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Inside the NFL | Sam Farmer / ON THE NFL

Palmer's a Pro, Scout's Honor

November 30, 2002|Sam Farmer

Sure, it seems as if he has been at USC forever. But Carson Palmer won't last long on the first day of the NFL draft.

I asked several NFL general managers, offensive coordinators and scouts about Palmer this week, and they all said the Trojan quarterback had improved his pro stock dramatically this season. Beat Notre Dame? Win the Heisman Trophy? All that stuff is icing for a player who has made the jump from a second- or third-round selection to a projected high first-rounder.

"I think he made millions of dollars by staying in school," an AFC offensive coordinator said.

The college scouting director for an AFC team said the 6-foot-5, 225-pound quarterback "has a combination of size and athleticism that's kind of unique. He's a much better athlete than, say, Drew Bledsoe. He's got mobility, avoidance, ways to buy time. He's definitely a threat as a runner."

An NFC general manager said Palmer, the all-time Pac-10 leader in yards passing and completions, looks like a different player in his second season in Norm Chow's offense.

"He's potentially a top-10 player," the GM said. "There's no way I would have said that before this season. He just made too many mistakes before this year, too many bad throwing decisions. There were times he threw it right to the defender, kind of like, 'Why ... are you throwing that thing?'

"He's always had potential. But it wasn't performance, just potential. I don't know if he couldn't learn the offense, couldn't grasp it or what.

"[But] now he's a whole different player. He just doesn't look like the same guy. He has performed extremely well."

The GM said Palmer's performance in pressure games was particularly telling. In four starts against UCLA, Palmer is 3-1 with 1,036 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

"That just leads you to believe he really plays well in big games," he said. "In evaluating players, you love to see that."

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Feudin' Time

The next time he plays against Green Bay, Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp had better keep his feet moving. Larry Beightol, offensive line coach for the Packers, said this week his players would retaliate for Sapp's blindside hit on tackle Chad Clifton last Sunday.

Sapp, who got into a shouting match with Packer Coach Mike Sherman over the hit, was not fined by the league. Clifton, who temporarily lost some feeling in his legs and toes, suffered torn hip ligaments and probably is done for the season -- if not longer.

"It's not a cheap shot, but there has to be something where these players look out for each other," Beightol told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "There will be other games. There will be other times."

Previously, Beightol said, he'd told his players to block Sapp high and avoid cut blocks, which could expose him to injury.

Tackle Jackie Slater, who had a Hall of Fame career with the Rams, absorbed his share of out-of-nowhere hits during 20 seasons. He said the Packers should not have been cutting Sapp any slack in the first place.

"I resent that," Slater said of Beightol's comments. "You can never go into a game against a top-level player like Warren Sapp with any thought other than doing whatever you have to do.... You have to teeter on the edge of total disaster in order to get a guy like that blocked. If you have to do something questionable, you do it."

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Around the League

AFC WEST -- The Broncos are 3-3 at home, quite a change from their six Super Bowl seasons, when they went 42-5 at home. After the heartbreaking loss to the Colts, receiver Rod Smith lambasted his teammates for their lack of killer instinct, his shouts reverberating through the closed locker-room doors. "Rod said it all [Sunday] night," cornerback Denard Walker told the Denver Post. "No more needed to be said by anybody after he was through. To me, it was a guy showing a lot of heart, and I respect that. I can't fault him for saying the truth. We're not doing enough if we're losing like this. Because this team right now should be 10-1."

Kansas City running back Priest Holmes accounted for 307 total yards from scrimmage in a 39-32 loss to Seattle last Sunday, a performance that ranks fourth in NFL history. The record belongs to former L.A. Ram receiver Flipper Anderson, who gained 336 yards (all receiving) in an overtime game against New Orleans in 1989. Second and third place belong to Houston running back Billy Cannon, 330, and Kansas City receiver Stephone Paige, 309.

AFC NORTH -- In losing to Pittsburgh last Sunday, the 1-10 Bengals reached a rather dubious milestone. They extended their streak to five consecutive seasons with double-digit losses. Since they last made the playoffs, in the 1990 season, the Bengals have gone 54-133. That said, things are looking up. Slightly. Cincinnati has outscored opponents in the last five games, 130-127, yet is 1-4 over that stretch.

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