Behind Enemy Lines: Houshmandzadeh returns to Cincy

If T.J. Houshmandzadeh's return to Cincinnati had happened last year, the excitement level would have been off the charts.

But when he arrives Sunday with the Baltimore Ravens, it will still elicit intrigue, especially since he plays for an AFC North rival.

While Houshmandzadeh is happy to face his old team, he is even more excited about going up against cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall again.

"It's exciting because the Bengals are good. Period," Houshmandzadeh said Wednesday. "You're going against J-Joe, who I think is one of the top 6-7 corners in the league and you're going against Leon who is one of the top 10 ... and you're going against Pacman (Adam Jones) who can be one of the top corners in the league once he plays football."

Safety Chris Crocker is smart enough to know that they won't fall into the trap of talking a lot.

"TJ is very savvy and knows how to use his body especially between DBs. He looked like the old TJ (on Monday night)," Crocker said.

• Photos: T.J. Houshmandzadeh through the years

Houshmandzadeh said he was surprised by the way the Bengals performed in the 38-24 loss to New England but realizes that opening games can be deceiving. He complimented Joseph on his ability not to be caught up in any trash talk.

As for the cornerbacks' steady improvement, Houshmandzadeh credited experience and confidence playing in coordinator Mike Zimmer's scheme.

"They've played against the best, they go against the best in practice every day and that helps within itself," Houshmandzadeh said. "That was the big thing when I was there. They were going against me and Chad (Ochocinco). They come in with talent but then you go against good players it elevates your game."

There were some who wrote that the Bengals were considering bringing Houshmandzadeh back after he was released by Seattle on Sept. 4, but he said that was "never in consideration" because of the additions of Terrell Owens and Jordan Shipley.

Houshmandzadeh has an opinion about how the team could have saved money by signing him last year instead of investing in Laveranues Coles and Antonio Bryant, who cost more than $18 million.

"I think about that and tell Carson (Palmer) all the time," he said. "I'm just being honest with you. They could have saved a whole lot of money."

Houshmandzadeh ranks No. 3 in receptions for the Bengals with 507, fifth in receiving touchdowns with 37 and sixth in receiving yards at 5,782.

"I let a lot of things get in the way of what should have been the real focus," Houshmandzadeh said. "That it is a business and they're going to run it like a business and I should have approached it like a business and when you let other things interfere. I just didn't think it through as thoroughly as I should have. I tell people now if you have a chance to stay with your team and the offers are anywhere close, stay."

Two days after being released, Houshmandzadeh signed with the Ravens. He had one catch against the Jets in his debut Monday night.

Houshmandzadeh, Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason give the Ravens the first team in league history to have three 500-catch receivers.

"I had one catch Monday. We won," Houshmandzadeh said. "I can't remember the last time I was not involved in a game. It was weird for me when we had the ball to stand on the sidelines and wait to be called in. That was different for me. It's something I'm going to have to get used to initially."

Joseph and Hall know well what to expect from Houshmandzadeh Sunday.

"He has good hands and uses your leverage against you," Hall said. "He gets off of press coverage, runs good routes and all of that combined."

Said Joseph: "It's always a great competition. Whether it's talking or playing, he's all up for it. We're up to the challenge as well."

Houshmandzadeh is not sure what type of reception he'll receive from the fans but it should be a warm one from the players. Houshmandzadeh saw many of them when he attended Chris Henry's funeral in New Orleans last year.

He has also continued to work out with Palmer in Southern California in the offseason.

"I've been on his side of the ball for so many years, it's going to be weird to see him on the other side of the ball," Palmer said. "I'm happy that he ended up on a good team and happy for him that they're going to end up using him a lot and he'll be a tremendous player in that scheme."

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