Posted: 9:05 a.m.
Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh noticed it this weekend at the Bengals mandatory minicamp, where life is good as Carson Palmer gets those 55-60 snaps a day that he didn't get last spring.
Palmer, the perfectionist Pro Bowl quarterback, has noticed it, too, these past few weeks. He's no longer using those other body parts to make up for his reconstructed left knee.
"When you lose a limb, have to redevelop it and you do it by compensating," said Palmer, his camp beard tinged with sweat between Saturday's practices. "I just feel better. I'm not overcompensating. I'm not limping. I feel better in everything I'm doing."
Fact is, Palmer may have stats that conjure up the musical score of The Natural with a throwing motion straight from the pages of Ken Anderson's textbook on the art of quarterbacking. But the theme to one of his favorite shows, 24 is more like it because he's a perpetual grinder trying to get better every day.
Palmer began to feel the difference this offseason. A few weeks ago, he began to feel the knee returning to its normal position in the throwing motion. The left shoulder is staying where it should. His hips are staying put. Order is restored in Bengaldom.
He says he feels more comfortable than he did in December. Better than in the final two games of last season, when his last-series drives looked for all the world like he had put the Bengals in the playoffs.
"Oh yeah. I overcompensated all last year. I just stopped doing it this offseason," Palmer said. "I was using too much shoulder. Using the right leg too much. Driving through the left hip too much. All that's affected."
Even when healthy, the cranky world of passer mechanics is an everyday battle.
"You fix one thing and something else pops up," said quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese. "It matters when you're going to have more of them because you haven't been doing things for a long time, which is last year's situation. At least now we can address them as soon as they come up and minimize them and fix things faster."
He may not be The Natural, but perfectionism comes naturally.
"I don't know what a grinder is," Palmer said. "I do know I'm a perfectionist. I'm a guy that has always needed reps. I was never one of those guys who could just draw Xs and Os up on the board and then go out and do it. I need to do it on the field. I love it. I love practicing."
The guy who puts it best is offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.
"You can be a natural throwing it, but there are so many other things that go into it," Bratkowski said. "There's footwork and progressions and knowing what pass protection to call. I don't think the position is a natural for anybody. You can tell he's better than a year ago. He's made the complete recovery."
When Houshmandzadeh talks Natural, he's talking Brett Favre or Dan Marino. Guys that just flat out sling it. He puts Palmer, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in another category.
"If people see Carson like that, like a natural, it's good for him because it shows how hard he's worked at it. He's been doing it his whole life," Houshmandzadeh said. "I don't think his mechanics were as bad as people say. He may have felt that way because he's the one that can feel it. But I didn't think there was much difference."
One difference Houshmandzadeh sees now that he didn't see last year is Palmer showing more confidence in the knee while sitting in the pocket.
"When guys were around his knee in the pocket, he would have a tendency to throw and pull and step back," Houshmandzadeh said. "In training camp last year, if it was close, he would pull it back, lift it up and he would say, 'I'm not even thinking about it. I'm just doing it.' It might have a tendency to sail. I haven't noticed that this year. That's probably the only difference."
Palmer, of course, is offering no excuses or promises.
"I've been doing it so long, having a lack of reps shouldn't be an excuse," he said, but he was also looking forward to the next 60 snaps.