By Stephen M. Silverman
April 08, 2004 01:00 PM

While it would seem that tall, dark and handsome New York Giants quarterback Jesse Palmer would need no help getting a date, the new star of “The Bachelor” met 25 attractive romantic possibilities on Wednesday night’s two-hour new season premiere of the ABC mating show.

Well, make that 24 romantic possibilities. One of the beauties is actually a married friend of Palmer’s who’s been planted as a spy to report back to him on what the women are secretly saying about him behind his back.

“To have a friend come out here and be my ally and be my spy, that is such a comforting feeling to me,” said Palmer, 25. “I have a chance to maybe live the rest of my life with one of these women. It’s such a big decision.”

So big, in fact, that the NFL player fumbled as he confused names in his first rose ceremony.

“I’m very embarrassed to tell you this,” Palmer confessed after handing out 15 roses. “Katie, I accidentally called out the wrong name giving that last rose.” He meant to say Karen.

After consulting with the show’s host, Palmer was permitted to dispense a 16th rose to Karen, and Katie was offered the option of remaining in the running for his hand.

“I’ll stay and see how things go,” said Katie.