Commentary

Palmer bowled over by T.O.'s workout

Originally Published: July 30, 2010
By Adam Schefter | ESPN.com

GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- Hard as it might be to believe, Terrell Owens' interest in bowling helped make him a Bengal.

Earlier this month, the day after attending the ESPYS in Los Angeles, Owens participated in Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart's charity bowling event.

Leinart asked Owens to work out with him and some of their NFL brethren at an elementary school in Manhattan Beach, Calif. At the workout, Owens wound up catching passes from the quarterback Leinart succeeded at USC, Carson Palmer.

Others players were at the workouts -- Tom Brady, Wes Welker, T.J. Houshmandzadeh. But Palmer and Owens struck up an instant connection.

Palmer kept feeding Owens the Bengals' play calls, with the same digits he gives to other Cincinnati receivers. Owens ran them like he already had been a part of them.

When Palmer spoke to Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, he told him how impressive Owens had been and how much he could help Cincinnati.

This week, Cincinnati signed Owens to a one-year, $2 million contract with another $2 million in incentives.

"Things happen for a reason," a grinning Owens said Friday, recounting some of the circumstances that helped take him to Cincinnati. "This is where I was supposed to be."

What also helped was his relationship with Chad Ochocinco, which Lewis calls "an ongoing lovefest." The two receivers genuinely like each other, respect each other and look out for each other.

Ochocinco already had chimed in where Palmer did. He, too, wanted Owens in Cincinnati.

And through two days of practices, Ochocinco and Palmer have seen exactly what they had seen at elementary schools and NFL stadiums.

Palmer said he put on the film of the Bengals' first two practices and just watched Owens.

"He was exploding off the ball," Palmer said. "I just looked at it and started giggling and laughing like a little kid."

Cincinnati's biggest weakness last season was its lack of deep passes. Owens and former Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Bryant will help there, maybe dramatically.

"T.O. and Antonio may not be the fast, speedy players," Lewis said. "But they're so big and their strides are so long, they're speed burners."

With Owens, Bryant, Ochocinco and the rest of the Bengals' roster, Palmer believes this Cincinnati team is ready to go bowling.

"I don't know why we can't win the Super Bowl," Palmer said with conviction. "There's absolutely no reason we can't win every game on our schedule."

More observations from Bengals camp:

• Setbacks sometimes can turn into steps forward. Lewis believes this will be the case with Cincinnati linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was arrested this offseason for DUI. "This will be a career-changing time for him, much like what happened with Ray Lewis in Baltimore," said Lewis, the former Ravens defensive coordinator. "If sitting through the first round of the draft was a rude awakening for [Maualuga], then this changed his whole life." Lewis said Maualuga reported to training camp with a different mindset and makeup. Lewis believes that Maualuga is now on the cusp of stardom.

• Interesting message from Bengals wide receivers coach Mike Sheppard, who gave Cincinnati third-round pick Jordan Shipley a year's worth of catches from Welker and Houshmandzadeh to study. And interesting words from Palmer, who said Shipley is one of the smartest rookies he has ever seen. "He understands how to play the game already," Palmer said of Shipley. "He understands the slot position, which you don't see from a rookie. You don't have to do a lot of teaching with him." From his Manhattan Beach workouts, Palmer said Shipley reminds him some of Welker. The two receivers have similar size, intelligence and determination. And it certainly sounds like teams that passed on Shipley in the first two rounds will regret it.

• So much focus is on Cincinnati's offense, mainly its wide receivers, that it is easy to overlook the Bengals' defense. This is a mistake. The Bengals have one of the top defensive units in the league. When they lost in the wild-card round to the Jets last season, Cincinnati played without Maualuga, safety Roy Williams and defensive end Antwan Odom. Plus, defensive tackle Domata Peko and safety Chris Crocker were coming off injuries. Now they're all back and healthy, and they should be dangerous. "We're ready," said Odom, who ruptured his Achilles in the fifth game, when he was leading the league with eight sacks. "I'm ready."

• There's something about Texas that draws Cincinnati. There are four former Cowboys -- Owens, Williams, cornerback Adam Jones and defensive tackle Tank Johnson -- on the roster. Plus there are four former Texas Longhorns -- running back Cedric Benson, wide receiver Quan Cosby, linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and Shipley -- on the roster. "It makes sense," Johnson said. "The state of Texas produces some great football players."

• There will be no suspension for Benson, who was involved in an altercation in Austin, Texas, in June. Thus, Cincinnati feels good about its running back trio of Benson, Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard.

• Jets coach Rex Ryan got a two-year extension with three years left on his contract; Lewis now is in the last year of his deal. The clock is ticking, but Lewis doesn't want to go anywhere. He wants to stay in Cincinnati.

Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.