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MMQB Mail: Bengals are enticing, but T.O. would be smarter to wait

Usually I'd say in the case of the Bengals chasing a player with serious baggage, that it's owner Mike Brown forcing a guy into Marvin Lewis' locker room, causing Lewis to roll his eyes and say, "How exactly am I supposed to handle all these divas?''

But the Bengals' pursuit of Terrell Owens, from all indications, is a Carson Palmer production. Palmer, who slumped badly at the end of last season, wants weapons. The Bengals signed wideout Antonio Bryant in free agency. They drafted tight end Jermaine Gresham in the first round and wideout Jordan Shipley in the third. They have the insatiable Chad Ochocinco already. But that's not enough for Palmer, who worked out with Owens in California this month and thinks the receiver still has a good season or two left.

Now, part of the issue is the continuing question about Bryant's health. Last year, he struggled with a knee injury all season, even after having what was thought to be minor surgery. The knee was still bothering him at a June minicamp, when he couldn't practice in every session. The coaches won't know exactly what they have in Bryant until they get on the practice field Thursday at the start of training camp in Georgetown, Ky.

I give Palmer credit for one thing: He realizes he doesn't have a lot of chances left -- in Cincinnati, playoff consistency is an oxymoron -- and he doesn't want to be sitting there in October thinking, I can't count on Bryant, and I can't trust which way Gresham and Shipley are going at nut-cutting time.

He's willing to take a risk that he could have three veteran complainers in the meeting room this year if they don't think they're getting the ball enough. With Cincinnati being a predominant running team, and investing the pick and money in the most athletic tight end in the draft this year, it's entirely possible the leading wide receiver on the team could catch 70 balls -- with the others below 50. I don't care how peaceful Owens is now. If he's catching two or three balls a week, he's not going to be happy.

But if I'm Owens, I'm thinking I've got two pretty interesting options: Take the Bengals' offer (it's got to be somewhere in the $2-million-a-year range, with incentives) and be content with a third-receiver role that could morph into something better if Bryant's health remains an issue, or wait until another team doesn't like what it sees in its receivers in camp or gets an injury at the position sometime in August. Unless the Bengals' offer is going to disappear, I think he'd be smart to wait.

***

UPDATE, 12:58 p.m.: Regarding ESPN.com's Adam Schefter reporting this morning that the Jets have some interest in T.O., a source tells me the Jets did make an exploratory phone call about T.O. but it is highly unlikely they will go any further.

***

Before I get to my e-mail, I want to make one correction on Monday's column. I wrote that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are all entering the final year of their contracts. Brady and Manning are, but Brees has two years to go. My mistake.

Now for your first batch of e-mail in a couple of months:

• QUITE A BIT, ACTUALLY. "Do you see a number of similarities between the Packers handing the reins to Aaron Rodgers and the Eagles doing the same to Kevin Kolb, feeling that the time is right for a title within a few years?''-- Mark G., Folsom, Pa.

Yes, there are a few similarities. Obviously, the organization has faith in Kolb to take the reins and keep the Eagles a playoff team, same as the Packers with Rodgers. And, yes, he's been developed by a coaching staff that doesn't fear the unknown. That was the biggest thing in Green Bay when it decided to go with Rodgers, even when Brett Favre wanted to come back. Mike McCarthy had watched Rodgers in practice and interacting around the team every day for two seasons. He knew Rodgers the same way Andy Reid knows Kolb now.

But there's one difference: The Packers would have let Favre return for the 2008 season had he chosen in March to say he'd play rather than retire. By the time he was certain he wanted to play, it was early July 2008, and the Packers, who'd already promised the job to Rodgers, felt they'd had enough of Favre's waffling and wouldn't reverse course. So yes, Favre was traded eventually, but only after he'd retired and changed his mind. That didn't happen with Donovan McNabb.

• I JUST LIKE BRYANT'S FEISTINESS. "I'm a little surprised about your response to Dez Bryant. Attitude is one thing when you are talking about attitude against opposing players, but against your own team? For Bryant to take the stance that he is more important than the team is alarming, to say the least. Bryant should be willing to do whatever it takes to win. And part of that is forsaking individual pride for the team. It's the whole purpose of rookie hazing -- to bring them in as part of the team, to build trust and friendship. He's already put a wedge between himself and the team. And no matter how good he is, if he isn't part of the team, they can't use him.''-- David, Arvada, Colo.

I understand your point -- this is a harmless little tradition, and Bryant shouldn't make a big deal of it, and he should just carry the pads. But I think you're overstating the story a bit. Bryant never said or implied that he "is more important than the team;'' he said he wasn't going along with the tradition of rookies carrying the vets' pads. And the point about Bryant not being able to be part of the team if he doesn't go along with this -- I just don't buy it. There will be some vets who hate him, and he could make it easier on himself by carrying the pads. But this story is a tempest in a teapot. It will pass. And when Bryant makes plays to help the Cowboys win -- and I think he will, early in the season -- no one's going to care much about this.

• SHE WOULD LIKE ME TO GROW UP. "I enjoyed your reaction to Mr. Starwood Preferred, but I'd like to know what your wife thought about it since she presumably was standing right there.''-- Jeffrey, Peoria, Ill.

Well, she thought I made my point by stopping him from cutting the line. She thought that should have been the end of the story. But then I had to open my big mouth and make the situation an incendiary one. I understand her point, and we're both hardcore pacifists. Having said that, I felt I had to take a stand (as corny as it sounds, for all the people in line with us) and I don't regret it, because the guy had it coming.

• THEY STOOD THERE LIKE CATTLE, DOING AND SAYING NOTHING. "Loved the Westin story. Did you get any backing from the others in line?''--Thom Middlefield, Bergenfield, N.J.

None, other than one guy I heard behind me who said, "Come on,'' when I challenged the guy to not cut the line.

• ALL WE ARE SAYING IS GIVE THE BUCS A CHANCE. "I don't understand how you can completely dismiss teams from being able to compete. I am a Bucs fan and I find it absolutely ridiculous to dismiss them or any other team already. When the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan, everyone was saying the Falcons may win 3-4 games and then they went to the playoffs so anything can happen. Now let me clarify: I don't think that the Bucs will be undefeated or anything crazy like that, but to dismiss a team that you barely cover or mention at all is dumb. Thank you for listening to the ravings of a Bucs fan tired of his team getting no national love or exposure.''--Travis, Miami

Duly noted. We'll see.

• PLAYOFF NOSEDIVERS. "Great to have you back, Peter. A lot is made every year about playoff turnover and how there always seems to be a handful of teams new to the dance each year. With that in mind, give me one 2009 playoff team from each conference that WILL NOT make the playoffs this season and why.''--Nick, Tallahassee, Fla.

I did this when I ranked the teams from 1 to 32 in May, but I'll give you a couple. Cincinnati's one. I don't like the way the Bengals played at the end of the year, and Carson Palmer's alarming inaccuracy in the playoff game against the Jets worries me. In the NFC, I'll take Arizona. The Cards lost too much and are pinning a lot of hope on a quarterback, Matt Leinart, they're not sure they can trust.

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