Updated: 8:45 p.m.
MOBILE, Ala. – The Bengals began coaching the Senior Bowl Sunday night under a mushroom cloud.
Shortly after touching down here Sunday afternoon the Bengals were made aware of Chris Mortensen's report on ESPN that quarterback Carson Palmer wants to be traded, or he'll contemplate retirement. Texts and calls to Palmer and agent David Dunn weren't returned as of Sunday evening and the Bengals had no comment.
No one from Palmer's camp denied the report after it surfaced Sunday morning and the Bengals could meet with Dunn here this week. He represents Washington quarterback Jake Locker, the top quarterback for the North team the Bengals are coaching.
The last time Bengals president Mike Brown was faced with a similar ultimatum, he refused to trade wide receiver Chad Ochocinco in 2008. Palmer, 31, has four years left on the $97 million extension he signed at the end of the 2005 season that gave him the league's richest contract at the time and the Bengals have virtually no experience behind him with brother Jordan Palmer the backup and rookie Dan LeFevour No. 3.
If Palmer does indeed seek a trade, there is a trading window of only about a month before the collective bargaining agreement is set to expire March 4. According to NFL.com, Palmer gets $11.5 million in 2011 and 2012, $13 million in 2013 and $14 million in 2014. He has $1 million roster bonuses in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth said he wouldn't comment until he heard Palmer talk about the subject directly. Ravens wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Palmer's favorite target when he was in Cincinnati, said the report doesn't surprise him but he emphasized he has only texted with Palmer and not spoken to him.
"I'd be interested to hear what he says about the retirement thing," Houshmandzadeh said.
The Ocho weighed in with this tweet: "Carson Palmer demands a trade? Last person demanded a trade in Cincy was crucified by the media n had to win the fans back. how will this go?"
The report is stunning in the context that Palmer and those around him have always been careful to say the right things as the textbook franchise quarterback.
But for the first time in his Bengals career, Palmer expressed visible frustration during the team's 4-12 season in which he tied his career-high 20 interceptions, several of the "not-on-the same page" variety. Although he succeeded in lobbying management to sign wide receiver Terrell Owens just before training camp, the results didn't pan out in wins and The Ocho and Owens aren't expected back.
Palmer also spoke of his family being bothered by things said about him publicly and how last season garbage had been strewn on his lawn. And while Palmer hasn't joined the public assault of Bob Bratkowski, the only NFL offensive coordinator he's ever had, he chose to decline comment when head coach Marvin Lewis was rehired three weeks ago. The offense has declined from No. 8 in 2006, Palmer's last of two Pro Bowl seasons, to No. 10 in 2007, No. 24 in 2009 and No. 20 last year.
The story broke with no definitive word yet on the finalization of the Bengals coaching staff. Lewis met with a potential new offensive coordinator in former Vikings head coach Brad Childress last Thursday, the same day he pledged "to fix us," but leaving no doubt that he considers Palmer his quarterback.
"We're battle buddies," said Lewis, referring to how both underwent their most severe criticism this past season since they became a team in 2004.
But does Lewis need a new buddy? If Palmer wants out, do the Bengals use the fourth pick in the draft on Missouri junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert? Locker figures to be gone before they pick in the second round. They are also coaching Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, a guy that could rise that high with a good showing here.