Updated: 11:45 p.m.
GEORGETOWN Ky. — Running back Cedric Benson arrived ready for work Thursday at a Georgetown College news conference, saying his dream has always been to carry an NFL team on his back like he did in high school and college.
With a change in quarterback and playbook, it looks like he's going to get the shot in his new one-year deal with the Bengals.
"The changes are exciting," he said.
He said he's concerned he could be disciplined by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for an arrest last month on an assault charge, but he hopes not and says he wouldn't want to hurt the team or the fans.
But left tackle Andrew Whitworth's understanding is that Goodell won't discipline players who ran afoul of the player conduct policy during the lockout, which is good news for Benson as well as cornerback Adam Jones, also facing legal charges from last month.
Whitworth, the club's player representative, walked his teammates through the final collective bargaining agreement shortly after Thursday's lunch so they could vote on it. The eventual ratification of the clubs kicked off the league year and opened up practice for everybody Thursday night.
While Whitworth said that getting cheaters out of the game is the number one thing players want, they are hesitant about a test for HGH (human growth hormone).
"We want cheaters eliminated, but we don't want guys going through testing that we're not even sure is picking up things that need to be picked up and that's even efficient," Whitworth said. "If it is something reasonable and a reliable test and something we know is efficient, as long as they do that, I'm all for it."
Whitworth was visibly relieved the 144-day labor ordeal is over.
"It was good to get it all past us and be officially done," he said. "It was exciting to come out to practice and see all the guys ready to go."
ZIMMER HAS NO STARTERS: Just a few hours after Bills safety Donte Whitner tweeted he had reached a deal with the Bengals, he reveresed fields and tweeted he was headed to San Francisco.
While defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer indicated after practice the club plans to continue to look at all positons on defense, the Bengals don't look like they're delving into what is left of the safeties market. Zimmer did say he thinks "we'll be OK" at safety. The Bengals do have a combination of experienced guys and youth led by Chris Crocker's 82 starts, Reggie Nelson's 48, and Gibril Wilson's 80 that are coming off an ACL injury. Fifth-rounder Robert Sands of West Virginia has impressed and Zimmer says it looks like "he can be a player."
"He's got a lot of athletic ability, he's got a lot of range," said assistant secondary coach Paul Guenther. "He's athletic for a big guy (6-5), which is unusual. Usually those taller safeties don't do as well. He's got all the tools, he just has to learn the game."
Taylor Mays, a 2010 second-round pick, figures to be available now in Frisco. But with Sands and second-year man Jeromy Miles emerging it seems unlikely the Bengals would go for a player that didn't make it so quickly.
Asked if Crocker and Nelson are his starters, Zimmer said, "I have no starters penciled in anywhere."
ProFootballTalk.com did report Thursday night that the Bengals have scheduled Titans tight end Bo Scaife for a visit. They already picked up a tight end off waivers Thursday in the Eagles' John Nalbone, a free agent out of Monmouth, and cut free-agent running back Steven Robinson of Hampton.
PLAY TIME: With the new collective bargaining agreement expected to be ratified in time for Thursday's 7 p.m. practice, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden doubles his quarterback staff with the debuts of Bruce Gradkowski and Jordan Palmer.
But rookie Andy Dalton, who has taken about 70 percent of the snaps since practice started Saturday, is still going to get the most. If it's a 16-play period, Gruden said it would be something like Dalton six, Gradkowski four and Palmer and Dan LeFevour three each. A 10-play period could go Dalton five, Gradkowski three, and Palmer and LeFevour two each. Whatever, Gradkowski is getting the second most snaps, which pretty much says where the derby is now.
"This has been the best year for me confidence level-wise, but I understand the dynamics and I just want to help out as much as I can," Palmer said. "I'm anxious to be back with the guys. I'm sick of standing around."
Even though brother Carson isn't here, Jordan is going to be channeling him via their daily phone calls in which Carson is giving him advice and support. Jordan feels his mechanics are the best they've ever been after an offseason of watching every game of the 2009 season from Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and his brother.
"Yeah, I saw Carson a few times last year, and I've looked at all his games on tape. He's the one I've watched the most," said Jordan, who, of course, saw all 16 of his games as his backup. "I tried to take a few things from all of them. Carson is always on balance. He always gets on top of the ball. He gets everything he has into every throw. He's one of the most accurate guys I've seen."
Jordan knows what he has to show them: "I want to be known as a guy that makes good decisions and is accurate and I really think I improved my accuracy this offseason."
That's way it ended up with Palmer getting the least of the snaps of the four.
Some practice highlights from Thursday's full-padded practice:
» Palmer made a nice throw over the middle to tight end Colin Cochart, the free agent out of South Dakota State that got some praise from head coach Marvin Lewis on Thursday.
» Kentucky undrafted rookie linebacker, DeQuin Evans, making the switch from end, continues to run around and pop people. He did Thursday in the goal line stuff when he stoned runnig back Brian Leonard.
» The field goal kickers, the veteran Mike Nugent and the rookie Thomas Weber, were impressive again.
» Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton had a good night. He didn't hold on to the ball as much as he did Tuesday and he continues to find the tight ends. He hit Chase Coffman down the seam on a long one, as well Jermaine Gresham on the back line of the end zone in a goal line drill.
» Gradkowski struggled in his first practice and threw the ball all over the place. He had a bomb down the middle that fluttered badly and was picked off by Reggie Nelson.
» Running back Cedric Peerman scored on a nifty 10-yard burst following Whitworth and fullback James Develin.
» Not suiting up were Adam Jones (neck), running back Bernard Scott and fullback Fui Vakapuna (hamstring), defensive tackle Pat Sims (knee), WILL linebacker Keith Rivers (wrist), cornerback Jonathan Wade (shoulder) and cornerback David Pender (unknown). Cornerback Brandon Ghee left early with ice on his hamstring.
RIVERS REACHES OUT:Rivers found it hard to believe that former USC teammate Mike Patterson collapsed during the Eagles Wednesday practice with what has been diagnosed as a brain problem. Another former mate, Bengals defensive lineman Frostee Rucker, also tried to get in touch.
"It's tough out there. You never know what's going to happen," Rivers said. "As everyone knows, he's a tremendous player, and he's also a very nice person. A great leader on and off the field. I saw it on Twitter and reached out to him on Facebook and Frostee and I both texted him. Our thoughts and prayers are with him."
Rivers is sidelined with a wrist injury that he won't discuss "until all the issues are resolved," fueling camp speculation that he may be involved in some kind of roster move. The Bengals have signed a starting WILL linebacker to a two-year deal in Thomas Howard, as well as Rivers' backup since he was the club's first-round pick in 2008, Brandon Johnson.