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Pass pro tested early

Posted: 8:15 p.m.

Carson Palmer has already been hit enough in the preseason to cause a meltdown in the core Bengaldom, never mind his first career broken nose.

So naturally the Bengals open the season in 12 days against the Werewolves of Ozzie. Only the Chargers, with 149, and Seattle, with 136, have more sacks in the past three seasons than the Ravens (134) built by a Hall of Fame tight end named Ozzie Newsome who understood he also had to protect the passer.

But Palmer, complete with bandage, stands resolute.



"There is nothing wrong with the protection," Palmer said Tuesday, the first time he met the media since the Saturday Night Massacre. "We've been as good as anybody at avoiding sacks. We've just had some mental errors.

"We've never had an issue in protecting the quarterback here. The offensive line is as good as they get in this league and our running backs are all really good at picking up protections. Our protection got caught off guard a couple of times. That happens. That's why you practice and have preseason games. That's what you figure out where you need to get better and move on."

The numbers are with him. In those three years the Ravens have racked up an average of 46 sacks a year (a season total the Bengals have reached twice in history), the Bengals have twice set their franchise record for allowing the fewest sacks in a season.

And during a stretch they are averaging 2.8 sacks per game, the Ravens have managed just 1.7 in their six games against the Bengals.

But Palmer is heading into the opener with a new tight end, Ben Utecht, and a running back, Chris Perry, that hasn't played regularly since 2005.

"They all shared the blame, including the quarterback," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "Actually it was a couple of guys that hadn't played any football here. We just have to do better, and we will. It was a good test, and I knew it would be. I told you guys that it would be a good test for us, to check some things out and make sure we were on point about some things. It worked out that way. No pun intended, but when you get your nose bloodied you get ready to go."

Perry and Utecht both took blame for the offending sack, but Palmer watched Perry be a willing blocker in '05. With Perry working primarily on third down, Palmer got sacked just 19 times on the way to setting the first sack record in a year he became the Bengals' first triple-digit rated passer.



"It's not easy picking up protections," Palmer said. "You need reps. That's why it's been so good for him to be healthy all training camp and preseason games to get reps. The more he sees, the more he protects, the better he gets. He's done such a good job so far. He's missed a couple of things but considering his circumstances, he's been out of the game for awhile, he hasn't seen free safety blitzes, corner blitzes and all that. The more he sees in preseason games is going to pay off later in the year."

Certainly there was a lot of male bonding going on after everybody on offense saw Palmer's blood spreading across his face.

"I have 100 percent confidence in those guys and they have confidence in me that when they give me enough time it's going to result in big plays, or touchdowns, or completed passes," Palmer said. "The respect and the trust go both ways. I keep saying we have as good a line as anybody in this league."

We'll find out right away. Palmer would love to replay the script.

Last year, 10 days before the Bengals played the Ravens, Palmer took the preseason finale off and then twirled a 100.3 rating to beat Baltimore in the opener.

Now, 10 days before the opener in Baltimore, Palmer gets another night off.

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