Rudi: It's all good

4-28-04, 4:10 p.m. UPDATED:
4-29-04, 5:55 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Running backs coach Jim Anderson had the right call. He knew what Rudi Johnson would say when he found out the Bengals drafted another running back No. 1.

"It's all good."

Which is what Johnson said Wednesday from his native Virginia. Or, as he calls it, "The V.A."

"I'm happy for my man," Johnson said of Perry. He hopes to meet Perry soon, but when Johnson plans to take the field with the other veterans the second week of May, the rookies aren't allowed to be here.

Johnson said he plans to sign his one-year tender offer of $1.8 million "in the next few days." The Bengals have just finished signing 18 college free agents and are mulling signing a veteran backup center-guard, according to the agent for former Redskins starting center Larry Moore.

Johnson said he didn't get a chance to see last weekend's draft. He was on the road in Orlando Fla., attending an event for the United Negro College Fund, and his hotel only had ESPN and not ESPN 2 when he tried to catch the later rounds.

But Johnson wasn't surprised or disappointed. He said Anderson and head coach Marvin Lewis had already told him of the possibility of taking a back in the first round with the departure of Corey Dillon.

"They were straight. They told me about it," Johnson said. "I know that Corey (Dillon) isn't here any more. I know they have to do what's best for the team. I understand that. I'm just going to keep rolling with it, man. I'm just going to do my job, no matter who is here or what's going on."

Johnson knows he's still the starting running back, and he doesn't care about what the draft may mean for the future. He just knows about the past.

"I've been in worse situations," Johnson said. "How about when I first came into the league? How about even last year? I wasn't playing at all and I was sitting behind two and three guys. I'm excited about getting the opportunity to play, so that's all I'm really thinking about. Getting ready for that role."

His team-first attitude is why Johnson continues to be one of the more popular Bengals. It was evident last week when he modeled one of the Bengals' new uniforms during a fashion show at Paul Brown Stadium.

The draft guarantees one thing. Anderson is going to be in charge of some high-level practices. Johnson counts preparation as the major reason he became the first Bengals back to rush for three 150-yard games in a season, and Perry left Michigan as that coaching staff's best practice player ever. Johnson laughed when reminded he hates to come out of games, and they have something common in there, too. Both are coming off seasons they set records for carries in games for their teams:

Johnson with 43 against Houston and Perry with 51 against Michigan State.

"Hey, I like to play," Johnson said. "I want to be on the field. But whatever they want to do. Whatever they think makes the team better. It's all good."

Moore, who turns 29 in June, started at center for the Redskins the past two years before he hurt his foot this past season. He also had 48 starts for the Colts from 1998-2001. The 6-2, 302-pound Moore, who began his career as an undrafted free agent out of Brigham Young in 1997, has also played guard and Lewis knows him from that 2002 season in Washington. Moore, known as a solid, intelligent player, had just come over from Indy as a free agent that season.

Agent Jack Bechta, who also represents another Bengals offensive lineman in Eric Steinbach, said there is interest in both sides and some other teams are also talking to him.

The Bengals didn't draft an interior lineman last weekend, and are apparently considering some experience behind center Rich Braham.

ONE YEAR LATER: Carson Palmer, last year's No. 1 pick, didn't really sit down and watch the NFL's Draft Day this year. But he couldn't help catch the fallout from this year's No. 1 controversy.

"For me not to come here probably would have been one of the biggest mistakes I could have made," said Palmer Wednesday as he reflected on the Bengals' new regime taking him a year later. "But it wasn't going to happen."

Palmer is the first to tell you that maybe he shouldn't talk about Eli Manning's situation because he doesn't know why the Ole Miss quarterback told the Chargers he didn't want to play in San Diego and forced a trade to the Giants. It helped that the Bengals' front office, buoyed by the hiring of head coach Marvin Lewis, came out of the box a month before the draft with a solid long-term plan and contract offer, but all Palmer knows is that he wasn't going to use his position to engineer a trade.

Palmer said 90 percent of the agents that he interviewed to represent him told him, "You don't want to go to Cincinnati. We'll work something out," and he told them the conversation was now over. Then he settled on David Dunn, who had been part of four first-round negotiations with the Bengals before he and the club agreed on Palmer's six-year contract ranging between $40-49 million two days before the draft.

"I didn't want to do that. I didn't have any reason not to go to Cincinnati," Palmer said. "I don't know what Eli's reasons are, I'm just saying that nothing like that crossed my mind. Coming out of college, I was humbled. I didn't care. I was just so excited about playing in the NFL. The last thing I wanted to do is not play for a certain team, not play for a certain NFL franchise. I just wanted to play for somebody. I shouldn't talk about it because I don't now the whole situation, but in my case it wasn't a decision I made."

Last year, Palmer saw the Bengals take three offensive players on the first day, including himself. This year, it was four defensive players on the first day and seven in all, and he's puzzled by the criticism.

"I was happy to get defensive guys. You can't be selfish and always want the receivers and linemen," Palmer said. "There was a lot of negative stuff said about it, but the thing is that Marvin is in control and everybody on this team and in this organization, we trust what he's doing and where he's going. I don't think anyone in this locker room questions our draft. He's a smart man. There's a reason he's here and the reason is to get this changed and that's the direction he's going in."

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