'You'll get the ball'

Updated: 3:15 p.m.

Carson Palmer expects Chad Johnson to show up for mandatory workouts, but until then he'll get his timing down with the receivers vying for Chris Henry's third receiver job.

"I don't care if you're Ocho Cinco and have an alias or you're little-known Glenn Holt or little-known Doug Gabriel," Palmer said Wednesday. "If you can get to where you're supposed to be to get open, you'll get the ball."

Palmer said he has spoken with Johnson, who told him he'll be here when he has to be.

"I believe him," Palmer said. "And I'm excited for him to get here. We've got a lot of work to do."

But it took Johnson less than an afternoon to respond and refute yet again.

"I want to make this very clear,'' Johnson told ESPN.com Wednesday. "I don't know where he got that. I made no assertion to Carson that I would do that. Nothing has changed from what I've been saying for three months that I don't want to play for the Bengals.''

Johnson reiterated he wants to be traded before the draft, this time saying he won't report to the mandatorys two weeks after saying he would and said he wished Palmer "would stay out of my business."

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Palmer

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Palmer admitted during a media session in the locker room that Henry's release two weeks ago after his fifth arrest "you could see it coming. Just with his track record," but he thinks that players such as the newly-signed Gabriel, the second-year Holt, and a healthy Antonio Chatman can bolster a receiving corps led by the absent Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

"It was just too bad," Palmer said of Henry. "He was such an amazing talent. A top tier talent in this league, and to see him throw it away and waste it is tough. The worst part is he's a good-hearted kid. He didn't know how to stay out of trouble, but he's got a good heart. He's a good person. He cared about his teammates. Guys on this team cared about him and wanted the best for him. It's just too bad."

Gabriel, a five-year veteran with 101 NFL catches, has caught balls with Palmer for just about week. But he has caught this act before. During his one seaon with New England, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw him a touchdown against the Bengals.

Gabriel, who played with Palmer in the 2003 Senior Bowl, said his session with Palmer on Tuesday in the film room reminded him of his time with Brady.

"With a quarterback with a mindset like him, it won't make a difference what receiver you had," Gabriel said. "For me personally, if you get into his head, he'll make you a great player ."

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Palmer is also putting in his time on the NFL Draft and offered this take on fellow USC product Sedrick Ellis, the defensive tackle many Mock Drafts have the Bengals taking No. 9.

"I've heard great things," Palmer said. "He's a guy we could definitely use. Playmaker, and a great guy from (what) everybody I talked to (says) as far as character is concerned. Great character."

Also on the board is USC linebacker Keith Rivers, but Palmer, sounding like a true draftnick, said, "Sedrick is more of a guy in our range, more of a top 10 pick."

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Jones

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Linebacker Dhani Jones is back after singing a three-year deal and, as usual, brought a batch of insights.

On why he re-signed:

"You're allowed to be who you are," Jones said. "That's one thing I always looked at for a team: To be able to be who you are. The thing about us during the season, you have to be able to direct that energy toward winning.

"And i think that's the area where we have the most to work on. A lot of people, whoever they are, when it comes down to the work week, to the team that you're going to play, concenate all that who you are into the plays and into winning. Who is ever out there. Whether it's me, Eric Henderson, it could be, I don't know. Everyone across the board. You never know how things pan out."

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It appears backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to sign one-year tender (estimated $950,000) for a restricted free agent.

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It may seem like the Bengals have the NFL's toughest schedule but according to Elias Sports Bureau that honor falls to AFC North rival Pittsburgh. The Bengals are tied for the sixth-toughest sked against foes that had a .547 winning percentage. The Steelers go against a slate of .598.

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According to Elias the Top Six seats belong to the Colts at .594 , Jacksonville .559, Baltimore .551, Minnesota .551, and the Bengals are tied with the Browns and Texans.

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A correction from Tuesday's story on the NFL schedule, thanks to Boston correspondent Jack Clary: The Bengals have never won at Giants Stadium. Their win in 1981 over the Jets came at Shea Stadium.

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