Bengals increase QB Palmer's practice workload

Updated: August 8, 2006, 5:09 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Content that his rehabilitation is on course, and that it is now the appropriate time to further tax his surgically repaired left knee, the Cincinnati Bengals have increased the practice workload of quarterback Carson Palmer.

Special Donation
Carson Palmer
Palmer
Carson Palmer's knee was repaired with a tendon from a woman killed by a drunk driver, Bloomberg News reported.

Because of the extensive damage to Palmer's knee, orthopedic surgeon Lonnie Paulos had to use the donated Achilles tendon of Julie De Rossi, who was killed in March, 2004 in a crash with a drunk driver.

"It's amazing to think that somebody else is inside me," Palmer told Bloomberg News reporter Curtis Eichelberger. "You look at the scar. You stare at it. You rub it. It's given me a second chance at life. And I'm extremely grateful to this person."

Paulos said only one in 10 athletes requires donor tissue. Palmer just recently learned the identity of the tissue donor.

"I said, 'Hey, Doctor Paulos, just make sure this was a guy who ran like a 4.4 40-yard dash, OK?'" Palmer remembered after listening to Paulos' explanation of the procedure, according to Bloomberg News.

The move came after Palmer publicly lobbied for more snaps, and privately implored coach Marvin Lewis to give him more work. It also came after a weekend in which Cincinnati coaches and executives huddled with doctors and trainers to review the status of Palmer's rehabilitation.

The result: Palmer, who took only about 40 percent of the repetitions with the first-unit offense during the opening week of camp, logged roughly 70-80 percent of the Monday practice snaps. That level of activity is expected to continue through this week, unless Palmer has a setback, which is not anticipated.

"He feels like the more snaps he gets, the better he feels," Lewis said. "We told him to wait until the second week and see how he felt and got through the first week. Now we can begin to ratchet up the snaps. He can get them when he's on the field. When he's not out there, [backups Anthony Wright and Doug Johnson)]can go back and kind of split it."

Palmer suggested last week that he was rusty, attributing that to his decreased work in the offseason, when he was rehabilitating his knee, and to his reduced workload at the outset of camp. No matter how much he works in practices this week, however, Palmer is not expected to play until the third preseason game.

His status for the regular-season opener at Kansas City on Sept. 10 remains undetermined.

"He's getting a few more snaps now at his request, so that's a good sign," said offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. "Carson says he wants more reps and we'll give him some if the doctors and everybody says, 'Hey, that's fine.' It's been pretty honest."

Said Palmer: "I need all [the snaps] I can get."

One of the league's fastest emerging stars -- and a most valuable player candidate in 2005 when he finished second to Peyton Manning of Indianapolis in the league passing derby and registered an impresive 101.1 efficiency rating, while leading the NFL with 32 touchdown passes -- Palmer suffered two torn ligaments in his left knee and a dislocated kneecap in a Jan. 8 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In the ensuing seven months, the grueling rehabilitative pace set by the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner and top overall selection in the '03 draft has been documented in magazine feature articles. There have been suggestions that Palmer, 26, is remarkably ahead of schedule in recovering from the kind of injury which can take 9-12 months to rehabilitate. And the widespread hints that he would be able to start in the regular-season opener have been so broad that his readiness for the meeting with the Chiefs, which would come on the eight-month anniversary of the surgery to repair his knee, has been taken for granted in some quarters.

Notable, however, is that neither Palmer nor Lewis have issued any public pronouncements about the opening game. Privately, the Bengals' brass is cautiously optimistic about Palmer's chances for being ready to go from the outset of the season, but caution is clearly the operative mindset.

Said Palmer last week: "It's unrealistic to say that I'm going to start against the Chiefs. It's realistic to say that I might start against the Chiefs. That's my goal. We'll just see how it works out."

He participated in last Friday's scrimmage, completing four of nine passes for 59 yards, conceding that he struggled at times to knock off some of the rust that developed in the spring. The former Southern California star, who sported a brace on his left knee in the scrimmage, did not take part in the team's annual training camp "Mock Game" last Saturday.

Palmer seemed pleased, after Monday's session, with his extended practice time.

"It's time for me to start working on getting outside the pocket and making plays," Palmer said, "instead of so much work in the pocket. It's good for me to get outside and run around a little bit."

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.