Palmer gives Lewis sign

Posted: 10 p.m.

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Palmer

Marvin Lewis has said Carson Palmer is medically ready and he's just waiting for a sign from his Pro Bowl quarterback.

On Sunday he got it.

Palmer has never flinched from his return date of Aug. 28 against the Packers and with the game now a week away he is hanging with it like he hung in the huddle that day last year in Pittsburgh while throwing three touchdowns.

"I'll see how I feel later on in the week, but right now I'm expecting to play," Palmer said after Sunday's practice. "As long as I don't have a bunch of swelling and tenderness, I'll be ready to roll."

Palmer said he has had a little of both, but not enough to blow up Lewis's practice schedule. Palmer has been receiving the majority of snaps at quarterback ever since training camp began and Lewis said Sunday he'll continue to prepare as if he's going to be the starter. But Lewis held off on making call for Monday night.

Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh is glad to hear the plan is ago since he has a working theory about the Bengals offense.

"The only people that can stop us are Carson Palmer and Richie Braham," said Houshmandzadeh of Palmer's center. "When they're playing, we know what kind of an offense we can be. I don't think he's feeling pressure to come back. I mean, there has to be a little bit, but not enough to make him go out there before he's ready."

It's been a grueling seven months and 10 days since Palmer's reconstructive knee surgery and his rehab has been nothing short or remarkable according to those who know. Ever since he met the media last month hours before the first practice of camp, he talked about coming back Aug. 28, which just so happens to be a nationally-televised game on ESPN.

Finally, he can talk about what he'll be feeling on the field instead of rehab.

"I'm just always a little nervous before games whether I play 15 in a row or haven't played in a year," Palmer said. "There are always some butterflies and a little bit of nerves, but mainly I'm just anxious to get the game here. Just excited to be back on the field.

"Everything has been on schedule; I'm just thankful and happy. It s been a smooth transition through training camp to this point. Keep my fingers crossed and hopefully it keeps going this way. Hopefully I'll be able to ride this whole thing out and never have the knee be a factor again."

Lewis's quotes from last week suggested to some that he wasn't sure when Palmer would be ready mentally. Those in and around the club, including Lewis, believe he hasn't been gun shy or jittery in practice despite national whispers.

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Thornton

Defensive tackle John Thornton says he hasn't noticed Palmer noticing the rush and believes when he's ready he'll do what he did all through 2005 and what he did on the play he got hurt by Steelers defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen.

"He hung in there and hung in there and he made sure he threw that bomb to Chris Henry knowing he was going to get hit," Thornton said. "He hasn't looked different to me. He's not looking at the rush and he's scrambling around. Of course, he knows we're not going to hit him in the knees. We don't have a team of Kimos. And it's practice. But he'll know. He'll know when he feels comfortable. Talking to guys who have been through it, getting comfortable is the last thing (in the comeback). He looks fine."

Houshmandzadeh wouldn't say Palmer looked jittery at the beginning of camp, but he says he has come a long way and has been looking like his old self of late.

"I wouldn't even say gun shy, but at first he looked unsettled and who wouldn't coming back from that kind of injury?" Houshmandzadeh said. "I'm sure at first he was a little uncomfortable, but there's no comparison to then and what he's doing now. You can tell by the way he's throwing the ball; it's not sailing. Everything is always on the money like it always has been."

Lewis also says he hasn't seen Palmer jumping around.

"No, I wouldn't describe him as jittery," Lewis said. "The best thing to come of this, and I've seen this with so many players, is that when a guy misses a couple of weeks with injury, he learns more about the game. I think we're experiencing that with Carson, because he stands behind me on the sideline and I can hear him talking to the quarterback."

Houshmandzadeh thinks Palmer's experience is going to carry the day.

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Houshmandzadeh

"Does he look at the rush when guys are falling around his legs? Maybe at first he did. I don't know. He's just got to get used to it in a real game. That's only when you'll know," Houshmandzadeh said. "I know this. He wouldn't go out there if he didn't think he could take a hit. He's not going to take one in practice, so how do you know?

"Hopefully, Monday he goes out, doesn't take a hit, but if he does, he'll just get more and more used to it. That's all he has to do. He'll be fine. It's like with my hamstring. Any time I ran and felt it was sore, I would say, 'Oh my God.' But then I just got used to the fact it was regular soreness and now my hamstring is like Titanium."

Palmer also denies being jittery.

"Every practice I get the chance to go through I feel better and better," Palmer said. "I feel confident in what I'm doing. I think the guys feel a little more confidence in me the more I work with them. Get my timing down with Chad, T.J., and all the receivers."

Lewis insists his quarterback is in fine fettle when it comes to his mental health.

"He's the way he always is. He's just as determined as always, he's got his sense of humor, and he's fine," Lewis said. "He wants to make sure he can perform his job the way he knows how to perform it when he steps out onto the field. He doesn't want to go out there before he feels like he is whole to do his job. That's a good thing. We have time, and I think that's what he's very conscious of."

Palmer says he's been trying to help the rookies, such as wide receivers Bennie Brazell and Reggie McNeal, and he hopes seeing the game "from a different angle will help me."

"By not having to be in there to play, he's actually growing a little more like a coach," Lewis said. "I think every injured guy that's ever missed some time, you see that when they come back to play, that they come back a smarter player because they've had that time where they've sat back and watched somebody else do it. ... I think when his time is ready, we're going to have a better player than what we had."

That's the question.

His time.

"I don't think he's being rushed," Houshmandzadeh said. "We feel like if he's not going to be ready for that first game, we can hold the fort."

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