Entering his team's bye week at 1-4, Cincinnati quarterbacks
coach Ken Zampese called starter Jon Kitna into his office and
informed him that rookie Carson Palmer might soon be getting a
chance to play. "He told me I was doing what I was supposed to be
doing, but if we didn't win a couple of games coming out of the
bye, I'd probably be out of the lineup," Kitna recalled last
week. "I thought, It's now or never."
The Bengals are 6-1 since that meeting, and Palmer, the first
pick in the 2003 draft, still hasn't taken a snap. During the hot
streak Kitna has completed 60% of his attempts while throwing 16
touchdown passes and only three interceptions. In the final 1:05
in Pittsburgh on Sunday, he took Cincinnati 52 yards in four
plays, capping the drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight
end Matt Schobel that gave the Bengals a 24-20 win over the
Steelers. The victory kept the Bengals tied with the Ravens atop
the AFC North at 7-5 heading into their showdown in Baltimore
"Everybody's looking for what the big difference is," says the
31-year-old Kitna, whose 91.2 quarterback rating is 12 points
higher than his previous best for a season. "I'm throwing the
same as I did a year ago. Now our receivers are more
experienced--the guys are in the right spots."
Kitna and Palmer room together on the nights before games, and
the veteran says he truly likes the rookie. "I'll be excited to
watch him, too," Kitna says. "Someday."