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Kyle Cook and Dhani Jones fight during practice; is Cook the Rich Braham replacement?

Through the first 76 minutes into the 2006 season, Carson Palmer was sacked one time -- a seven-yard loss by Jared Allen who subsequently forced a fumble. The Bengals had a veteran center in Rich Braham through those first 76 minutes. After he suffered a career-ending leg injury early in the second quarter against the Browns, Palmer was sacked four times in the next three quarters, six times at Pittsburgh and four times against the Patriots. That's 14 sacks in the 11 quarters after Braham's injury that would eventually force his retirement.

Eric Ghiaciuc played against the Browns, started against the Patriots and Steelers. After the bye week, the Bengals shifted the line moving Eric Steinbach to center and giving Andrew Whitworth a start at left guard. Levi Jones got hurt and Whitworth was forced to left tackle, Steinbach back to left guard and Ghiaciuc to center. In eight straight games in 2006, starting with the Browns, Palmer was sacked multiple times; five times he was sacked three times or more.

Is it fair to put this on Ghiaciuc? No, of course not. It just goes to show how integral Rich Braham was as the team's offensive line captain. Was it a distraction? Chad Johnson says so. And I do think it's fair to say that we've yet to see a guy that comes close to replacing him.

As fans of a blue-collar town, we put a lot of value on effort. Work hard. You'll be cheered. Work hard and win, you'll be revered. It's why some superstars in this town were eventually rejected. Have fire?

"That's Cook's M.O.," said left tackle Andrew Whitworth. "He's a little bit of a nasty player. I think your center has to be a little bit that way. It's a hard position, it's a tough position. He's got the toughness to play it."

Cook got a smile out of Jones as he stared at him walking by in the locker room.

"I'm here all day," he said, laughing.

"But so am I," Jones said.

Cook shrugged it off as no big deal.

"We've had 11, 12 practices and we've been going at each other every day," he said. "I would never do anything to hurt my middle linebacker."

Then Jones gave him the middle linebacker's ultimate compliment in discussing Cook's ability to get to the second level.

"If he's getting on you," Jones said, "he's doing a good job. Yeah, he's getting on me."

Good. Good.

Paul Alexander likes him.

“He’s got the it. They follow his direction and that’s what we’re looking for,” Alexander said. “That’s one of the requirements of the job. You have to take charge, you have to make the right calls and you have to synthesize complex things in a hurry and be right. He’s got he brains and just understands it.”

Obviously time will tell if Cook is the man. But it's a good start.