"It's definitely a new look for the Bengals receiver corps but I couldn't be happier with the guys we've got," Palmer said. "T.J.'s (Houshmandzadeh) gone and Chad's pretty much gone, he hasn't been here, so we've got guys that want those two spots, guys that compete day in and day out, when we're out there on the field, running, conditioning and in the weight room lifting. They're guys that want to take over for those two spots. They look every bit capable of doing what we're going to ask them to do."
Since putting text in bold might be overlooked, let's replay the quote that Palmer actually says regarding Johnson. "...Chad's pretty much gone, he hasn't been here..." When you read that, how much do you believe is a matter of opinion; laying out a personal perspective? Chad is pretty much gone. Chad hasn't been here. What Palmer said was absolute truth, matter of fact. Was it a dig at Chad? I'm sure some people will see it that way.
“You know, I really don’t know,” Palmer said. “I haven’t talked to him, I haven’t talked to anybody who has talked to him. He wasn’t here last year, so I’m expecting him not to be here at all this year. I think he was here last year. I think he was here for the mandatory camp but didn’t participate in it. I’m planning on him not being here, just because he hasn’t been here yet. We’ll prepare, like I said.
Again, there's nothing here that makes one think the two are fighting. Nothing here suggests that Palmer is throwing Johnson under the bus. Nothing. It's matter of fact. It's what he sees and what's he working with. Palmer is here. The other receivers are here. Palmer has said that he's "not obsessing about any one individual." That's what you call a team leader.
The media will ask Palmer this question until Johnson returns; his best response is his own observations. No matter how Palmer responds, the national media will screw it up to perpetuate a WWE-style story line to represent something that's both fictitious and sensationalized. I know. It's the role of the media today -- not to inform you, rather entertain you. One called it "public fighting", another called it a dig. Ironically, both sensationalizing non-stories are from -- drum roll please -- ESPN.
So why the misleading headline from PFT? More sensationalizing? An update to a fiction to make it seem relevant? PFT links to a Joe Reedy piece that summarizes a radio interview with Fox Sports Radio.
"He's a damn good receiver - that's obvious, everybody knows that - but the guys that are working here and busting their butt here deserve a shot," Palmer said. "When he shows up he'll show up and hopefully he's in great shape and he's ready to play.
"But I never once said anything about not wanting him here and not needing him. He's a Pro Bowl receiver. He's put up a ton of yards. He's extremely dangerous to cover. We would love him when he comes here, but he's not here right now."
Nothing changed. Palmer said the same things. Palmer is here. Other receivers are here. Johnson isn't. Work with those that are here. The only difference, if there's a tangent response that he's avoided before, is Palmer is forced to become slightly defensive because he doesn't want a sensationalized story spinning out of control and Chad Johnson reading an article that makes Palmer and Johnson seem like their in the middle of a battle between Jedi and Sith.