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Palmer to mates: Seize the moment


Updated 6:45 p.m.

Carson and Jordan Palmer have been talking about it all offseason. About their team and where it needs to go and how it can get there.

So Jordan wasn't surprised when Carson stepped up and did what no player has done around here in recent  memory in the first team meeting of the season and took the open floor in urging his teammates "to seize the moment."

Jordan thinks fatherhood (two-month-old twins) has helped mature Carson some, but the feeling of urgency mainly stems from six years of no playoff wins and an encouraging locker room loaded with different, more diverse leaders than he's seen in his Bengals career.

"At this level you never know if it's going to be your best team, worst team, or somewhere in between," Jordan said. "But you've got guys from other teams who can revitalize your career. Other guys trying to make a name for themselves.  So every year is huge for everybody. He knows it because he's done it for seven years. I know it because I got drafted and cut."

Carson Palmer laid it on the line cut-and-dried Monday. First, he told the media it was time to seize the moment.

Then a few minutes later in the first team meeting of the season, Palmer told his teammates the exact same thing when he stood up and told them there were enough pieces for a championship sitting in front of him.

It was a rare moment. Long snapper Brad St. Louis, the senior Bengal heading into his 10th season, remembers Takeo Spikes doing it once later in the offseason conditioning. But he never remembers a player doing in the first meeting.

"He's already proven and shown how  much of a leader he is," said running back Cedric Benson after the team meeting. "I'm sure that's going to take a lot of heat off some players and made it a lot easier to play."

Benson is one of the new leaders that Carson Palmer feels can give this team a new edge.

"When you look where we are with the players on our team, you see leadership at different positions," said Jordan, starting with guards Bobbie Williams and Andrew Whitworth. "With (wide receiver) Laveranues (Coles) you've got a new type of leader with young guys like Andre (Caldwell) and Jerome (Simpson) that are very coachable.

"Cedric showed up big last year. Even when we had trouble running the ball last year, he kept hitting holes hard and the reason he went off at the end was because he was so persistent. And a guy like (safety Chris) Crocker made plays when no one knew his name."

Last week Carson Palmer downplayed a biological clock that ticks to 30 this upcoming Dec. 27. But on Monday he noted as he heads into his seventh season that he has not played a "significant" game. Not counted, of course, is his one playoff appearance cut short by injury on the second snap.

"No more 'Hopefully next year, we're going to get better,' " Palmer said in a news conference before the team meeting. "'Next year we're going to be this ... .' It's going into Year 7 and I feel like I haven't really played football yet. I definitely haven't played in any significant games in seven years. The more years you put in the NFL the more you realize you can't look to next year whether it's Week 1 or Week 16. You can't think, 'Well, next year we'll be a little more experienced. Next year this guy will be this.'

"The time is now. I think once you hit years four, five, six in the NFL you start to realize you can't look in the future anymore. You need to seize the moment. You need to seize the year and this is our year."

So Palmer has with his most public moment as captain.

"I have no problem being the leader of this team if that's what I'm called to do, that's what I'm called to do," he said. "I feel like I've got enough experience under my belt to be that guy. We've got a great locker room with all different leaders, but I'll grab the bull by the horns and roll with it."

It's probably a lot easier when you show up in a room where there are only two players who were here when the Bengals made you the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft: Tight end Reggie Kelly and long snapper Brad St. Louis. The other two, wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco and left tackle Levi Jones, weren't on campus Monday. And Palmer didn't back down from the ever mercurial Ocho.

"I'm not worried about him. I'm worried about the guys we have here," Palmer said. "The guys that want to be here and want to work now are the guys in the locker room here today and here this offseason. I'm not worried about anybody else."

"No," he said when asked if he had been in communication with The Ocho.

Linebacker Keith Rivers said Palmer talked about goals and how they not only had to seize the moment, they had to treat each day urgently and "not like it's another workout."

Jordan Palmer saw it coming.

"With the defense as good as it's been in years and the offense coming back, I think he feels like this is the year it's going to all come together," Jordan said. "And that's all he's thinking about."

It sounded like it went over well.

"I wouldn't expect anything less from my quarterback," Kelly said. "He was right on point, too. We have just as good an opportunity as anyone in the league to win a ring, and that was his point. The past is the past. It's time to move forward."

Tight end Ben Utecht had been used to that kind of leadership in Indianapolis from Peyton Manning. He said Palmer addressing the team made him feel like the Bengals now have some championship off-field intangibles.

"I really appreciate Carson's leadership. That's what I was accustomed to in Indy. Guys really taking responsibility and accountability for themselves and their jobs," Utecht said. "It was really good for him to do. It's exactly what had to happen. It's awesome."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Palmer and head coach Marvin Lewis met the media for the first time this season Monday in a joint news conference at Paul Brown Stadium and both made clear the NFL's last-ranked offense in '08 is a major priority.

» Palmer, who said he's been medically cleared and his elbow is 100 percent, said it's not his impression offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski doesn't plan to rewrite his playbook. But Palmer said Bratkowski is looking to change up schemes and techniques and Lewis said his staff is going through checklists reinforced by talking to successful offensive college and pro coaches.

» Indications were that Ocho Cinco wasn't in the building, although he is expected to begin working out in Los Angeles with Charles Collins, his junior college coach.

» Also not present was kicker Shayne Graham, designated the franchise player last month.

» Lewis said he expected all players injured last year to be ready for at least training camp.

» Linebacker Keith Rivers, who missed the last nine games of his rookie season with a broken jaw at the hands of Steelers receiver Hines Ward's blindside block, had no comment on the rule passed last week at the NFL meetings that made that type of hit illegal.

When Rivers was asked about the "Keith Rivers" rule he smiled and said, "You'd at least like to be on the other side of that rule." But then he got serious quickly. "To protect other players and keep them from getting career-ending injuries or season-ending injuries, it's great. But its football and things are bound to happen either way even if there is a rule.

"It's over with. There's really nothing to say. It's tough when you're taking people's livelihood away when it's a short-lived career. Things like that are going to happen. You control what kind of hits you put on people and being a professional doing it. You don't have to do something that can potentially take someone's career. But it is football and football is a rough game."

Another rough game is trading barbs with middle linebacker Dhani Jones when he figures to show in the next few weeks. Rivers has been getting on Jones about his Travel Channel series ("Dhani tackles the Globe") and said, "I've to get on him. Why don't I have a show?"

Rivers had arthroscopic surgery his ankle back in mid-January, but says he's been back running on it for a few weeks.

» Lewis on Monday set the dates for the rookie minicamp, which is the weekend after the draft: May 1-3. 

» Although Palmer says Bratkowski isn't "rewriting" the playbook, there will be differences this upcoming season because he says Bratkowski has tinkered with schemes that have been successful for other teams and he has to find out what new skill players such as running back Cedric Benson and wide receiver Laveranues Coles and a host of young receivers can do.

"That's why we're here. To find out what we can do," Palmer said. "He's got a basic system, he just wants to add and tinker with some things in the red zone, on third down, in the running game, on play-action. Add some stuff, subtract some stuff ... we'll find out along the way."

» Palmer is hesitant to compare Coles and the man he replaces, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, although he has already watched all of Coles' 70 Jets catches from last season courtesy of Bengals video director Travis Brammer.

But Palmer has no problem comparing his long ball of today to the long ball of yesteryear. Which isn't as good even though he says his elbow and arm are stronger than they have ever been after suffering a small tear in the right elbow's ulna collateral ligament. He's been throwing three days a week for the past two months while also undergoing exercises that showed him "muscles I didn't even know I had."

Palmer expects to be put on a pitch count even though he says it's not needed, yet what he really needs, he says, is long-ball repetition with Coles and the kid receivers he didn't have much time with last year. 

"It's a lot different than any other ball in the passing game," Palmer said of the long one. "You just have to do it a bunch and they have to catch it a bunch all going full speed. If they're running 85 percent, it doesn't help you."

"I need to throw a million and they need to catch a million at 100 percent speed," Palmer said of work that begins in the next few days. "It's purely a rhythm pass."

Meanwhile, Palmer is showing no concern over his offensive line, even though there looks to be upheaval at both tackles and center.

"I know there's been a lot of negative talk about them, but the only thought I have is we're going to have the five best guys whatever it is. Whether it's (Anthony Collins) at tackle or guard or (Andrew Whitworth) at tackle or guard, who cares? It doesn't matter. We're going to have guys that love to play, are athletic and want to rebound from last year. They're hungry."

If the line has been a worry, so has The Ocho's absence and what it might do to the timing of the passing game after last year's disaster. But Lewis, like Palmer, had other concerns. Lewis joked that there were once so few Steelers at a June practice during his days as linebackers coach, he had to play safety. Where quarterback Neil O'Donnell hit him in the face with a pass.

"It is," Lewis said, "voluntary."

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