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Comeback Player of Year replaced

CINCINNATI -- One year after he was the draft's top pick,
Carson Palmer won a starting job.

The Bengals promoted Palmer ahead of quarterback Jon Kitna on
Monday, placing their future in the hands of a Heisman Trophy
winner who has yet to take a snap in the NFL.

Kitna won the Comeback Player of the Year award for leading the
Bengals into playoff contention last season, but Palmer has the
stronger arm and the much bigger contract.

He expected to be the starter heading into minicamp, and wasn't
surprised when coach Marvin Lewis informed him of the decision.

"I was extremely happy, but I've got a lot of work to do and a
lot of preparation to get ready," Palmer said by cell phone
Monday, as he drove to a charity golf tournament in San Diego.
"It's definitely what I wanted, and I've just got to get ready to
win some games now."

Lewis announced the switch Monday, giving his players time to
get used to the idea that an inexperienced quarterback is now
leading them.

"It puts the pressure on the rest of our football team," Lewis
said. "That's why right now is the time to do this. I want
everybody to understand the responsibility that comes to them. Now
we've got to shift some of the responsibility on them. Jon did a
lot for us, and Carson's going to have to grow into that role."

Palmer won the Heisman at Southern California and was the first
overall pick in the draft last year, getting $14 million in
bonuses. He was expected to replace Kitna as soon as he learned the
offense, but never got into a game.

Instead, Kitna had a career year, leading a perennial loser into
playoff contention for the first time since 1990. The Bengals went
8-8 and stayed in contention until the final game of the season.

Kitna wound up as the only quarterback in the league to take
every snap last season. Palmer was promoted to No. 2, but never
came close to getting into a game.

The quarterback decision was Lewis' biggest of the offseason.
Palmer will get most of the snaps in minicamp and training camp,
giving him an opportunity to make up for lost time and meld with
the receiving corps.

Kitna was deeply disappointed by the switch, saying the club was
essentially "starting over" just as it did when it picked Gus Frerotte to start ahead of him in 2002.

"I thought offensively we were pretty good and we'd really done
some positive things and did some things that people said we
couldn't do, both individually and as an offense," Kitna said
Monday. "And now, again, just like two years ago, we're not going
to have that opportunity to continue that with the same core of
players.

"They like some of the things that Carson can do. Hopefully it
works out for the best."

Lewis' task was deciding when the time was right for Palmer to
get a chance. Young quarterbacks go through growing pains, and
Palmer's inexperience could lead to mistakes that slow the Bengals'
resurgence.

It's difficult to assess how much Palmer grew from merely
watching on the sideline last season.

"He made some strides there," Lewis said. "It remains to be
seen how far along he came. We'll see."

Kitna is under contract for next season and has offered to
renegotiate so he could give the team more salary cap flexibility.
Lewis said that Kitna was disappointed when informed of the
decision to make him a backup.

Palmer also talked to Kitna, who was his roommate and mentor
last season.

"He couldn't have handled it any better," Palmer said. "He
said look, I completely support you, my family completely supports
you, don't feel bad about this at all. This was going to happen. He
handled it just the way you'd expect Jon to handle it.

"I'm so lucky and fortunate to be in this situation. I don't
know how bad it could be, just because Jon's handled it so great."