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Episode Info: SAN DIEGO It takes two distinctly different snapshots from the same football game to complete the portrait of the strange image of Carson Palmer quarterbacking the Oakland Raiders. When viewed individually, the renderings offer contrasting evidence that the experiment of lifting a semi-retired quarterback off his couch and dropping him into the middle of an NFL season is either a touch of genius or a foolish reach borne out of desperation. In one, Palmer lines up in the shotgun formation at the San Diego Chargers' 18-yard-line and hurriedly calls for the snap. The problem is he didn't get the Raiders into the proper call to combat the defensive formation, and the result is a pass rusher coming free off the right edge and forcing Palmer into a rushed throw that falls into the arms of Chargers' safety Paul Oliver for a crucial fourth-quarter interception. As Palmer walks off the field, Raiders running back Michael Bush gives him one of those looks like, "you kind of messed that whole thing up right there." Or, as Bush explained later, "There are times when he calls the wrong play or formation and we'll be like, `no, no, no, that's not the right call."' In the other, Palmer drops back to pass, deftly moves his feet to avoid a pass rush and lofts a beautifully thrown ball into the waiting arms of Kevin Boss to give the Raiders a crucial first down in a 24-17 win over the Chargers. It was classic Palmer, calmly surveying the field and using his gifted right arm to deliver a 24-yard gain on third-and-11 to help ice the game. "Push up in the pocket, option one wasn't there, option two wasn't there and he found option three right over the middle of the field," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said. "A heck of a play by Carson." Two different snapshots, two very different images. Tape them side by side, and the implication is clear. It's going to take a little while for this picture to develop completely. "And a lot of work," Palmer conceded. To expect anything less is irrational, considering the odd circumstances that led to the hasty marriage between Palmer and the Raiders to begin with. There was the 31-year-old Palmer a mere three weeks ago, still very much in the prime of his career but so disenchanted with the Cincinnati Bengals he remained firmly entrenched in his "trade me or I'm retired" stance. Even if it meant giving up pro football for good and even if it meant taking the heat for quitting on his teammates, the city of Cincinnat
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