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NFL: I don't hate Carson, I actually feel quite sorry for him
FOR the neutral, Oakland’s visit to Cincinnati this Sunday doesn’t exactly leap out as a must-see game.
But for the home fans it is a day they have been waiting for with some relish since the season schedule was announced back in April, for it marks the return of Carson Palmer - one time hero turned all-time zero.
It’s just over a year since Palmer, who was taken by the Bengals with the first pick of the 2003 draft, was traded to the Raiders following a near nine month stand-off with team ownership during which he effectively retired from the game.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of Palmer’s stance - and let’s face it, where (Bengals owner) Mike Brown is concerned there are always plenty of mitigating circumstances - the fans have not forgotten and social media sites have been awash this week with discussion of the “treatment” the returning player will get on Sunday.
This being America, the “treatment” is likely to be some hefty booing along with a few banners splashed with comments which showcase varying degrees of wit.
But I think if they really want to wind-up Palmer up, ignoring him may be the best policy.
Palmer’s story in Cincinnati was a classic tale of what might have been.
A Heisman Trophy winner at USC, he was drafted to a team which had languished in the doldrums for years, charged with returning them to glory years of the 1980s and for three years he looked like doing just that.
But everything changed on the first passing play of the 2005 play-off game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I remember it like it was yesterday, a 67-yard bomb complete to Chris Henry. Cue cheers, high fives, thumping of tables.
Then the camera switches back to Palmer on the ground, a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee the result of late hit from Kimo Von Oelhoffen. The mood quickly changes as the realisation hits. Season over. Hope gone.
There followed a determined close season comeback and at least statistically, an even better season for Palmer in 2006.
But things were never quite the same, even though we didn’t perhaps realise it at the time. This was largely because there were flickers of hope, enough good weeks and wins for everyone to convince themselves everything was fine and shut out any nagging doubts.
In reality, the writing had long been on the wall long before Palmer asked to be traded, we just didn’t want to read it.
It’s worth remembering the Bengals got a superb deal out of the Palmer trade and by then, thanks to his “I’m retiring” stance, they had already drafted Andy Dalton.
The jury may still be out on Dalton but as things stand I’d take him over Palmer any day of the week.
The Raiders are 3-7 and Palmer’s season has been the perfect example of how often statistics can be meaningless. He’s passed for more than 300 yards in the past three games. They’ve lost them all heavily.
Above all, I feel a bit sorry for him. I can’t imagine back in 2003 he envisioned this being the way his career would pan out.
He’s made a colossal amount of money, yes, but at the moment it doesn’t look like he’ll ever win a play-off game let alone a Super Bowl.
I find it difficult to build up any dislike for a player who pretty much gave his all in a Bengals shirt, even if he didn’t bring the success we all craved.
Rather than give Palmer special treatment on Sunday, Bengals fans should treat him the same as they would any other opposing player.
Because at the end of the day that’s all Carson Palmer really is.
Just another quarterback, on another team.
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