CINCINNATI — So happy days are here again as the billionaire NFL owners and the millionaire NFL players have reached agreement and pro football's work stoppage is finally over.
Or the work stoppage is over for everyone except one.
That one is the one player who thinks he is too good to play for the Cincinnati Bengals.
I agree with what Mike Brown said Tuesday at a Bengals news conference at Paul Brown Stadium. I like Carson Palmer. He's a good guy and a good quarterback. In fact, he seems like such a good guy that I'm surprised he's doing such a selfish thing.
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See, Palmer doesn't like being a Bengal, not anymore anyway, and has said through his intermediaries — as yet the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft hasn't been man enough to go on the record himself — that rather than play another football season for the franchise in Cincinnati, he'll hang up his cleats.
That's funny because Palmer wasn't saying that in 2006 when he inked a lucrative six-year contract extension.
Instead, Palmer said this: "Hopefully, this is the last place I'll end up playing. That's so rare in the league these days. ... I feel very fortunate that it looks like that's going to be my future."
Nor did we hear Palmer grousing when he was depositing his $24 million bonus check in the bank or looking at future earnings that would have paid him $118 million through 2014.
Why, this time a year ago, Palmer was thanking the Cincinnati front office for signing (on his recommendation) controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens and said he believed the Bengals had the necessary pieces to compete for a title.
Turns out, they did not. The Bengals finished 4-12, a record that has admittedly been about par for the course over the years. Make no mistake: The Bengals are a bad franchise. (ESPN The Magazine claims it is the worst in all of sports.) Mike Brown is not a good owner. They have no general manager. Off the field, they tend to operate on the cheap. On the field, they have produced just two winning seasons and two playoff appearances over the past two decades.
Only here's the thing: Palmer was the quarterback of both those playoff teams. The first came in 2005. The second came in 2009, just two years ago. In the seven seasons since Palmer became the starter in 2004, Cincinnati has had three losing seasons. It's not like they've never won. It's not like Palmer is underpaid. It's not like he's dealing with a new coach, what with Marvin Lewis on board for his ninth season.
With Palmer as quarterback, the Bengals would be perfectly capable of competing this year. Palmer had good young targets in Jordan Shipley, tight end Jermaine Greshman and a potential break-out star in A.J. Green, Cincinnati's first-round pick.
Instead, Palmer is keeping his ball and staying home.
"I wish him well," said Mike Brown on Tuesday. "And he is retired. That was his choice."
If this sounds as if I'm taking up for the unpopular owner, I am. Brown didn't have to offer Palmer a long-term deal in 2006. Brown didn't have to pay out a $24 million bonus to his then young quarterback.
Nor does Brown have to acquiesce to Palmer's wishes and trade the quarterback now, especially when Palmer has four years left on his contract and put the Bengals in a no-win position.
"Carson signed a contract and made a commitment," Brown said. "He gave his word. We relied on his word. We relied on his commitment. We expected him to perform here. If he's going to walk away from his commitment, we aren't going to reward him for doing it."
Just this once, good for Mike Brown.