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The Carson Conspiracy

Picture this:

Carson Palmer is ruled out of the preseason finale leaving him with a total of about five game-clock minutes of live action for the preseason. J.T. O’Sullivan plays well in every game and looks sharp with the starting receivers.

Week 1 against the Broncos rolls around and Marvin has to produce an injury report that has Palmer listed as questionable. Team doctors recommend that he sit out of practice a few more days in order to bring him back 100 percent, but Marvin Lewis needs him now. Ownership rules that team doctors know best and that Palmer sit out of practice during the week. Marvin holds steadfast to his rule that players only play if they practice and O’Sullivan gets the nod.

The outcome of the game is immaterial, as Palmer undoubtedly runs the first-team offense the next week in practice and tells everyone that he is perfectly healthy. He struggles in Green Bay and pundits begin to say how he hasn’t had enough reps in the preseason. He struggles against Pittsburgh and team doctors begin to reexamine the once injured ankle in hopes of finding out what’s wrong with their organization’s superstar. He struggles again the next week and the fans begin to call for O’Sullivan, and so on.

Last season when Carson hurt his elbow, the team initially downplayed it and then trickled out information about the severity of the injury. Belief was held out by all parties that Palmer would return at some point until it became pointless after the season had become a horror-film.

This ankle injury feels a lot like that. The likelihood that he hurt it again increases after a high sprain. If Palmer continues his downward statistical trend this season, quarterback experts like Ron Jaworski will point to film that shows how his mechanics changed after the injury and that’s why his passes sail into the arms of defenders.

Is it that farfetched? Does having Carson on the field automatically mean that he’ll play well? Palmer’s productivity has decreased every season since the playoff debacle of 2005; even when healthy, he doesn’t appear to be getting any better. Perhaps offensive coordinator, Bob Bratkowski, is to blame, or the crumbling of the once powerful offensive line, but the facts is, Carson hasn’t been an elite player since the glory days and there’s little reason to think it will switch back on again soon, especially with more injuries.

Hopefully this is just a chicken-little conspiracy that never comes to fruition and can be buried in peat moss along with all the other slop I’ve been wrong about. But let’s not pretend that this kind of thing doesn’t happen. Let’s not ignore the man behind the curtain, pulling the strings of the media and the fans; a man who might prefer a viable excuse of failure as opposed to the hard work that sustains success.

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