Palmer mostly mum regarding disgruntled WRs
By Michael Silver, Yahoo Sports
March 21, 2008
Homer and Chunk, the rottweilers that belong to the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, took off in hot pursuit across the baseball diamond of a La Jolla, Calif., park.
"I love throwing to my dogs," Palmer said by telephone Thursday morning. "They will do anything to get that ball back to me. I mean, they will literally have a heart attack and die before they stop running."
"I put an 85 jersey on one (dog) and an 84 jersey on the other," Palmer said. "They fight over who gets the ball. It really relates well to the football field."
Yet Palmer is too diplomatic to say what he and most of his teammates are surely feeling right now – that Johnson's conspicuous and provocative expressions of his unhappiness in Cincinnati have become a major annoyance, and the problem seems destined to escalate.
This is a train wreck in waiting, but of immediate importance to Palmer is that neither Johnson nor Houshmandzadeh is likely to show up next week when the Bengals begin their voluntary offseason conditioning program. Palmer isn't overly stressed out about the impending absence of Houshmandzadeh, who caught a league-best 112 passes last season and sticks to a strict offseason training regimen in Los Angeles.
As for Johnson, last seen publicly pining for a trade to the Dallas Cowboys and the chance to play with (gulp) his apparent role model in disruptiveness, Terrell Owens, Palmer clearly doesn't want to be drawn into a controversy that shows no signs of abating.
"I'm not going to get involved in what's going on (with Johnson)," Palmer said. "I haven't talked to him. All I know is that I'm leaving Sunday for Cincinnati, and if he's there, great. If he's not there, I'll throw to the guys that are there and we'll try to get better together.
"I'll work with Marcus Maxwell, Bennie Brazell, Antonio Chatman and whoever else is there, and we'll try to get our routes and timing down for the season. If Chad shows up, great – he'll get better with all of us. If not, I don't know what's going to happen."
It's impossible to say for sure, but with the Bengals seemingly dug in against the possibility of giving Johnson what he wants – more money or a trade to another team – we all know where this is heading.
T.O. 2005, meet Ocho Cinco 2008.
"There are some similarities," conceded Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles three years ago when Owens became the NFL's disgruntled employee of the century. "Do I think Chad is capable of doing some of the things that T.O. does? I don't know. But if you were looking at his track record, you'd have to say yes. That's something Marvin (Lewis) and them will have to consider, because if it reaches that point, it's serious."
Johnson's unhappiness with the Bengals, which he began voicing in earnest before the Super Bowl, has already reached the semi-serious stage. That was clear on Wednesday when Johnson, appearing on FSN's "Best Damn Sports Show Period," openly campaigned for a trade to the Cowboys.
"If I end up in Dallas, I would just look at which finger I'm gonna put it on," Johnson said, presumably referring to a Super Bowl ring. "That's it. Ain't no ifs, ands or buts about it."
As to the prospect of playing with the equally tempestuous Owens, Johnson said, "That'd be a circus."
Do you think?
And do you think it's merely a coincidence that both receivers employ the same ringmaster, agent Drew Rosenhaus?
After all, though Owens made an utter mess of his short-lived status in Philly as a valiant Super Bowl near-hero – ultimately agitating his way into a pair of suspensions that cost him more than half a season – his (and his agent's) strategy did ultimately pay off: T.O. was eventually released and signed with Dallas. He got the fat contract he sought and a chance to shine for a team that looks like it will contend for championships until he retires.
Though neither Rosenhaus nor Johnson returned phone calls seeking comment, it seems patently clear that Ocho Cinco is operating from the same playbook.
While making the interview rounds in Phoenix before Super Bowl XLII, Johnson hinted to anyone who'd listen that he'd prefer to wear a new jersey in '08. To Charlotte's WFNZ-AM, Johnson answered "definitely" when asked if he'd like to play for the Carolina Panthers, who employ Johnson's former Santa Monica College teammate, All-Pro Steve Smith. On Jim Rome's national radio show, Johnson alluded to his desire to be traded.
And on and on it went.
Lewis, Cincinnati's embattled coach in the wake of the team's disappointing '07 season, declined to comment Thursday on Johnson's latest expression of discontent. But last month Lewis firmly stated that Johnson, who is under contract through 2011, will remain property of the Bengals.
"They can stop the presses, quit killing trees and move on to other things," Lewis told the team's website. "There is, at no point, anyone in the Bengals organization who has ever uttered anything about trading Chad Johnson. Nor will he be traded."
If the Bengals hold firm, Johnson's options will be to a) shut up and play or b) become an even bigger disruption. Which do you think he's more likely to choose?
If you guessed the latter, get ready for the Cincinnati version of the Summer of T.O. Can crunches on the front lawn, snubbing the offensive coordinator's salutation or publicly ripping the starting quarterback be far behind?
"It becomes distracting to a certain extent, though it certainly doesn't bother me," Jones said of Johnson's posturing. "Is it out of the norm for Chad to speak up for what he wants? People have known Chad's a guy who likes to talk and dance in the end zone and do what he wants to do. People have seen him wear the Hall of Fame jacket and do the can-can and propose to a cheerleader in the end zone, so is it that surprising he'd make a fuss?
"With some teams it works, with others it doesn't. And players react differently when they want more money or to go somewhere else. Some plod through their job and move on. Other people make a movie about it. It's almost Hollywood. And it makes for an entertaining offseason."
I know Palmer pretty well, and I strongly suspect that the ultra-competitive quarterback is not especially entertained by Johnson's approach, even if he won't say so.
When I asked the quarterback about Houshmandzadeh's expected absence from the voluntary workouts, Palmer said, "I'm not worried about T.J. at all. He's got his own trainer in L.A. who works him very hard – I worked out with him a couple of times over the offseason, and I'll fly back a couple of more times and get a few sessions in.
"We've been together five years now. Our timing and rhythm is pretty good. I know he busts his butt every day. He does pilates and yoga and doesn't party. He'll show up for every OTA (offseason training activity) and workout and be good to go."
"No comment," Palmer said.
As a certain purple-tie wearing agent might say, Next question.
Take it to the ATM
Seduced by the splashy acquisitions of talented players like DeAngelo Hall and Javon Walker, many fans and experts will ignore the Raiders' inherent dysfunction and pick them to be a surprise playoff team in '08. … While the rest of his buddies obsess about their brackets, UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel will have a blessedly boring weekend. … If the Jags don't pony up for a fat extension for David Garrard this offseason, he'll pull a Tony Romo and increase his value once the games begin.
Lies, lies, lies
1. When Matt Ryan threw the ball during his pro day workout at Boston College Tuesday, angels sang.
2. Rather than texting, emailing or calling CBS analyst Seth Davis, as per usual, I am now (after a full day and night of March Madness) simply speaking to him through my television set.
3. As Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes will come to find out, nothing butters up a rival crowd like a condescending threat.
Oxygen-deprived thought from above
Dan Rooney is a football legend, and I know his heart is in the right place, but the Steelers owner came off looking downright ridiculous on Thursday when comparing separate domestic violence charges against Pittsburgh players. After the team released one of the accused, backup wideout Cedrick Wilson, Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, "We're extremely disappointed with this incident. The Steelers don't condone violence of any kind, especially against women." That sounded strong and noble and logical, except for the fact that 11 days earlier, Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison – the team's MVP in 2007 – had also been arrested for domestic violence. Harrison (you guessed it) remains with the team. "I know many are asking the question of (why) we released Wilson and Harrison we kept," Rooney told the newspaper. "The circumstances – I know of the incidents, they are completely different. In fact, when I say we don't condone these things, we don't, but we do have to look at the circumstances that are involved with other players and things like that, so they're not all the same. What Jimmy Harrison was doing and how the incident occurred, what he was trying to do was really well worth it. He was doing something that was good, wanted to take his son to get baptized where he lived and things like that. She said she didn't want to do it." Uh, OK. Later Thursday, after Wilson had issued a statement accepting full responsibility for his actions, the Steelers sent out a press release in which Rooney attempted to clarify his earlier remarks, stating, "In the situation with James Harrison, he contacted us immediately after his incident and has taken responsibility for his actions. In today's decision with Cedrick Wilson, we determined the situation was severe enough to warrant the player being released immediately. We trust that today's roster move will indicate our intentions and send a message that we will not tolerate this type of conduct." Instead, it sent a message that the Steelers won't tolerate that type of conduct from a marginal player. Look, I'm no managerial expert or anything, but if the Steelers wanted to cut Wilson while giving Harrison the benefit of the doubt, wouldn't the smart move have been simply to imply they did because he "wasn't in (their) plans" – or to say nothing at all?
Let's do some Don Julio Silver shots for …
Cal women's swim coach Teri McKeever and her usual band of gritty overachievers, who are competing at the NCAA Championships this weekend in Columbus, Ohio. (The Golden Bears were in third place after Thursday's events.) I'm saving some special shots for Saturday night, when seniors Rachel Ridgeway and Emily Silver – no relation, as evidenced by the awesome athletic ability displayed by her and big sister Helen, a former Cal swimming great – close out their fabulous careers.
Yahoo search words of the week
Pineapple Express trailer
Rollin' with the Royals
Reading's two-game winning streak ended Saturday with a 2-1 defeat at Liverpool, but you can't accuse the Royals of going down without a fight. Reading committed 22 fouls to Liverpool's seven and tallied all five of the game's yellow cards before falling to the powerful home side. The Royals took an early lead when Marek Matejovsky pounded a half-volley off the underside of the bar five minutes into the game, but Liverpool's Javier Mascherano equalized in the 19th minute and Fernando Torres tallied the game-winner off a free kick shortly after the break. Reading, now 15th in the Premier League standings, hosts 16th-place Birmingham at Madejski Stadium Saturday in a game between two sides desperately trying to avoid relegation. As Royals manager Steve Coppell told Reading World, "This game is massively important. In terms of the future safety of both clubs, if you win the game you're making up a lot of ground on the opposition. … We have to go into the game with confidence. You always have to have confidence, even if you're playing rubbish!"
Lyric-altered song dedication of the week
Jason Taylor is off in L.A. doing the foxtrot with a Polish vixen, while Bill Parcells sits atop his throne in South Florida, sweating his best player's return. This is how we see a Parcells trip west playing out – to the tune of Bruce Springsteen's "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)."
Spread out now JT, Tuna come cut loose Edyta's reins
John Beck's in the weight room tryin' to get yoked
Jason Taylor jump a little lighter
Zach the Backer and Weak Knees Ronnie, you know they won't be there
Jason Taylor jump a little lighter
Now I know Katina she don't like me 'cause I sent her big brother away
Then I bit my tongue cause the kid is young – please, JT, have mercy
Jason Taylor jump a little lighter
Hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey HEY!!!
Michael Silver covers the NFL for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Mogotxt, Twitter and Facebook. Also check out ridewithsilver.com. Send Michael a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Friday, Mar 21, 2008 5:54 pm, EDT