Taking on best of Carson; Palmer keeps on winning after rehab.


Byline: Jennifer Toland FOXBORO - It didn't look great for Carson Palmer when he was carted off the field in Cincinnati two plays into the Bengals' wild-card playoff game against Pittsburgh in January. Palmer suffered a torn ACL, damaged MCL and dislocated knee cap on a hit by defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen that ended the quarterback's season and, ultimately, the Bengals' year as well. Just eight months later - following reconstructive surgery and extensive and intense rehabilitation - Palmer is back and has led the Bengals, this week's Patriots opponent, to a 3-0 start. The Bengals are one of seven unbeaten teams. "I'm not surprised by the way he's come back," said Patriots No. 2 quarterback Matt Cassel, who was Palmer's backup and roommate at USC. "He's an amazing guy, and he's got a great work ethic. I saw him at the beginning of his recovery process and at the end of it. It was tough at times, but he always had a positive mind, a positive attitude. He went out and did what he had to do to get back as quickly as possible." Despite his aggressive approach to rehab, there were questions about whether Palmer would be ready for the Bengals' season opener. Not to mention, recovery from such an injury usually lasts 9-12 months. He was ready, and completed 13 of 19 passes for 127 yards in a 23-10 win at Kansas City. "The way (last season) ended for him was tough, and the way he came back shows how mentally strong he is," said Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who knows a thing or two about comebacks. "You look on film, and he's back there standing in the pocket, he's taking hits, and he's doing great." Palmer, the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner, led the Bengals to an 11-5 record and the team's first division title in 15 years last season. In the process, the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder threw for 3,836 yards and league-high 32 touchdowns. He completed 67.8 percent of his passes (also an NFL best) and threw 12 interceptions. "(The thing he's best at) is reading the defense," Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said, "getting a pre-snap gauge on where we're going to play. I also think he's one of the best deep ball throwers in the league. He's very accurate...

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