Veteran wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was out of work until the Oakland Raiders called midway through the 2011 season to reunite him with recently acquired quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer and Houshmandzadeh were part of a prolific passing attack with the Bengals that also featured Chad Johnson (Ochocinco) and the late Chris Henry.
Though he and Palmer were unable to rekindle the magic they once had, Houshmandzadeh said it was good to be playing again after thinking he was no longer wanted by NFL clubs. Being unwanted for months, though, was "humbling, to say the least," Houshmandzadeh said.
He stopped through the NFL media headquarters in Los Angeles Monday and shared his thoughts on numerous subjects -- including Palmer -- in a brief question and answer session.
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Q: What was it like to get back to football after things looked like they weren't going to materialize?
A: I had gotten used to being at home with my kids being involved in sports and things but I wanted to play. I didn't play as much as I thought or would have liked, but it was good to be on the field having fun, being in the locker room having fun. That's what you miss more than anything besides actually being on the field and playing.
A: I picked the offense up fairly easy. Physically, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Physically, I was in shape but I wasn't in the type of shape I needed to be in. I'm working out but I wasn't working out with the intensity during the lockout and once the lockout was lifted. It was a situation I didn't think it would be as hard as it was.
Q: Do you think you'll get a call and get into a camp this offseason?
A: You would hope so but after what happened last year, I have no idea. Last year, it was humbling man -- to want to play, then don't think you're going to play, then not play, then, "Oh, I got a chance." It was humbling, to say the least. I would like to play. If it happens I'll be ready. If it doesn't, I can say I was somewhat prepared for that based on what happened last season.
Q: You look at things now, there are veteran wideouts like yourself, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, who want to get back in the league. How easy or how hard do you think it will be for all you guys, especially someone like Moss or T.O., who didn't play at all last year?
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A: I think it's a different dynamic. I was on a team last year. I don't know those guys personally. All I know is I don't cause problems, I help young guys out. I work with younger receivers to help them out. I like to consider myself a leader. I consider myself a helpful type of guy. I was always told by one of my coaches, I'm an inside receiver, so as I get older it's not so much how old you are, because if you lose a step you're an inside receiver. If an outside guy loses a step, it matters for them because they're the deep threats.
With me being a slot receiver, as long as I can still run routes, which I can, as long as I can still separate, which I can, I was always told you'll play a lot longer than guys who come into the league stretching the field. Hopefully that helps. If it doesn't, then I'll figure out what I'm going to do.
Q: You played with Carson Palmer in his prime. You played with him after his injuries and coming out of "retirement." Is he close to being back to what he was?
A: He's different -- was much more vocal in Oakland then I ever remember him in Cincinnati. That aspect he is different. Throwing the ball, it's weird man. I thought he threw the ball with more velocity. I'm biased toward Carson, but when we worked out (during Palmer's retirement) he was throwing the ball so hard -- more so than going into his last year in Cincinnati. I think he noticed that. It was hard coming in midway. He said when he went in the first game against Kansas City, he only knew a few plays.
Then they had a bye, but it was harder than he thought. He admitted it to me. I think now, the offense he's in with (coordinator Greg Knapp) is perfect, perfect, perfect for him. Greg Knapp probably has one of the best playbooks of any offensive coordinator I played under. What he likes to do with his quarterback is perfect for Carson. I think he's going to do really well.
Q: Are you surprised that Chad Ochocinco struggled in New England?
A: Yeah. But when you hear about him not understanding it, maybe that's not surprising. But from a physical standpoint I was surprised. From a mental standpoint, when you're not playing you lose your confidence. You gain your confidence from doing something well, and if you're not getting an opportunity you lose your confidence. I know his confidence was in the dumps. He can say it wasn't, but it was in the dumps.