Carson Palmer spent more time in the trainer's room than usual, the best gauge of where the Cincinnati Bengals' offense stands midway through the preseason.
It's in a whole lot of hurt.
Receiver Chad Johnson sprained his left shoulder, running back Rudi Johnson and receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh were sidelined with hamstring injuries, and Palmer hit the ground five times during a 27-10 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.
"I'm not concerned," Palmer said, after finally emerging from the trainer's room. "More like disappointed.
Really sore, too.
There's still time for the offense to get its act together, but not much. Houshmandzadeh and Rudi Johnson have sat out both preseason games with hamstring injuries, costing them time to get their timing down with Palmer and the offensive line.
Chad Johnson's injury could be a temporary setback or a lingering problem for a team that can't afford to lose him. The Bengals refused his demands for a trade in the offseason, considering him irreplaceable. After they released No. 3 receiver Chris Henry for his latest arrest in the offseason, the Bengals had little experience behind their two Pro Bowl starters.
Now, they're relying even more heavily on rookies to get them through the preseason. Second-round pick Jerome Simpson had a team-high 114 yards on five catches against the Lions' backups, and third-round pick Andre Caldwell had a pair of catches for 11 yards.
The Bengals would rather not rush them. Now, they may not have a choice. It's highly unlikely that Palmer will get to have his two best receivers in a preseason game together, giving them a chance to work out the kinks. The Bengals open at Baltimore on Sept. 7.
"T.J. and Chad need to get healthy," Palmer said. "We've had time in the past. I think we're all going on six years (together) now. Reading body language coming out of routes is big for me, and I think seeing them run those routes for six years has spoken for itself."
There's no telling whether Chad Johnson will be ready for the season opener, although coach Marvin Lewis is optimistic. Johnson landed awkwardly on his left arm after he made contact with a cornerback on the Bengals' first series, momentarily dislocating his shoulder.
"It came out and went right back in on the field," Lewis said.
Johnson rolled on his back for a few seconds, and was still in severe pain when he walked to the sideline with the medical staff. By the time he went to the locker room to get tests and treatment, the expression of pain was gone from his face. The standard treatment is to keep the swelling down and rebuild the range of motion and strength in the shoulder.
"We should be able to treat it conservatively," Lewis said.
Lewis thinks that Johnson could be back in the lineup against Baltimore, even though the shoulder is likely to bother him for some time. As a receiver, he can protect the injury a little bit during games. Every hard hit or rough landing could aggravate it.
"With the position he plays, it shouldn't be an issue as it would with some positions," Lewis said.
As for the way Palmer got knocked around, the Bengals viewed it as a function of the preseason. The Lions did some stunts that the Bengals didn't expect, allowing them to get to Palmer repeatedly. He was sacked once and got knocked to the ground four other times. Last season, Palmer was sacked only 17 times.
"We didn't game-plan," Palmer said. "You normally don't game-plan until the third game. If there's one position I've got to hang my hat on, it's our offensive line. I'm more than confident that there's nobody more capable than those guys to keep me clean."