Palmer on schedule in recovering from injury


CINCINNATI – Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer still faces many uncertainties as he rehabs his left knee.

How many games – if any – will he miss this fall? And who might fill in for him now that former backup Jon Kitna signed as a free agent with Detroit?

“I wish I knew when I was coming back,” Palmer said yesterday. “The last thing I need to do is push anything too early and push back the date that I can really step on the field 100 percent.”

Palmer tore ligaments in his left knee when he was hit by Pittsburgh’s Kimo von Oelhoffen on his first pass during the Steelers’ 31-17 playoff victory in January.

Palmer estimates his rehab is one-quarter complete and that he is “exactly where I should be at week 10” of his program. He met with Cincinnati media for the first time since his Jan. 10 surgery appearing confident and upbeat.

Minicamp in spring is out of the question, he said. Training camp not very likely and the preseason iffy. Palmer expects to play in the regular season opener, but the Bengals are looking at veteran free-agent quarterbacks just in case.

“If I had a crystal ball, we wouldn’t be going through this backup quarterback thing we’re going through,” Palmer said.

The Bengals have former Bears starter Craig Krenzel under contract, signed former Atlanta and Tennessee backup Doug Johnson last month and are believed to be looking at other free agents.

Palmer called his injury “heart-breaking” because he felt so helpless and unable to help his teammates as they fell to the Steelers.

“I think I learned how quickly things can be taken away from you,” said Palmer, a Heisman Trophy winner and the overall No.1 pick in the 2003 draft. “I’ll take something from this, and it will be you can’t take it for granted.”

A team spokesman confirmed during Super Bowl week that Palmer had been barred from talking about his injury and surgery. But Palmer said the decision was at least partly his.