Palmer acting like he's been there before

8-12-03, 8:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Carson Palmer had just thrown his first touchdown pass in the NFL and Bengals defensive lineman Duane Clemons wanted to give him the football for his bay window and not E-Bay.

No thanks, Palmer basically said, politely eschewing the souvenir. I've already thrown two.

And that's what Palmer took from his debut Sunday at Giants Stadium. Rookie wide receiver Chesley Borders can always tell people he caught Carson Palmer's first pro touchdown pass, a 10-yard rope down the middle. But Palmer will always remember it came after the Jets returned two of his passes for touchdowns.

"That shows you the guts of the guy. He has some guts," said right tackle Willie Anderson of the ball story Tuesday after practice. "The big thing was he came back. That was huge. Everybody was focusing on the two picks. What quarterback hasn't done that? But he came back."

Palmer seems to be getting a head start on what David Klingler and Akili Smith never did.

Winning over his locker room.

Clemons laughed when he finally understood what Palmer had said.

"At the time, I didn't get it. I thought he was being cocky," Clemons said. "But once I thought about it, that was real heads up. He's been a big-time player at a big-time program and it's not like the world is going to end because threw a bad ball."

If one thing came out of Sunday's downpour, it's that a little rain fell on Palmer's Heisman Trophy and it didn't melt.

Yes, he was Sunday's goat, but he also completed 12 of 22 passes for 140 yards despite playing in a Weather Channel special and no radio communication in his helmet. It also turned out he threw his touchdown pass on an injured right foot.

Palmer thinks he'll be able to play Saturday against the Lions even though he sat out Tuesday's

two practices with "plantar fascitis." He strained the connective tissue on the bottom of his foot near the heel sprinting after Jets safety Wes Bautovich on his 78-yard interception return with 1:44 left in the game.

It's an injury common to runners and joggers and has been described as a pain issue because its not a debilitating injury as characterized by head coach Marvin Lewis. Palmer is stretching it and taking treatment and hopes to be able to return Wednesday after seeing the doctor. Lewis says there's a better than 50 percent chance Palmer can play Saturday, but he'll have to improve during the week.

:"We're taking it slower than he would like," Lewis said. "He has a chance of being out here tomorrow at some point, and for sure on Thursday."

Lewis indicated Palmer has the injury before and he has been dealing with it most recently since the first minicamp in May. It got worse at the last minicamp in the middle of June, but didn't flare up in a full-scale limp until Sunday when he sprinted after the interception.

"That's football," Palmer said. "There are going to be days it rains and days your radio doesn't work and days you play hurt and days you throw some bad balls and days you throw some good balls. You don't really feel the injury (during the game) because the adrenaline is pumping."

Yeah, but Palmer did all that in his first game. Klingler and Smith did all that with the Bengals, but it took them four years.

"Maybe I got it all out of the way then," Palmer said with a smile.

When Palmer's radio helmet didn't work, he went on the field for his first NFL snap wearing the helmet of No. 4 quarterback Tommy Jones. But that eventually petered out, too. Plus, it was way too big. He tried another one, but that didn't work either, all the while getting plays either signaled into him or yelled at him from quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese on the sidelines. Plays were also shuttling into the huddle via players. Finally, he put back on his own helmet.

"Like high school," Zampese said. "It was a problem. But the No. 1 thing is he kept his poise.

"He didn't get stuck because we were able to give him the formation and the play with someone running in," Zampese said. "So he wasn't on his own to find a play or find a formation. But he will be from now on. If it comes up again, it's up to him to get organized. It's part of the mental process.''

Palmer and Zampese agreed that there are things to work on, but Zampese said the one delay of game of game penalty might not have been his fault because the play would have got in on time if the radio was working.

Zampese is a bit surprised at the inaccuracy of the two interceptions thrown behind the receivers because Palmer had thrown so much with a wet ball here at a rainy camp. But there is a consensus that rookie wide receiver Lawrence Hamilton could have caught the first interception instead of deflecting the slant pattern.

"It's unfortunate, but I threw the ball a little behind the slant receiver and the safety was standing right there," Palmer said. "Right place, right time. The ball actually hit a shoulder pad, went up in the air, and then hit a knee. That's going to happen one in a million times.

"The second one, I just didn't throw a good ball," Palmer said. "It was too far behind Danny (Farmer) on an out route. All the guys I'm playing with in the preseason, we're going to have to get better. I'm going to have to step it up.

Zampese is looking for more accuracy, but he was also quite impressed with, "some of the throws he just flat out stuck in there." The touchdown pass came on a play with four wide receivers spread across the field running straight ahead.

"We decide where we're going by coverage and he should know right after the ball is snapped where he's going," Zampese said. "He's got to know exactly where he's going with it and he knew. That's a good sign."

But Palmer already has a Heisman somewhere, although we know he doesn't want it in a place where his friends can see it all the time. So that first NFL football is going to have to be special. More than a 10-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left in a preseason game.

"I'm playing against the third and fourth stringers of the Jets," Palmer said. "I should be doing that."

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