Posted: 5:55 a.m.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh arrives at the Super Bowl Thursday as the NFL's receiving champion nobody knows even though he tied New England's Wes Welker with the most catches.
"Everybody calls Wes Welker the leader because he's still playing," Houshmandzadeh said. "That's OK. I'm going to come back next year and lead the league in everything."
As usual, Houshmandzadeh wasn't shy about addressing any and all issues in no particular order Wednesday night before his trip: Jordan Palmer, Chad Johnson and the Super Bowl.
"I think it's going to be close and I think the Giants can win," he said. "If the Chargers have LaDainian Tomlinson, they make that third-and-one and beat the Patriots. We'll know early because the Giants can get to (Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady with four rushers. I don't mean sack him, but put pressure on him and they'll be able to still have good seven-man coverage. And Corey Webster, the Giants cornerback, is playing with confidence.
"They're all playing with confidence. The offensive line is opening up big holes in the running game. The question is they haven't been there before. Guys like Eli Manning can't play out of character and do things they haven't done all year. The last time they played the Patriots (in the regular-season finale), they had nothing to lose. We'll see how they play with everything on the line."
"He tries to copy Carson in everything he does, from his feet to the way he throws and why not?" Houshmandzadeh asked. "I would, too. Carson is the soundest quarterback in the league when it comes to technique and fundamentals. What better guy to mimic?
"He's real athletic. I wouldn't say he's more athletic than Carson because I don't think Carson shows all the things he can do. But I think Jordan played other sports and had to use it more. He's got a real strong arm. I've just thrown one-on-one routes with him, I haven't seen him in football, like throwing over linebackers, but I think he's got a shot (to make the team). You don't sign somebody if they don't have a shot."
Houshmandzadeh may end up on radio row Thursday in Arizona, where Johnson went on a fly pattern Wednesday. Johnson reiterated his general unhappiness of two weeks ago and again hinted he wants a trade, telling Jim Rome, for instance, that he felt like a scapegoat for the Bengals' 7-9 season and that only two people, Houshmandzadeh and Carson Palmer, had his back.
Palmer declined comment Thursday and Houshmandzadeh wasn't sure what to make of it.
"We have a pretty close team so I would think everybody supported him, but maybe he thinks some guys don't like him," Houshmandzadeh said. "Chad's my guy. I've never had a problem with him. I think he'll be back this year. I think we'll be together again next year playing. His number is 85, right? I say there's an 85 percent chance he'll be back."