing you have to shake off your shoulder. Even though we didn't get the votes, we're going to keep playing and keep our heads right. We'll be fine. What we're shooting for is the Super Bowl. Last time I heard, defense wins championships, right? That's what we're going to do."
So does running the ball, but Benson knows missing two games hurt him because the four guys in front of him all had more yards. He's the AFC's fifth-leading rusher and he was the fifth guy on the Pro Bowl list.
"A wise man once told me when it comes to the business end of this deal the only thing that matters is the number of yards you get at the end of the season," Benson said. "If that's the way they want it, so be it. I missed a couple of games. Nevertheless we still have a chance to make it down to Miami."
Benson admitted he was surprised no Bengal made it.
"There's been a lot of great plays made. A lot of guys play consistent to be where we are. Winning the division," Benson said. "I can't put my finger on it. I know sometimes it tends to be a lot of known names in the league usually gets in that thing. That's all right. We've still got a chance to make the Super Bowl."
After years of seeing teammates get snubbed and seasons of 1 p.m. games, Palmer knows exactly where to put his finger on it.
"I'm not surprised," he said. "I mean, playing in Cincinnati, it's not a big market. You don't ever play on national television until the last game of the year when the ballots are already out, so it's tough to make it. But I'm not surprised ... this game's on national TV because it's the Jets, it's not because it's the Bengals.
"It's just one of the negatives of playing here; it's a smaller market. There's a negative outlook on us, and you just don't get those nationally-televised games year-in and year-out like some of the bigger market teams. But that's just how it is. It's not going to change. You know that when you come here, you know that when you're a free agent, you know that when you're a drafted player here. It's a small market, just like Buffalo and some of the other smaller markets. It's just part of the deal."
CED AND JONES
There is always irony. The first alternate for running back in the AFC is the Jets' Thomas Jones, the player with whom Benson shared an awkward Bears backfield when he first came into the NFL. The drafting of Benson forced Jones' trade to the Jets, but not before some hard feelings.
Now Benson and Jones are 1-2 as AFC alternates and could end up playing against each other two weeks in a row with everything on the line. But Benson isn't using that for any motivation.
"That's kind of history," Benson said. "We don't talk on a personal basis. It's history."
Defensive tackle Tank Johnson also played with Jones in Chicago and even though that was three years ago and Jones is 31, Johnson sees the same guy.
"He's a downhill guy when he needs to be," Johnson said. "He breaks arm tackles. He has a tremendous stiff arm. He's probably the best back I've played with."
The Bengals are going to go easy with safety Chris Crocker (ankle). Crocker and defensive linemen Tank Johnson and Robert Geathers didn't suit up Wednesday.
The Bengals on Wednesday placed linebacker Rey Maualuga on the Reserve/Injured list, signed rookie tight end Darius Hill to the roster from the practice squad and signed rookie tight end Carson Butler to the practice squad.
A rookie from Southern California, Maualuga suffered a left ankle fracture this past Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium against Kansas City. He has started every game this season and ranks tied for fourth on the team in tackles (80) while ranking first in forced fumbles (three).
Hill had been on the Bengals practice squad since Sept. 6. He entered the NFL with Cincinnati last May as a college free agent and played in all four Bengals preseason games (no statistics).
Butler was originally signed by Green Bay in May as a college free agent, but was waived and signed Aug. 6 with Detroit. He played in all four Lions preseason games, with four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. He was waived by the Lions on Sept. 5. He spent Week 7 of this season on the San Francisco practice squad.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Safety Tom Nelson approached Zimmer on Wednesday and said if he's in the starting lineup again, when he gets on screen to introduce himself on NBC he's thinking of saying, "From Mike Zimmer's alma mater, Illinois State."
"Just say Illinois State," Zimmer said.
» With the Bengals playing the final game in The Meadowlands, they're going to be doing it in front of a crowd of former Jets. One of them is one of the great villains in Bengaldom, running back Freeman McNeil. When the Bengals were the defending AFC champs in 1982 and the favorite to repeat after a strike-shortened 7-2 season, McNeil ran wild in the Wild Card game for 202 yards and the Jets stunned the Bengals at home at Riverfront Stadium, 44-17.