TEMPE, Ariz. — Sometimes lost amid the Arizona Cardinals’ struggles at quarterback is that they actually have a very capable passer already on the roster in Carson Palmer.
Palmer, 35, appeared in six games this season — all wins — and completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,626 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He was well on his way to having one of the best seasons of his career before a torn ACL against the St. Louis Rams in Week 10 landed him on injured reserve.
Any predictions on how the Cardinals will fare next season are largely predicated on a return to health for the veteran, and Sunday following Arizona’s season-ending 27-16 Wild Card round loss to the Carolina Panthers, Palmer said “everything’s on schedule.”
“Just continuing to grind it out,” he added. “It’s baby steps from here, but I actually get to start up-tempo walking/jogging on Monday so I’m excited about that.”
Just days before hurting his knee Palmer had signed three-year contract extension with the team, a move that served to reaffirm the faith the Cardinals had in the former Cincinnati Bengal and Oakland Raider.
And while the injury may have ended his season, it did little to change the team’s perspective.
“He’s as resilient as ever. He’s tough as nails,” head coach Bruce Arians said when asked what he learned about Palmer this season. “He’s the guy you want leading your football team and your franchise.”
Arians went on to say he is not worried about Palmer’s recovery from the injury because the QB is in great health and the injury was, as he put it, “freaky.” The coach added Palmer’s “arm strength and everything else” is great.
“He takes great care of himself, so I don’t see why he couldn’t play for two or three more years.”
Palmer will have to get back on the field first, and he is optimistic that he will return “sooner rather than later.” He noted he’s probably one of the few players already excited for OTAs and minicamps, and when asked if he expects to be 100 percent by the start of next season, he answered, “absolutely.”
But to get there the quarterback will have to go through months of rehab, a process made easier by having already been through this once before. Palmer said he knows what to expect now, which will help with the mental part of his recovery.
And after being only able to watch as his team’s potentially great season slipped away, Palmer is ready to do whatever it takes to not only get back on the field, but be an improved player, too.
“It’s not easy, it’s never easy, it definitely wasn’t easy,” he said of having to sit out. “But you’ve got to roll with the punches. It’s a very humbling game; it’s fair and unfair at different times, and you just can’t stay stagnant. You can’t just assume that ‘alright, I’ll do the same thing I did last year and we’ll be back there.’ You’ve got to find ways to get better every offseason, during the season, during the playoffs, whatever it may be.
“And I’m going to find different ways to improve my game. You’ve got to get past these things, get over them.”