Being a Bengal doesn't worry draft's top QBs

ON THE NFL

Pro Football

March 02, 2003|By Ken Murray

Despite their daunting reputation as a quarterback graveyard, the Cincinnati Bengals don't scare the top two passers in the April draft.

In fact, Carson Palmer of Southern California and Byron Leftwich of Marshall professed just the opposite at the NFL's recent scouting combine in Indianapolis.

"I'd love to go to Cincinnati with the No. 1 pick," Leftwich said.

"Looking at the Cincinnati deal, it's a great deal," Palmer said. "Great receivers, one of the better running backs in the game, very good young offensive line and a defensive-minded coach [in Marvin Lewis]. So it's a great opportunity for whoever winds up there."

Unless the Bengals are overwhelmed by a team that wants one of those two quarterbacks, they'll likely take Palmer or Leftwich with the first pick in the draft. Coming out of the combine workouts, the consensus was that Palmer had solidified his place as the top pick.

But spending a high first-round pick on a quarterback is a perilous exercise in Cincinnati. The past three times the Bengals did it, the picks were washouts - Akili Smith (third pick overall) in 1999, David Klingler (sixth) in 1992 and Jack Thompson (third) in 1979. (Boomer Esiason, meanwhile, was a second-round pick in 1984.)

Furthermore, there is some concern that Palmer might be a one-year wonder, much as Smith was coming out of Oregon four years ago. Essentially, one strong season boosted both players into a position of draft prominence.

Then there's this: Palmer has the same agent - David Dunn - that Smith and Klingler had. Yet Palmer remains unflinching in the face of such history.

"It's a great place for a quarterback to go, if they need a quarterback," he said. "But there has been a lot of negative talk. Anytime you're losing, they're going to talk bad about you and find all the things wrong."

Said Leftwich: "You can't listen to what everybody says. All you're going to hear is bad things about the Bengals. You've got to respect all 32 teams."

That's a refreshing perspective, but remember, these are two players who stand to collect a signing bonus around $13 million if they are the top pick. It's up to Lewis - and perhaps this pick - to change the course of Bengals history.

Overtime rumblings

Armed with numbers and research, Charley Casserly led the charge in Indianapolis to change the sudden-death format of overtime. Calling it a "fairness" issue, the Houston Texans general manager and newest member of the competition committee wants the league to give each team at least one possession in overtime.

Casserly pointed out that 10 of a record 25 overtime games last season were won on the first possession. "If I'm one of those 10 teams that never got their hands on the football, I'm going to be upset," he said.

But few coaches seemed so moved. Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy feels he has a fair shot in overtime by playing defense and stopping the opposing team. Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden is satisfied with overtime as it is, but said he'd be open to a well-thought-out proposal from the competition committee. Ravens coach Brian Billick said he sensed no groundswell of opinion and was in no rush to switch.

The competition committee meets in Naples, Fla., in two weeks and will formulate a final proposal for the league's annual meeting in Phoenix, from March 23-26.

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