Sunday, August 17, 2003

Bengals Q&A


Washington eventually should help team; Only question is WR's health

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Ask Mark
Bengals fans are starting to get into e-mail-writing shape as training camp winds down.

Question, from Mark in Bloomington, Ind.: There obviously is good news regarding Kelley Washington's health. But why didn't he take care of this medical issue before camp started? It would seem that he had an obligation to get this taken care of earlier this summer.

Answer: Coach Marvin Lewis and Washington said the ill-timed doctor visit to Dallas had more to do with the doctor's schedule than anything else.

Common sense would say Washington should have sought the second opinion from his surgeon during the summer or even during his one-week contract holdout. What doesn't make sense is why Washington would fly to New Jersey with the team if he didn't intend to play.

Lewis isn't letting the situation derail his focus. Washington looks good in practices and should play a significant role in the Bengals' pass offense this season.

He had two vertebrae fused in his neck in November after falling on the back of his head in his last college game for Tennessee.

Q, from G.P.: Is Carson Palmer as fit as he should be? Before the season, he said his wife could outrun him. After seeing him chase defensive backs Sunday in New York, I believe him. Is he out of shape or just slow?

A: Palmer says he is slow. As we now know, he was playing with the partially torn tendon in his right foot, which is more of a painful nuisance than a serious injury. And being slower than his wife would be no crime. She was a scholarship goaltender on the Southern Cal soccer team.

Q, from Jack in Stamford, Conn.: I have been a Bengals fan for 32 years and have suffered like all of us. Carson Palmer gives us a little hope, and just like David Carr, Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning, he should play as a rookie. We have a better chance of winning if Palmer plays. He needs to be the starter. The future is now. Palmer is not Akili Smith. Palmer has maturity and talent.

A: I disagree but understand where you're coming from.

Jon Kitna deserves to be the starter this season, and he should not lose the job until Palmer - or Shane Matthews for that matter - takes it from him.

The Bengals, in this stage of their redevelopment, need a veteran quarterback. Palmer has the look of a 12-year pro. He has trained his whole adult life for the job. But by his own admission, he's not ready. He doesn't know the offense. He'll be better next season or the following year after being groomed and not rushed.

Q, from J. Jett: So Marvin Lewis is black, but can he coach?

A: Yes, Marvin Lewis is black, and his NFL debut against Jets coach Herman Edwards - two of the three African-American coaches - was news in a league that is trying to improve minority hiring.

Lewis prefers not to discuss at length the minority coaching issue. He carries himself like a man who knows that the best way to advance the cause - not to mention his career - is to win.

And by all indications, he appears poised to have success that no Bengals coach has enjoyed since the up-and-down heyday of Sam Wyche. It would be ironic, though, if Lewis, as a black coach, were to revive a franchise that didn't even interview a minority candidate for the top three coaching positions in its first 35 years of existence.

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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