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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Man of his word? Palmer has previous promise to keep

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Guess the author of these words:

"Hopefully this is the last place I'll end up playing. That's so rare in this league these days. It's so rare to see a person have a five-, eight-, 10-, 12-year career in one place. And I feel very fortunate that it looks like that's going to be my future."

What if I told you those words came from the mouth of one Carson Palmer? That might be hard to believe, but it's indeed true.

With the end of the NFL's labor situation coming close, it's almost time to get back to the on-field business of football. And one of the biggest issues is whether Palmer will be true to his word and sit out the season rather than play for the Cincinnati Bengals.

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I've had a ton of people tell me that he will certainly sit if he is not traded. I still don't believe it.

Sure, he sold his house in the Cincinnati area. And he has told some that he has enough money in the bank to walk away from the game and never look back.

But Palmer always seemed to me to be a guy who loved the game. He reportedly said something like that when he made his intentions known he wanted out of Cincinnati.

"I don't have to play football for money," he said. "I'll play it for the love of the game, but that would have to be elsewhere."

If he loved the game, he would man up and up play for the Bengals. He sounds more like a guy who would be quitting on his team.

I like Palmer. He has always been professional, courteous and I've had him ranked higher than most evaluators in terms of the quarterback pecking order.

On this one, I have to call him out. This is a power play that makes him look selfish and childish.

Imagine if this were a diva receiver who was playing the trade-me card? Would it be as accepted by the media as Palmer's selfish request? I think not.

Yet when you cut right through the reasons and rhetoric coming from the Palmer camp, the reality is this is nothing more than a me-first approach, only in softer tones than some other players might handle the situation.

The thing that is so perplexing here is the reason for it. I know Palmer gets frustrated with the organization, as do a lot of players, coaches and staffers. The Bengals are run like an old-time football team, a family-run team with owner Mike Brown making the football decisions.

But what does that matter to Palmer? There is talent on his team. Better yet, there is young talent on the offense.

If Palmer plays for the Bengals, he would be throwing to first-round pick A.J. Green, second-year players Jordan Shipley and tight end Jermaine Gresham, both coming off impressive rookie seasons, and Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell, two young players who impressed late last season.

Carson Palmer found a groove last season without Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. (Getty Images)  
Carson Palmer found a groove last season without Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. (Getty Images)  
He might have Chad Ochocinco, and he might not. But based on watching Palmer late last season, he doesn't need him. Palmer had to deal with both Ochocinco and Terrell Owens last year. That could drive anybody nuts, and it seemed to do just that to Palmer. He seemed to force the ball at times to Owens before T.O. got hurt late in the season.

In two games without Owens and Ochocinco on the field, Palmer threw for 574 yards and five touchdowns. I recently went back and broke down one of those games, an impressive victory over the San Diego Chargers. Palmer looked like a Pro Bowl passer in that game. He read the field. He made some great throws into blitzes. He looked relaxed throwing to Caldwell and Simpson, something he didn't do when throwing to the two high-profile receivers.

He looked like he was having fun.

When I talked with Palmer last summer, shortly after the team signed Owens, he seemed so excited about the prospects of the 2010 Bengals. He said it was the best team he has been on, including two playoff teams.

Boy, was he off. The Bengals struggled to a 4-12 record and were one of the bigger disappointments of the season.

So I guess that means it's time for Palmer to take his ball and go somewhere else.

This is a player the Bengals gave a six-year contract extension to in 2006 that included $24 million in bonus money and could be worth up to $118 million if he were to play out the deal through 2014.

Palmer is scheduled to make $11.5 million this year and next, $13 million in 2013 and $14 million in 2014.

So it isn't about the money, which he has said. But hasn't he taken a big chunk of that deal already?

The Bengals stood by him through a major knee injury he suffered in the playoffs after the 2005 season. They also had to deal with his constant elbow problems that sometimes made his passes float and forced him to miss 12 games in 2008.

Palmer seemed to work through that last season, throwing for 3,970 yards and 26 touchdown passes. He also threw 20 interceptions, but after reviewing his games some of those looked to come on plays where he was clearly trying to force the ball to Owens.

Owens and his petulant ways are gone. Now Palmer would have a group of young, hungry receivers who will look to him to lead them, probably hanging on his every word.

Isn't that what he wants?

Brown is a lot of things, and some insist a lot of them aren't good. But there is talent on the roster, and somebody brought it there. They have a nice tandem of corners -- if they keep Johnathan Joseph -- a good left tackle in Andrew Whitworth and some good young pass rushers like Carlos Dunlap.

That means they are good at the three most important positions on the field aside from quarterback. There is talent at other spots as well.

All this team needs is Palmer to compete in the division.

Brown is a stubborn man, and those who know him well say he will not trade Palmer. He has said as much, but the Bengals did draft Andy Dalton in the second round in April. They have a backup plan.

The first choice has to be for Palmer to play. And he should. Take on the challenge. Show the NFL how good you can be by getting the Bengals back to the playoffs. Don't walk away from an Ohio team like LeBron James for your own selfish reasons.

I've had one head coach tell me he would respect Palmer if he were to be true to his principles and sit out. He said it would show that he's a man of conviction. I say it shows a man who doesn't truly love the game.

Palmer was the one who said it's rare to see a player stay with one team for 10-12 years. The Bengals are willing to make that a reality. Now it's time for Palmer to live up to his end of that deal.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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