Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
GEORGETOWN, Ky.--The Cincinnati Bengals held their first full-contact practice of training camp Sunday.
Here are several notes and observations:
Let's start with Cincinnati's most important player: Carson Palmer. The starting quarterback missed his second straight practice with an illness. Specifically, Palmer is suffering from flu-like symptoms, according to a source. I'm told it doesn't appear to be anything serious, and Palmer should be back on the practice field soon.
The famous (or infamous) "Oklahoma drill" made its 2009 debut in Bengals practice. For those unaware, this is an old-school football drill where a blocker goes head-to-head with a defender, who then tries to shed and tackle the ball carrier. Among the highlights was a pancake block by receiver Maurice Purify on safety Roy Williams, who didn't like the result and started a scuffle, and Bengals center Kyle Cook, who won his drills against Rey Maualuga and Domata Peko.
Receiver Jerome Simpson had his best day of training camp Sunday. Simpson, who has struggled with drops and poor routes this offseason, made several nice catches in team drills and finally flashed some of the ability that made him a second-round pick in 2008.
Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is experimenting this summer with an interesting wrinkle in sub packages. Instead of playing a cornerback in the nickel, Zimmer is moving safety Chris Crocker into that role and bringing in an extra safety -- in this case Chinedum Ndukwe -- on the back end. The Bengals like all three of their safeties in Crocker, Ndukwe and Williams, who all have different strengths. Williams and Ndukwe are currently battling for the starting strong safety position. But with this nickel alignment, Zimmer can have all three of his safeties on the field.
Overall, I've been impressed with rookie third-round pick Michael Johnson. Scouts believe the defensive end has first-round ability but third-round motivation. In training camp thus far Johnson looks motivated. He did well in the Oklahoma drill, getting the best of offensive lineman Evan Mathis, and he's also flashed ability throughout the weekend with some quick moves in pressuring the quarterback.