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Palmer Had Lots of Help in Swift Comeback

September 10, 2006|From the Associated Press

CINCINNATI — The cards and letters provided a needed laugh.

Not much had gone right for Carson Palmer since his first pass in the Cincinnati Bengals' first playoff game in 15 years. Pittsburgh's Kimo von Oelhoffen crashed into his left knee. Ligaments burst. The kneecap dislocated. Doctors reassembled the jigsaw puzzle. A lonely, painful rehab was just getting started.

And all the while, those Steelers -- the ones that the Bengals had replaced as AFC North champs, the ones that had ended Palmer's season so painfully -- were making their way to the Super Bowl.

At that point, the mail was a godsend.

"It's been funny to watch and see the cards you get, the get-well cards and the pictures people draw," Palmer said. "I had pictures drawn of me while I'm laying on the field with my legs crooked."

Eight months later, the leg is straight and the bad days are gone. Palmer is back at quarterback sooner than anyone could have reasonably expected, playing better than anyone could have reasonably hoped.

When he threw three touchdown passes in his preseason return against Green Bay, everyone marveled.

"For him to come out and do the things that he did shows how hard he worked during the off-season to get his knee back to where it is today," running back Rudi Johnson said.

It wasn't as easy as he made it look.

When Palmer began the painful process of rebuilding his knee following surgery Jan. 10, he was in uncharted territory. The 2002 Heisman Trophy winner at USC had never sustained such a serious injury.

Those first few days were rough.

"The beginning of the process of going into rehab on crutches, not being able to bend your leg past 10 degrees, having staples in your skin and having stitches holding your skin together, and not knowing how long of a journey and a comeback it was going to be," Palmer said, thinking back to a time not so long ago, "and, the playoffs were still going on.

"That was the toughest part. It's something that a lot of people have been through. I had a lot of support and help."

Some of it came from the most unexpected places.

There were those letters and drawings that provided a momentary smile. And there were the phone calls, some from virtual strangers trying to lift his spirits.

One of the first came from Kansas City quarterback Trent Green, who will be trying to outdo Palmer on Sunday in the teams' season opener. Although Green had met Palmer only a couple of times, he understood what he was going through.

Green suffered a similar injury to his left knee during the 1999 preseason, and needed four operations to get it right. During numerous phone calls, he gave Palmer advice on what to expect and how to deal with it.

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