the developing story of Carson Palmer wanting out of Cincinnati and threatening retirement, my immediate reaction was that he shouldn't be making those types of demands after his horrible 2010 season. After giving it further thought, I think Carson may be the victim here.
Everything about the Bengals organization is a joke. It's no secret that they have one of the worst front offices in football. Mike Brown seems hell-bent on running the team, that his father helped create, into the ground. Since he owns the team and acts as the GM, he can micromanage all that he wants without having to worry about job security. This has lead to a situation where the Bengals seem unafraid to bring in bad character/team cancer type players, regardless of the preferences of head coach Marvin Lewis.
We can only speculate as to the impact these players have had on the locker room atmosphere, but it is no coincidence that the best teams in the league give major weight to character issues when deciding on which players to draft/sign. There may be the occasional Randy Moss to the Patriots type of deal, but that was a judgment call based on the veterans' ability to keep him under control. Once he became a problem, Moss was shipped out immediately. You can imagine the type of locker room atmosphere present with a cast of characters such as Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Carlos Dunlap, Cedric Benson, Tank Johnson, Andre Smith, and PacMan Jones. Whereas the Patriots were able to keep Moss in check with a strong veteran presence, many of the Bengals' veterans are the problem themselves.
To go slightly off-topic for a second, how impressive is it that Palmer has been financially responsible enough to have $80 million in the bank? The NFL has an 80% bankruptcy rate among retired players and an absurdly high percentage of players that live paycheck to paycheck. Obviously financial responsibility isn't one of a normal NFL player's best qualities. It makes it extremely hard to make the case (In which I fully believe) that NFL players are actually underpaid in an economic sense when you see idiots like Bryan McKinney spending $100,000 on alcohol in one night at a Hollywood club. Then there's the famous story where Palmer's teammate, PacMan Jones, made it rain with $80,000 in a Las Vegas strip club. I think Carson Palmer should be lauded for his responsibility and intelligence which have led him to a point where he can make the important decisions in his life without having to become a slave to the NFL paycheck.
Returning to the issue at hand, it sounds like the character/attitude issues that were prevalent among the Bengals players have driven Palmer past the point of no return. We don't know how much nonsense he had to put up with from Ochocinco and T.O., but you can pretty much guarantee it was a ton, especially when the season went in the tank. If Palmer was miserable due to the locker room dynamic that naturally results from having that many poor character guys, it's very easy to see how his preparation and focus could suffer. Is it a coincidence that Palmer had his best game of the season with Ochocinco and T.O. out due to injury? It says a lot that Palmer is willing to retire to keep from having to play another snap for the Bengals organization. Keep in mind that the Palmer is not the type of player to complain through the media. The only time I've ever heard him criticize anyone with the Bengals was when he stated his displeasure with Ochocinco not being in training camp. Imagine how powerful the negative atmosphere around an organization must be for a player to be willing to walk away from the game he loves just to avoid playing for that team.
Situations constantly arise throughout sports where a player becomes disgruntled due to issues with coaches or management. The one bond that is supposed to keep a player focused and competing is the idea that you play for your teammates. No player wants to let his family (and your teammates become family very quickly in sports) down, but what if the teammates are the ones causing most of the problems? That's when there are no viable options. In a poisonous atmosphere, it's not healthy for a player to continue fighting battles he'll never win. With Mike Brown at the helm, Carson Palmer will never be able to right the Bengals ship. Therefore, his only option is to move on, whether be with a trade or retirement.