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Saturday, March 5, 2011
Walker's weekend mailbag: Carson Palmer

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Let's dig into the weekend mailbag.

Justin Mitulinski from Ohio wants to know why Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer doesn't file retirement papers.

James Walker: Palmer doesn't want to retire, Justin. He just no longer wants to play for the Bengals. That's a big difference. Palmer's first choice is to play for a contending team in 2011. In his mind, the Bengals are not contenders. Cincinnati might have a change of heart and give Palmer his wish. That is his hope. So there is no need to file for retirement.


Brian from Cincinnati wants to know if Palmer sits out a year and wants to come back, would he report to the Bengals?

Walker: Yes, Brian. Palmer is under contract for four more seasons and that won't change. If he sits out in 2011, Palmer still is the property of the Bengals for that period.


Newman from Cincinnati writes: Who's bluffing: Palmer or the Bengals?

Walker: I don't think either side is bluffing, Newman. Both sides are serious in their stance. Palmer is not the type to make empty threats, and the Bengals traditionally do not cave to unhappy players. That's not to say that either side can't change their stance several weeks or several months from now. That's why this story is so intriguing.


Andre from Johns Island, S.C., writes: What if "magic" happens and Nnamdi Asomugha signs with the Pittsburgh Steelers? Will this complete our defense?

Walker: This is the last week that I'm going to answer "Nnamdi to Pittsburgh" questions. It's not happening, Steeler Nation. I don't know a simpler way to put it. Asomugha will be one of the NFL's highest-paid players, and the Steelers do not chase high-priced free agents. They will continue building through the draft like they always have.


D from San Jose, Calif., writes: What are Pittsburgh offensive lineman Willie Colon's chances of returning and putting Flozell Adams on the other side?

Walker: The Steelers tendered Colon, although that might not mean much when a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. But that does show the Steelers have some interest in keeping the veteran. If Colon is re-signed, he will probably compete for a starting role at guard. Adams would stay at right tackle and Max Starks would return from a season-ending neck injury to play left tackle.


Kyle from Streetsboro, Ohio, writes: James, what are your thoughts on the Cleveland Browns taking LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 6 overall pick?

Walker: It's not a bad idea, just not the best idea. I really like Peterson. In fact, I like a lot of defensive players at the top of this draft. The idea of pairing Peterson with Joe Haden is enticing. But Cleveland spent its top two picks on the secondary last year, and it's time to help other positions. The Browns are extremely thin at defensive end, wide receiver, and to a lesser degree, defensive tackle. They can probably land very good prospects at all three positions in the first round.


Tim from Singapore writes: Is there any update on how Browns tailback Montario Hardesty is recovering from his injury?

Walker: Hardesty continues his rehab and is on pace and doing well. Torn ACLs are usually nine-month injuries, so it probably won't be until the summer when he starts to feel 100 percent. But training camp is a very realistic goal for Hardesty.

Complaint department

We got a lot of comments and complaints in our division inbox this week.

Jeff Kincaid from Pickerington, Ohio, writes: As a guy who almost worshiped Carson when he came to Cincy, has he said anything at all about thanking the fans that stood by him or to the Bengals for giving him the chance to be a No. 1 pick? I understand you want out or traded. I get that, this is football. But he has destroyed my respect for him with his attitude about this. Bragging about how much money he has and how the Bengals alone killed his love for the sport. I mean, he is acting like a child. MAJOR letdown!

Matt from Syracuse, N.Y., writes: "Palmer gave the Bengals eight prime years." Really? Do you want to re-think that statement? More like Palmer made tens of millions of dollars while rarely playing a 16-game season and now he wants out. Last season was his fault as much as anyone. Something can be said for the diva receivers he dealt with all season, but something also can be said for five or six pick sixes he threw that were HIS fault, usually coming at crucial times. I'm a Palmer fan. I've always supported him, but lets call a spade a spade here.

MJCZYK from Monroe, N.J., writes: Can you comment on Carson Palmer's leaderships skills as a QB? I believe he has the physical talent to be a great QB, but his leadership skills are lacking. Although Cincy is a difficult place to work, the great leaders help make things better, or challenge processes to make them better. As a Cincy fan, Carson has just been along for the ride, not leading.

Walker: Wow. A lot of people had strong statements about Palmer this week. Let's address these in order. Jeff, in fairness to Palmer, he has not made any public comments. Everything that's been said has come from other people around him. So I wouldn't rush to judge statements made from second and third parties. Matt, I'm not sure where the disagreement is. Palmer, in my opinion, is no longer in his prime. Some seasons were good, some weren't. But those were his youth and the best years he had to offer. I think we both agree Palmer's best football is behind him. MJ, Palmer's leadership is not the best. He's a great person, works hard and prefers to lead by example. But as a quarterback, sometimes you need to be the vocal leader in the locker room to get your point across. That's just not Palmer's personality, and I think it has hurt him in that area.


Loren from Breckenridge, Colo., writes: As a diehard Steelers fan, I've always been the harshest critic of my favorite team. I've been screaming for the past five years that our O-line stinks and just bewildered at how year in and year out we do nothing about it (at least until we got Maurkice Pouncey.) Winning causes the front office and coaches to keep sweeping it under the rug. The 2008 Super Bowl team might have been the worst O-line ever to win a Super Bowl. Any chance the Steelers might look at someone like Robert Gallery to add on?

Walker: The Steelers made a good step forward with Pouncey last year, and I expect them to continue to build the offensive line through the draft. Gallery has a name. But he's not that good a player, in my opinion, and not a good fit in Pittsburgh.


William from Cincinnati writes: While I am not sold on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in the NFL, I am just a Bengals fan that wants the right guy. The evaluations didn't go great for him. But whoever comes I will root for him as long as he works hard and is a good leader.

Brian from Newton Falls, Ohio, writes: I'm a Steelers fan and Cam Newton looks like a good fit in Cincy right now.

Walker: Newton was another lightning rod all week in the AFC North. I think most people had some questions about Newton playing quarterback in the NFL, and his shaky passing display at the combine confirmed those concerns. But Newton is a world-class athlete with a lot of ability. Some team will invest a lot in Newton, but I don't think it will be the Bengals at No. 4.


If you have any additional questions, comments or complaints, feel free to send them to our AFC North inbox.