The difference is in the relationship between players

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The difference is in the relationship between players and coach.

While Belichick's stern appearance made him seem unapproachable, Palmer is seen almost as a father figure by many of his players.

"I have the best coach in the NFL," said rookie wide receiver Kevin Johnson. "I love the guy. We talk every day. You name it, we talk about it. I've told him I want to learn everything he can teach me. I've never had a coach stay on me like he does."

In Thursday's morning session, veteran cornerback Cory Blackwell cut in front of Johnson to break up a sideline pass from Tim Couch.

"Kevin," Palmer bellowed. The rookie quickly ran over to his coach, who put an arm around him and whispered through the ear hole in the receiver's helmet.

"He told me that he thought I should have cut deep on that play," said Johnson. "He wants me to work on my reads as a receiver, to know where everybody is on the field. Any time he criticizes you, it is constructive criticism."

Palmer showed Thursday he is not afraid to dress down a player in front of the entire team. When he does, however, he quickly looks for an opportunity to praise the player for correcting a mistake.

When wide receiver Corey Bridges failed to run after bobbling a pass from Ty Detmer, Palmer quickly shouted and reprimanded the second-year pro.

"Run," he barked. "You want to feel sorry for yourself? Let's go, you make your living running."

Minutes later, when Bridges ran a perfect x-pattern to free himself for a catch, Palmer yelled so that everyone could hear: "Great. Great. Now, why was that successful? Because you went six yards, then made the cut."

"He's a great teacher," said rookie wide receiver Darrin Chiavarini. "I have a lot of respect for him. I've only been to a couple minicamps and one day of training camp, but the way he presents himself, you have to respect (him)."

Palmer seems to relish the role of advisor, especially when it comes to No. 1 pick Tim Couch.

"We have talks all the time," said Palmer, who has given Couch only one rule to live by: "Before you do anything, check with me first."

Two-a-day practices continue today with sessions at 8:40 a.m. and 3:20 p.m.

Veterans are scheduled to report Saturday evening, and the entire roster, which includes 87 players currently under contract, is scheduled to be on the field for the first time Sunday.

"We don't anticipate any problems with players reporting," said Palmer.

Darrin Chiavarini was one of seven rookies to agree to a contract Thursday.

"The money's pretty good," said Chiavarini, a fifth-round draft choice from Colorado who agreed to a three-year contract. "Heck, in college we played for nothing, so what could I have to complain about. Right know all I want to do is come in here and win a job."

Also signing contracts were linebackers Wali Rainer and Kendell Ogle, wide receiver Kevin Johnson, defensive lineman Marcus Spriggs, tight end James Dearth and running back Madre Hill.

Derrick Alexander, a fifth-year veteran who was signed as a free agent from the Minnesota Vikings, continues to recover from last month's arthroscopic knee surgery.

"We plan to go slowly with Derrick," said Palmer. "If the Dallas game (in two weeks) were a regular season game, he'd be ready. With five preseason games, we want to take a little while and make sure he's healthy."

Alexander will be a starter at defensive end.

During 7-on-7 drills in the afternoon session, both Couch and Detmer were extremely accurate.

Couch completed 9-of-10 passes, while Detmer connected on 7-of-11 tosses.

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