Not a good start.
The Bengals went 4-12 last year, then had one of the worst offseasons in franchise history, which is saying a lot. Palmer decided he'd rather retire than play another day in Cincinnati, players got arrested and many fans wrote off the franchise as hopeless.
The hits keep coming.
"I've been in the tank since 6 o'clock last night," Zimmer said, referring to the time he heard Joseph was leaving. "But I'm going to get out of it quick."
Joseph teamed with Leon Hall to form one of the league's steadiest cornerback tandems. The Bengals allowed Joseph to become an unrestricted free agent, but they seemed confident they would be able to keep him. Zimmer was told to expect him back when the NFL's lockout ended. The Bengals even assigned him a dorm room for camp and put his name on the green front door.
So much for that.
"The contingency right now is to figure out who the next guy is, whether he's here in training camp or he's on the street somewhere or he's on another team or he's in Canada," Zimmer said. "Who knows? We've got to find somebody who can play."
Losing Joseph was a huge setback.
"Of course it's a shock," Jones said. "J-Jo's been here for five years and he's one of the best players on the team. When you hear it, it's very shocking."
Palmer stunned the organization by asking for a trade after a 4-12 season. He said he would rather retire than play another year for one of the NFL's most forlorn franchises, with only two winning seasons in the last 20 years.
Owner Mike Brown insisted again this week that he wouldn't trade Palmer, who was placed on a reserve list for players who didn't report to camp on Friday.
Palmer's decision to stay away surprised his teammates initially, but they've come to accept it.
"People just realized he was frustrated," offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "But there's a lot of teams around the league that have frustrating years, and it doesn't mean you quit and walk away."
"Chad was a great teammate and a lot of fun," Whitworth said. "I enjoyed him every day. But he's moved on, too. It's definitely going to be different. Now it's a chance for the younger guys on the team to step up and make this their football team and leave their legacy."
The Bengals added to their legacy of off-field problems this month, when Jones and free-agent running back Cedric Benson were arrested. Both could be disciplined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Jones hurt his neck last season and needed surgery, and had another procedure over the summer to help it heal. Jones said on Friday that he probably won't be allowed to participate in any drills that involve contact for two or three weeks. He knows that fans are expecting another dreary season in Cincinnati because of all the change.
"All I've got to say is: There's going to be bright days on the other end," Jones said. "I promise you we won't be 4-12 this year."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press