Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Member Number: 486
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Re: He Hate Me
Very interesting article if you ask me. Not just the same old stuff we've been hearing.
The message was one of many received by Carson Palmer in the dizzying two days between the severe knee injury he suffered against the Steelers in January and reconstructive surgery -- "So many," the Bengals quarterback recalls wryly, "it was like I was dying of AIDS" -- and it stood out only because it came from the sole NFL passer who'd had a better statistical season in 2005.
Then Peyton Manning called again, and again. When the two quarterbacks finally spoke, Palmer thought, Wow, he must really want to get a hold of me. Why is he taking time out of his day to call a young punk like me?
Manning, who knows Palmer only on a casual basis, had his reasons for being supportive during the young Cincinnati star's moment of crisis. Like millions of other football fans, Manning was highly impressed with Palmer's pronounced progress in only his second season as an NFL starter. With his arm strength, accuracy and utter command of the offense, the kid seemed to be the second coming of Troy Aikman.
And like only a handful of men in his position, Manning understood the potential for loneliness and isolation that such an ill-timed injury could provoke. If you know Manning, you come to realize pretty quickly that his empathy for quarterbacks -- as players, as team leaders, as people with a unique set of pressures -- is constant and unending.
When he saw Palmer go down after releasing his lone pass early in the Bengals' first-round playoff game against the Steelers, a 66-yard completion to Chris Henry, Manning viewed the injury in a context beyond football.
"I don't know, I just think sometimes in the offseason guys get hurt and people kind of forget about them somewhat," Manning explains. "It's kind of the same way when guys retire all of a sudden -- I'll usually send them a bottle of wine or a note when that happens -- and I'm just kind of sensitive to that [feeling of being forgotten]. And Carson's a good guy and a hard worker and obviously a very talented player."
Manning's advice to Palmer was simple: What you should be doing right now is looking out for Number 9.
"You get a lot of different types of advice on those injuries -- from what I hear," Manning says. "Hopefully I won't have to find out firsthand. I told Carson, 'Get to the best doctor; go to the best place for you.' I wished him luck on his rehab and told him to take his time on it."
As big a fan as Palmer is of Manning, he hasn't taken that latter suggestion to heart. Though he's not doing anything reckless, Palmer is pushing as hard as he can to be ready for the Bengals' Sept. 10 season opener against the Chiefs in Kansas City.
Whenever Palmer makes it back onto the field, it will be a huge psychological boost for the Bengals, a rising franchise with designs on supplanting the division-rival Steelers as the NFL's top team. Most Cincinnati players feel they'd have beaten Pittsburgh at Paul Brown Stadium that day had Palmer not taken that hit from defensive end Kimo Von Oelhoffen. "Oh, I'd have a ring, I do believe," wideout Chad Johnson says.
Johnson admits that the sight of Palmer being carted off the field emotionally affected him and his teammates, saying, "It puts a damper on everything, especially when it's your quarterback -- he makes everything go."
The letdown wasn't instantaneous, however. The Bengals first rallied behind backup Jon Kitna and took a 17-7 lead in the second quarter. It was 17-14 at halftime when Cincinnati became emotionally unraveled, eventually falling 31-17.
"At halftime," Palmer says, "there wasn't a doubt in my mind that we were going to win that game."
Looking back, Kitna, who has since signed with the Detroit Lions, believes he made a mistake by ducking into the training room to visit Palmer, with whom he is exceptionally close.
"I probably shouldn't even have gone in and seen him," Kitna says. "He's like my best friend, and seeing him lying there like that was hard. I think it just kind of took a little edge off. Even though he wouldn't feel bad for himself, I knew how he'd worked his butt off to get there -- how he was on the cusp of everything -- and suddenly it was all over. That was very emotional for everybody. It was too bad, because we were really in control of that football game."
It was during that halftime that Johnson had his celebrated tirade, angrily imploring an assistant coach to get him the ball more frequently. The fact that Johnson had an IV in his arm that came unglued as he ranted -- spilling blood all over the locker room, according to a source -- only added to the drama. There were reports that Johnson then swung at head coach Marvin Lewis, which Lewis denies.
"Chad is, hands down, the most emotional player I've ever been around -- and I think it's great," Palmer says. "In every locker room, guys get in tussles and scream at each other. S--- happens. We lost the game because we didn't come out and play well enough in the second half, not because of anything that went down in the locker room."
Perhaps because Palmer has come so far so fast, venturing scarily close to Brady/Manning territory in only 30 career starts, patience is not yet one of his virtues. Last Oct. 9 in Jacksonville, the Bengals trailed the Jaguars 13-7 and had the ball at their own 10 with 1:39 left in the second quarter. Lewis, rather than going for additional points, called for three consecutive runs to halfback Rudi Johnson that essentially ran out the rest of the half.
"Carson came to the sideline right before halftime and said, 'What are we doing?'" Lewis recalls. "I said, 'I'm trying not to lose the game in the first half.' He really feels to be invincible, and that's great, but I've got to be the calming influence at times. I tell him, 'You don't have to win the game on every play.'"
Palmer remembers that after being picked No. 1 overall by the Bengals in 2003, "I expected to come in and win every single game and win the Super Bowl. I said, 'Man, we'll kill all these teams.' I was so young and naive and dumb. I still am. I still think we should go 16-0. I'm a little more realistic now, but I want to keep that young, naive side of myself, even into my 12th, 14th, 15th year."
When he thinks about the quarterback who actually did flirt with 16-0 in 2006, Palmer gets a dose of humility. His responsibilities in the Bengals' no-huddle attack are somewhat similar to Manning's, and each player's mastery of his respective offense was on display last Nov. 20 in Cincinnati. In one of the season's most memorable regular-season games, the Colts defeated the Bengals 45-37, with each quarterback putting up huge numbers. "There wasn't a whole lot of defense played in that game," Manning says.
Seven weeks later, when Palmer was at one of his lowest moments, he marveled at how hard Manning worked to get him on the phone.
"What a great guy he is," Palmer says. "Here he is, the best quarterback in the league, and he tracked down my phone numbers and kept calling until we could have an actual conversation. All I could think was, Wow, he must respect the way I play a little bit."
And Palmer will take that over a bottle of wine any day.