Palmer makes triumphant return for Bengals

September 11th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Palmer makes triumphant return for Bengals
Some of the more valuable advice Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals received while undergoing grueling rehabilitation on his shattered left knee during the offseason was from a member of what Palmer calls a fraternity of fellow NFL quarterbacks.
In this case, the phone calls happened to come from the Kansas City Chiefs' Trent Green, who had suffered a similar injury several years ago and provided Palmer firsthand insight into what to expect and inevitable problems that no doubt would arise.
So on a couple of levels, it was particularly difficult for Palmer to stand across the field and watch Green lie motionless on the ground for some 15 minutes in the third quarter of Sunday's season opener, a game Cincinnati won 23-10.
GAME REPORT: Bengals 23, Chiefs 10
"That's tough," Palmer said softly in the Bengals' locker room. "When you see a guy go down like that, it's unknown. You just start praying for him."
Green was knocked cold after scrambling for a first down and, just as he went into a slide, colliding with hard-charging Robert Geathers, who had no time to pull up and wasn't called for a penalty. Green's head bounced violently off the ground following the hit.
After being loaded onto a stretcher, Green was wheeled to the locker room and taken to a hospital for observation.
"Obviously, a pretty severe head trauma," Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson said. "But he had all his senses and feeling in his arms and legs. Actually, when he did wake up, he remembered every play except the one that knocked him out. ... The preliminary X-rays — and they did them on the neck and head — are all negative, so we're being very optimistic and hopeful."
Palmer, meanwhile, was a bit shaky early but otherwise didn't appear to be slowed by his reconstructed knee, which was injured in last season's playoffs after absorbing a hit from defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen, then a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He had spent the week before the game downplaying the injury and subsequent recovery process, and repeated such sentiments afterward.
"Non-issue," he said firmly. "It feels great."
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis wanted no part of dissecting Palmer's showing, declining to comment when asked about it and saying he prefers to speak about the team as a whole.
But Cincinnati running back Rudi Johnson, who rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, was more than happy to talk about Palmer's return.
"I think he handled it great," Johnson said. "I'm happy to see him out there, and I'm happy to be out there with him."
Palmer, who in his third year last season threw 32 touchdown passes and was the league's second-highest-rated passer, finished with 127 yards, completing 13 of 19. He was sacked once but popped right up after the hit.
But he also misfired on a pass to wideout Chad Johnson near the goal line that probably would have resulted in a touchdown but instead landed near Johnson's feet. Johnson wound up with a team-high five catches for 48 yards.
"He picked up where he left off last year," Johnson said, adding that steady rain though much of the second half didn't help the passing game. "It might not have been the game he wanted, due to the weather &ltellipsis&gt but he was just fine."
Not so for the Chiefs' offense, which averaged an NFL-best 387 yards a year ago when Al Saunders was offensive coordinator. But Saunders is gone now, having left for Washington, and so is coach Dick Vermeil, who retired. Longtime Chiefs line coach Mike Solari now runs the offense after being promoted by new coach Herm Edwards, and he couldn't have been pleased with what he saw.
Green, who played nearly three complete quarters, completed 11 of his 15 passes for just 90 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. The top rusher, Larry Johnson, had 68 yards on 17 carries and the Chiefs finished with 289 yards and lost two fumbles.
The Chiefs trailed 17-3 at halftime and never mounted anything resembling a comeback. Backup quarterback Damon Huard, who had attempted one pass the previous five seasons, was 12-of-20 for 140 yards and a touchdown.
"When you don't produce points, you get into the passing mode, and they're going to tee off and try to come after your quarterback," Edwards said. "You can't give them a lead, turn the ball over and play field position."
And Green's injury?
"The good thing is nothing's broke," Edwards said. "He'll survive because he's a tough guy."
Geathers appeared genuinely upset while watching the medics tend to Palmer.
"It's an unfortunate situation, and my prayers go out to his family and him, and I hope he recovers," he said. "We were just playing ball, flying around, and I know he understands that — he's played a long time."
Once Palmer found his touch, Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson scored touchdowns in a 17-point second-quarter. Palmer, who was injured in the opening minutes of Cincinnati's playoff loss to Pittsburgh last January, was 13-for-19 for 127 yards.
The Bengals had seven sacks of Green and backup Huard, running through a revamped Chiefs line which includes two new tackles.
"We had some things early on, a couple of things on offense that kind of slowed us up a little bit," Lewis told The Associated Press. "But once we got those corrected, we played good football."
Palmer was 5-for-5 for 51 yards in Cincinnati's first touchdown drive, capped by Rudi Johnson's 22-yard scamper through a huge hole on the right side. Then Kenny Watson made it 17-3 with an 8-yard TD run.
Shayne Graham kicked three field goals for the Bengals, the defending AFC North champs. Huard hit Tony Gonzalez with a 9-yard TD pass for Kansas City's lone touchdown in the fourth period.
"They're a good football team," said Herm Edwards, who had an unhappy debut as Kansas City's head coach. "You can't give them a lead. You can't turn the ball over and give them field position."
Edwards said Huard would start next week if Green can't. He refused to discuss Geathers' hit.
As Green went into a feet-first slide, the Bengals' defensive end came flying in and appeared to slam his right shoulder into the quarterback's chest or helmet, snapping Green's head into the turf.
"The officials have to look at it on tape," Edwards said. "We've been advised that we don't comment on officials' calls. I'm not going to get into it. Obviously, it will get looked at by the guys up in New York. I'll leave it at that."
Geathers said he thought Chiefs wide receiver Eddie Kennison pushed him into Green, and that it was not a particularly hard hit.
"I didn't think it was. I know I didn't hit him head-to-head," he said. "I think it was my shoulder pad that hit him in his chest.
"It's hard watching him down there on the ground and knowing that he has a family and everything."

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