Sunday, October 12, 2003

Palmer's time remains a mystery


QB debut will come when time is right

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jon Kitna knows the day will come when Carson Palmer replaces him as the Bengals' starting quarterback.

"I mean, that is just common sense," Kitna said. "It's nothing I've been told. If your team isn't in it, and you have the future, that's when you give the future the opportunity to get some experience and see the live bullets."

Palmer The Bengals are off today, having entered the bye week at 1-4. In the mediocre AFC North, they start the day just 1 1/2 games out of first place. They will host division-leading Baltimore a week from today, beginning a stretch of four home games in five weeks.

"But I don't believe this team is going to get there," Kitna said of the possibility of falling out of the race. "I believe that God has great things in store for this team, and I think these next five, six weeks, we can really come out of it with a 5-1, 6-0 record. No question."

A few lockers away waits Palmer, the first overall draft pick and the team's quarterback of tomorrow. When tomorrow arrives is the big question.

Coach Marvin Lewis has not mentioned a specific date when a transition would take place.

He gave Palmer most of the practice snaps this past week, reverting to a back-to-basics training camp approach without preparing for a specific opponent.

"He did a good job today," Lewis said of Palmer after a mid-week practice. "He's learning fine.

"When it's the best thing for us, we'll change."

Asked about decisions to start rookie quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Kyle Boller in Jacksonville and Baltimore, Lewis said: "That's their football team. We can't speak to their quarterback, their guy, their team."

In the NFL, coaches have to balance their desire to prepare the future quarterback with the unwritten responsibility to the rest of the team: Regardless of record, a coach owes his players the lineup that gives his team the best chance to win each week. There are no cup-of-coffee starts for quarterbacks, unlike rookie pitchers being called up from the minor leagues in baseball.

Palmer continues to put his trust in Lewis and said he is learning in practice and while watching from the sidelines.

"It's been a great opportunity to sit and watch defenses unfold and watch another quarterback play," Palmer said. "You see a lot more from the sideline than people think, and you get to go in and evaluate what you saw the next day on film. It's been very valuable time."

Still, Palmer said, like all players, he would like to play.

"But I'm taking it as a great opportunity to learn, and I'm not going to sit around and pout that I'm not in there," he said.

There are two approaches to handling rookie quarterbacks: Throw them into the fire (Boller, Peyton Manning) or make them sit for a year (Steve McNair, Michael Vick).

"There are positive models both ways," Palmer said. "I don't think there is a right method. I think it depends on the quarterback. If you're ready, you're ready. If you're not, you're not. And I wasn't ready."

Still, Palmer whetted the appetites of Bengals fans in the preseason. He went 37-for-54 passing for 451 yards and four interceptions. He has the look of Manning and Drew Bledsoe. Palmer is bigger and stronger than Kitna and backup Shane Matthews and throws the ball much harder.

For now, Palmer goes to class. As the scout-team quarterback, he works against the full-speed first-team defense. He talks to 10th-year veteran Matthews during games, listening to Matthews' critique of decisions made by opposing QBs.

The ultimate lessons remain ahead of Palmer and can only be learned in game experience.

Kitna, while trying to keep his job, has been a good teacher, Palmer said. And Kitna said Palmer is a top student.

"Right now, he's like a coach. Everything is a perfect world to a coach, because you see it from above. You see it on the screen," said Kitna, who has six touchdown passes, six interceptions and 1,164 passing yards in five starts. "But when you're (under center), it gets difficult, and you only get that from experience. When he gets behind the center, he will have a great understanding of the game."

Palmer does understand the difference between practice and game action.

"That's when you learn the most, when all of the pressure is on, it's when you're in a game and have to react like that," he said. "In practice, you can do things twice."

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




BASEBALL PLAYOFFS
ALCS Game 3: New York 4, Boston 3
NLCS Game 4: Cubs 8, Marlins 3
Popeye takes on Pedro
Cubs, Marlins break NLCS homer record
Playoff notebook

BENGALS / NFL
Palmer's time remains a mystery
Frerotte's on fire, still heads to bench
Curnutte's NFL power rankings

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
UAB 31, UC 14
No. 23 Wisconsin 17, No. 3 Ohio St. 10
Buckeyes fans watch winning streak end
Miami 59, Buffalo 3
QB is making mark in MAC
No. 1 Oklahoma 65, No. 11 Texas 13
No. 2 Miami 22, No. 5 Florida St. 14
Notre Dame 20, No. 15 Pittsburgh 14
Northwestern 37, Indiana 31 (OT)
Roundup of other Top 25 games
Scores, how Top 25 fared
Small colleges: Mt. St. Joe thumps Manchester 28-6
Quarterback corner
ACC expansion: Boston College targeted again
Clarett's attorney: Court should protect tailback

SPORTS IN THE TRISTATE
Daugherty: As good as it gets
The readers speak
Powerful Denison's deep with Cincinnati players
Enquirer Page Two power rankings

PREP SPORTS
Athletes at the mercy of injuries
Pupils await Shields' next move
Covington Catholic 34, South Oldham 12
2nd-round 64 sends Hillsboro's Balser to Div. II title
NewCath captures district championship
Ursuline's Rentschler repeats as champ
Saturday's results

BASKETBALL
Former locals ready to start NBA careers
New looks await as practices open

HOCKEY
Blue Jackets surprise woeful Rangers 5-0

SOCCER
Americans finish on high note

GOLF
Appleby atop Vegas by one

MOTOR SPORTS
Stewart chases down win
Biffle sets mark with Busch win
Tracy remains on pole for Mexico Grand Prix
IRL's finale may be its best

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