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Doctor: Palmer's Injury Devastating, But QB Should Return...
Carson Palmer's knee injury was "devastating and potentially career-ending," involving numerous ligament tears, a shredded ligament, damaged cartilage and a dislocated kneecap, his surgeon said Thursday.

The quarterback tore ligaments in his left knee when he was hit by Pittsburgh's Kimo von Oelhoffen on his first pass during the Steelers' 31-17 playoff victory Sunday.

The team announced that he had torn the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. The damage was much more extensive and severe, but Dr. Lonnie Paulos also said Thursday that much hinges on the next few months of rehab and how it heals, "things that are really out of my control and Carson's control. We need to give it a few months.

"But he's got an excellent chance to be back playing as well as he did before."

Paulos says the normal time frame for recovery for reconstructive knee surgery is nine to 12 months, but he thinks Palmer will be back "long before that," even though he called it an atypical tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.

As Associated Press sports writer Joe Kay reported, doctors used grafts from other parts of his body and donated tissue to fix the damage during an operation that lasted more than two hours on Tuesday.

Palmer headed back to California on Thursday to do his rehabilitation.

"It's not just like it was a torn ACL," Paulos told reporters Thursday, in a conference call from Houston. "It's a magnitude more difficult to recover from and repair. It can and has ended careers, without a doubt.

"However, I feel very comfortable with Carson as an athlete and the heart that he's got. In the end, that's the bottom line. I can see the look in his eye already. He's ready to get going."

Paulos replaced the anterior cruciate ligament, which runs through the middle of the knee and provides stability. He said the medial collateral ligament, which runs along the side of the knee, was damaged "real bad."

"On a scale of 1 to 3, it was a 4," he said. "It was off the chart. It was pretty badly damaged -- shredded is the better term."

The kneecap dislocated when Palmer was hit, damaging tissue around it. There also was some cartilage damage, he said.

Paulos was able to repair the knee without removing pieces of cartilage or soft tissue, a good sign.

"The things that were torn could be repaired," he said. "They were not torn beyond repair. So he's got all his parts in there, which is good. We're optimistic, actually."

Kay added that if rehabilitation goes well, Palmer could be running in a couple of months and might be able to play in the first regular season game, Paulos said. The 2006 schedule hasn't been set.

Palmer has worn a protective brace on the left knee since he sprained it near the end of the 2004 season. The knee bowed inward on von Oelhoffen's hit even though Palmer was wearing the brace.

"The brace didn't function well in this environment and should have done better than it did, frankly," Paulos said.

The plan is for Palmer to wear more substantial braces on both knees when he returns.

"No brace is perfect," Paulos said. "No brace can prevent every injury, but they do help."

The Bengals know Paulos, an orthopedic surgeon who has worked with the U.S. Ski Team since 1983, well enough that they referred him to Palmer and Palmer decided to go with the recommendation. In 1978, Paulos and Dr. Frank Noyes formed Cincinnati's first sports medicine clinic, where Paulos worked on some Bengals and Reds.

According to online editor Geoff Hobson, Paulos, who is now a partner in the group that administers to the Texans and University of Houston, came away impressed with Palmer.

"He's bright, he's committed, you can see it in his eyes," he said.

Yes, Paulos did look at the play before surgery, and watched von Oelhoffen's hit on Palmer's knee a few times.

"Sometimes the speed of the play, the angle, can give you a better idea of what you're going to find," Paulos said. "But no matter how much you see it, you really don't know until he's asleep on the table and you go into the knee with the microscope."

And here's a second opinion from the doctor:

"A clean hit," Paulos said. "It was an accident. No athlete would ever do something to another athlete like that on purpose. ..."

For what it's worth, CBS analyst and former Bengal Boomer Esiason has no doubt that Palmer is going to return to form and that he'll be the opening day quarterback.

"This thing comes down to rehab and we all know how Carson is going to work," Esiason said Wednesday. "He's already got the damn thing operated on, so he's ready. He'll be ready for the regular season."

I'm not so sure.

While the team has laid out a best-case scenario that has Palmer throwing lightly in about three months and running in about five months, that seems to be an incredibly optimistic assessment. It also doesn't take into account contact work, two-a-day sessions during training camp and preseason play, let alone the increasingly important May and June mini-camps.

Of course, I'll continue to follow his progress closely and bring you more throughout the offseason.

In the meantime, I wouldn't advise those of holding Palmer in keeper and Dynasty leagues to dump him just yet. But I certainly wouldn't be in a rush to pick him up in redraft leagues this fall.