took note of fresh comments by QB Carson Palmer about absent wideouts &l..."/> took note of fresh comments by QB Carson Palmer about absent wideouts &l..."/>

Carson Palmer Turns Up the Heat

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Yesterday, ESPN took note of fresh comments by QB Carson Palmer about absent wideouts Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Geoff Hobson, writing on the team’s official site, gives us more:

"Palmer has been continually asked if the absences of wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are going to hurt this year. More quietly, tackles Willie Anderson and Levi Jones haven’t been here, either. Running back Rudi Johnson, not here Wednesday, had been on the field last week.“You hope a guy like Chad, you hope a guy like T.J. would be here helping guys out. It would make the team better that way,” Palmer said. “But they have to handle their own business as well. And also the rookies need to figure out how they fit in … you can’t duplicate those two guys.“These practices are important. It’s not like we were 20-0 last year and we don’t have much to work on. We’ve got a lot to work on. But this is the NFL. This is professional sports. Everybody has contract issues and negotiation issues. Chad took a lot of the heat for guys holding out. There’s a lot of guys holding out. There’s a lot of guys saying they’re not going to show up. It’s part of the game. It’s part of the NFL and it’s a part of sports. You just have to deal with it. You just got to get the young guys to figure things out.”"

Palmer’s right. Chad is probably a lost cause at this point — training camp is likely the earliest we’ll see him — but T.J. ought to have been in Cincinnati for last week’s three-day passing camp.

Three days. Would that really have been such a monumental sacrifice?

The common objection to this line of thinking is that T.J. was absent all through the 2007 offseason, working out on his own in California, and ended up having a banner year. So leave the guy be! Well, I think it’s great that he put up such stellar individual numbers, but to Palmer’s point, how did the team do? 7-9, right? Down from 8-8 in 2006 and 11-5 and the playoffs in 2005.

The team is clearly going in the wrong direction. Again, T.J.’s defenders will point to his numbers and say, hey, it’s not his fault we were bad, he did his job! That’s probably true, though it should be noted that the passing game was out of sync all last season. Whether T.J’s absence last offseason had anything to do with that is impossible to say, but again to Palmer’s point, shouldn’t he be around to make sure things get fixed, especially with the team breaking in several new receivers?

Some will no doubt accuse me of heartlessness. C’mon, the guy spends half the year in the ‘Nati, doesn’t he have a right to spend time with his family? Absolutely. But would it kill him to show up for a few days, maybe even a week or two? There are lots of people who travel on business and have to spend extended time away from their families. I once spent an hour in an airport bar talking with a guy who worked for British Petroleum in Alaska. His schedule? Six months off at home in Mississippi, six months on at Prudhoe Bay. And his family didn’t get to watch him on TV every weekend.

Others will lecture me about the meaning of the word “voluntary.” To which I can only reply, go tell that to Odell Thurman. In the mind of your average NFL coach, these workouts and OTAs are only slightly less “voluntary” than filing your taxes every April 15. Since his release, Thurman has been criticized for not demonstrating his commitment to the team by being in the building enough. What about the level of commitment being shown by Chad, T.J, Anderson and Jones?

Palmer’s right. They didn’t go 20-0 last season. In five years under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have one (1) winning season and one (1) playoff appearance — a loss. What have they done to earn actually taking the offseason off? What happened to all that disappointment and frustration we read and heard about at the end of last season? How disappointed and frustrated can you really be if you can’t be bothered to make changes in the way you do things? When the team has been going backwards for two seasons, same-old-same-old starts to get…old.