Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says Carson Palmer would be his starting quarterback if he returns. Running back Cedric Benson, however, said bringing Palmer back to Cincinnati would be a recipe for disaster.
Lewis, on a conference call along with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for Bengals season-ticket holders, said Wednesday that the door remains open for Palmer, who has requested a trade from Cincinnati and has said that he would retire if he wasn't dealt.
"If Carson comes back he would be the starting quarterback and we would groom Andy [Dalton] to be the quarterback of the future," Lewis said on the call, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Bengals drafted TCU quarterback Dalton early in the second round of last month's draft.
Benson, the Bengals' starter in the backfield who will be a free agent once the lockout ends, said Tuesday night in a Sirius NFL Radio appearance that it wouldn't be in the team's best interests to bring Palmer back.
"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," Benson said, according to the Enquirer.
"He's already expressed his disgust. To bring him back would only be detrimental to the team and to him. This guy wants to be free and to soar somewhere else. Don't lock a man down whom you know he won't be happy if he stays," he said.
Lewis acknowledged Palmer's desire for separation from the Bengals during Wednesday's call, but said time might change the quarterback's feelings.
"The good thing for us is this decision was made in January. From that, we benefited," Lewis said.
But Benson said Tuesday that if Palmer returns, he won't have a passion for the game because he won't be happy with his situation.
"If a man in his heart is ready to move, you can't hold him down," he said.
The Bengals won the AFC North in 2009 with a run-first philosophy behind Benson, although the team passed more in 2010 with the addition of receiver Terrell Owens, and fell to last in the division.
Owens is a free agent and not expected to return. Chad Ochocinco, the Bengals' other high-profile receiver, has engaged in a public war of words with Lewis throughout the offseason. Benson on Tuesday implied that it would be wise for Cincinnati to cut ties with No. 85.
"I know the Cincinnati Bengals enjoy Ocho but I think in order for this team to be successful and be a force, if ownership so desires, it's time to make a change," he said.
On Wednesday's conference call, Lewis wouldn't address Ochocinco's future with the team other than to say "he's under contract."
Lewis did speak glowingly of receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals' first-round selection in April's draft.
Benson, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons, said the Bengals can win again if the team dedicates itself to the run. Signing him to a new contract would be a great start, of course.
"I think I'm deserving of that. I just hope a couple teams feel the same way. It would be nice if it would be the Bengals, they drafted a quarterback in the second round and have young receivers, they're going to need a horse in there," he said.