I remember last year, early in the season, we were wondering just how bad Carson Palmer's elbow injury was. It took most of us by surprise when he was declared inactive against the Browns in week #4. He returned the following week against the Dallas Cowboys, completing 23 of 39 passes for 217 yards passing and two touchdowns. Heading into the fourth quarter, the 0-4 Bengals were only down by four points, driving on Dallas' side of the field. On first-and-ten with twelve minutes left in the game, Chris Perry received the handoff, ran off the left side of the line and fumbled the football. Two plays later, Terrell Owens scored a touchdown on a 57-yard post-pattern.
It was also about this time that Palmer's season concluded. His last pass of the season was a fourth-down incomplete pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh that essentially sealed a 31-22 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. We played on the hope that Palmer would return a month later, or maybe six weeks. Marvin Lewis didn't shut the door; presumably to keep opposing teams on their feet. But the door was shut and locked.
Even though the media and some medical experts publicly questioned if Palmer's injury was career-threatening, the team kept quiet, promoting hopes of an eventual 2008 return.
However, as Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch writes, Palmer was more worried about his elbow than the survival of his reconstructive knee.
As difficult as rehabilitating from reconstructive knee surgery was three years ago, this was scarier. Palmer makes his living with his arm, not his legs.
"Some doctors were saying, 'You might not ever get it back,' " Palmer said yesterday at the team's minicamp. "Some doctors were saying, 'You might need Tommy John (ligament replacement) surgery, and some Tommy John guys don't get it back.'
"There were a lot of unknowns. I was staying up late at night, praying, just worried that I only got six years in and never did anything. That's a scary thought."
So far, concerns about his elbow has shown up this offseason only in the form of a pitch-count. During Thursday's and Friday's two-a-day, Palmer was relatively inactive in the afternoon sessions. The reviews thus far have been very positive, completing big passes to Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry.