NFL Analysis: Carson Palmer is Brilliant

| by The Sports Columnist

Memo to young, talented quarterbacks: Your NFL career will, more than likely, be difficult and filled with mind-numbing injuries (literally). That's why it's not the dumbest thing to step away before too many limbs are snapped.

You don't have to go all Brett Favre to have a successful career. If you're smart with money, in fact, you can control your career. Just look at Carson Palmer, Cincinnati's frustrated signal caller.

Recently, the USC product has come out and blatantly said that if he's not traded, he will not play another down for the Bengals. He's serious. I don't blame him. 

It's hard enough playing QB in the league, regardless of how many rules are created to protect the position. You're going to get blasted. You're going to get beat up. And, yes, you'll probably suffer a concussion or 13. Fun? Not in my mind.

When you're stuck with an incompetent owner in Mike Brown, however, who's only goal is to sign as many shady characters as possible -- Pacman Jones? I'll take him! And throw in Tank Johnson too, please! -- and who does nothing tangible to actually, you know, improve the team ... well, running the offense year after year doesn't seem so rosy. 

Sorry, forgot to mention the constant barking in your ears -- one for each -- from Ochocinco and T.O. Fun.

So why, honestly, would Palmer play another down for the Bengals? What is there left to prove? He's played nearly six full seasons -- in addition to an injury-plagued, four-game campaign -- and taken the previously moribund franchise to the playoffs twice (somehow). The first time, he didn't survive the first quarter and was carted off the field.

He's been to the Pro Bowl twice. He's survived the Chad Johnson-Ochocinco era. Seriously? What more could he do (and don't even mention Super Bowl and Bengals in the same sentence).

Well, he's doing the smart thing. At 31, he knows he could probably play a few more productive seasons. But at the same time, he's invested wisely and has "$80 million in the bank." I think he, his family, his kids' families, and some more families are set for life.

Recently, Sports Illustrated ran an illuminating article about Jake "The Snake" Plummer, who stepped away from the league early, completely separated himself from football, and now is living a fulfilling, healthy, financially stable life playing handball and raising a family.

That makes perfect sense to me (well, except for the handball part).

I find it hard to blame an athlete, even Favre, for hanging on to the game they've loved for as long as possible. After all, there aren't many "careers" that can end in one's 30s. But at the same time, we now know more and more the toll a long, bruising NFL career can have on one's body both in the near term and 10, 20 years down the road.

So whenever a player walks away "early" -- or threatens to do so -- I admire his ability to be able to make that smart life decision. Even if he is leaving something on the field.

Finally, I'm not always an advocate of players who demand trades. If a franchise is legitimately trying to improve and get to where you want to go, what's to complain about? Just play. But the Bengals under Brown haven't come close to doing that.

So bravo, Carson, for standing up to the (bad) man. Your decision will look smart come the next NFL game regardless of whether you're behind center for a team with an owner who knows what he's doing.

On that thought, just hope you're not traded to the Redskins.