"Everybody wants to rule the world," goes the old familiar Tears for Fears classic, and it's a line that rings true -- at least when it comes to ruling our own world. That's certainly the case in the NFL as both players and owners are fighting for what they believe to be right about the world of football. The sentiment also creeps in when players become disgruntled with their current contract or location -- the very reality the Cincinnati Bengals are facing right now with their franchise player, Carson Palmer.
The saga is ongoing, but Cedric Benson has turned up the heat under Cincinnati Bengals team owner and general manager Mike Brown during a Sirius NFL Radio interview when he said the Bengals should let Palmer fly as he wants. Benson cites team chemistry and the distractions of a player who wants out as the primary reasons to let Palmer go via release or trade. Benson says, "I love Carson Palmer to death. He's supported me and taught me a lot but I think when a guy expresses himself as strongly as he has it's almost not healthy for the team to bring him back."
Chiefs fans might remember this episode well from two winters ago, when in February, 2009, Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters asked to be traded or released, citing that the differences between he and the new regime of Scott Pioli and new head coach Todd Haley were "irreconcilable." After being refused a meeting with Pioli and after an apparently offensive meeting with Haley, Waters found the pair arrogant and wanted out. According to the Kansas City Star, "Kansas City’s coach scolded Waters and indicated that the Chiefs would not release Waters from his contract."
Waters said there was no way he was coming back. Palmer says there's no way he is coming back. Both players are high-level, veteran players who have both the respect of the league and fans of their respective teams. And therein lies the real tension with a player who makes such demands, placing the gauntlet down on who is really in charge. Some teams cave, others do not. And Mike Brown is going to have to open one door or the other.
If Brown doesn't want to turn the page, he's got a funny way of showing it. In public comments, it seems he's willing to play transactional chicken with Palmer and call his bluff on retiring. Yet via the draft, he's already grabbed his next quarterback (Andy Dalton) and receiver (A.J. Green) of the future, and a blank slate would allow everyone to move on without the daily distractions of a quarterback with demands unmet. If the waters seemed to calm over the last several weeks, Benson's comments have stoked the coals enough to draw the heat. Certainly when teams officially report and everyone is together again -- whenever that is -- the situation will burst aflame.
If Brown wants to go the Haley-Pioli way, there's a precedent set. After all, Waters made the Pro Bowl with the Chiefs this last season and apparently is fine enough with the new regime to keep quiet. Perhaps there's a chance that Palmer will come back, be a professional, mentor Dalton and lead the Bengals once again. But is that a chance Mike Brown wants to take? It depends on how much he's determined to rule his world.