Should Palmer start thinking about ’09?

Whispers behind the scenes that Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer now would be better off not playing this season now are seeping into the public.

Bengals wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh told reporters Thursday that, as much as they would like to see their quarterback return from his elbow inflammation, they think it might be in his best interest if he didn’t.

At this point, the Bengals are the league’s only 0-6 team and without much hope of reaching the postseason, it might be time to start thinking about next season.

“I think the issue with (Palmer) is a lot more serious than playing this year,” said Johnson. “We’re talking about his career in general. If it means sitting out this year or play another 20 or who knows how long he’ll be able to go, I think it’d be in his best interests to sit out.”

And Johnson was hardly alone in his feelings. “I would agree with that,” Houshmandzadeh said. “Whether that will happen, I’m not sure. Carson wants to play; he’s a veteran. But it would be the smart thing to do.”

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