GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- Carson Palmer had a completion and an interception Friday on the opening drive of the Cincinnati Bengals' training-camp scrimmage, which was played under an airborne reminder of fans' discontent.
The Bengals went 4-11-1 last season, when Palmer missed 12 games because of a severe elbow injury. He was 3-of-4 passing for 36 yards during the annual scrimmage, with an interception on a throw that safety Chris Crocker anticipated. Crocker saw the play developing and stepped in front of wide receiver Chad Ochocinco to pick off the ball.
"That was the first thing I asked him, if he knew what the play was," Palmer said of Crocker. "And the defender will never admit to knowing the play. They always say it's their great instincts and their keen ability. But he made a good play. I shouldn't have thrown it there."
An estimated 6,500 fans showed up for the scrimmage. Soon after it started, a small plane flew overhead towing a banner that read: "101-187-1 ... HIRE A GM!" That's the Bengals' record since 1991, when Mike Brown took control of the team after his father's death.
Brown functions as the team's de facto general manager. He was sitting on a patio next to the press box, watching the scrimmage, when the banner flew overhead. The Bengals have only one winning season during Brown's 18 years of running the team.
The main intrigue for Friday's scrimmage was how Palmer would look when he returned to running an offense that finished last in the NFL without him. Palmer played just a few series and didn't get to do much, with the offense working on running plays most of the time.
Palmer's one notable play was the interception.
"It does feel good," Crocker said. "It's not easy to pick off Carson. He's trying to get me every day in practice."
The franchise quarterback didn't play after Oct. 5 last year, when the Bengals lost 31-22 to the Dallas Cowboys, and Palmer's performance convinced him there was a problem with his passing elbow. Palmer hurt the elbow two weeks earlier when he was hit while throwing, but he didn't consider it a serious injury.
Tests later revealed that Palmer had partially torn a ligament and a tendon from the bone. He chose to let the elbow heal with time and treatment rather than having reconstructive surgery. He has been throwing full speed during the offseason.
"I feel good," Palmer said. "I feel confident in what I'm doing personally, confident in what we're doing as an offense. I keep saying the same thing over and over: We just need to keep getting better. I need to keep getting better."
Even without Smith, Cincinnati's offensive line has undergone a makeover this offseason. Right guard Bobbie Williams is the only lineman starting at the same position, and both tackles have been replaced.
The line opened a few holes for running back Cedric Benson on the opening series of Friday's scrimmage, setting up gains of 12 and 11 yards on back-to-back plays. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander was concerned before the scrimmage about how the line would perform, but he liked what he saw.
"For one day at one small point in time, I was feeling satisfied," Alexander said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press