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Gruden believes rookie Dalton can step in as Bengals' QB

Jay Gruden isn't in an enviable position.

The Cincinnati Bengals' new offensive coordinator joined a team that finished 4-12 in 2010 and likely will enter this season without its prodigal franchise quarterback, Carson Palmer, who has said he'll retire if he's not traded elsewhere. That means Gruden might have to improvise, installing a new West Coast offense while possibly starting rookie Andy Dalton under center.

Some see all that as a recipe for another down year for the Bengals and their long-suffering fans, but Gruden isn't ready to wave the white flag yet.

"Everything is pointing to us failing offensively," Gruden recently told the Bengals' official website. "The rookie quarterback and the young guys on offense, blah, blah, blah. But we're going to put everything behind us and set a high standard for ourselves."

Gruden skipped a recent family vacation to continue building Cincinnati's offense. He knows he'll be throwing a lot at his players when he finally can interact with them post-lockout.

"Maybe we'll have to simplify it a lot," he said. "We'll see what type of guys we have here. I don't know. I plan on challenging them and going full throttle. It will be good for our defense, it will be good for our offense. See what happens."

Gruden hasn't anointed Dalton, a second-round draft pick, as the starting quarterback, saying Jordan Palmer, Dan LeFevour or a possible free-agent signee are in the mix to start Week 1 at Cleveland. But when asked if it will be difficult to hold quarterback auditions given the time crunch this summer, Gruden indicated it's Dalton's job to lose.

"We're not going to force-feed anybody," Gruden said. "We're assuming Dalton (will be the starter), but if Dalton is not quite ready -- he's only (23) -- then we'll get somebody else ready."

Gruden believes Dalton has the necessary attitude for the challenge.

"Guys have (gone with a rookie) and been successful, and guys have failed miserably," Gruden said. "It's not an easy position ... it's a unique position for a unique individual, and I know we drafted the guy with the right frame of mind, and hopefully his ability will prove his worth."

As for Carson Palmer, The Cincinnati Enquirerventured to Nevada this week to speak with the quarterback at a celebrity golf outing, but he had no comment other than to say he was "laying low" during the lockout.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, a former USC teammate of Palmer, told The Enquirer he hasn't seen any changes in his friend.

"Carson seems like he always does during this time of the year," Cassel said. "He seems great. He is a great guy and player."

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