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Fresh from rest, Carson Palmer looking ‘stronger than ever’ as mini-camp nears end

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer throws the football as quarterbacks run drills during an NFL football organized team activity, Thursday, June 1, 2017, at the team training facility in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Ask most people if they want more rest and they would, after a yawn, answer, “Yes.”

That’s life for you.

But for Carson Palmer, things are a bit different. The veteran QB was kept off the practice field for the majority of the Arizona Cardinals’ OTAs in an effort to keep him rested and fresh, which was a plan he accepted willingly if not enthusiastically.

The 37-year-old made it back to the field late in OTAs and then has participated every day during mini-camp, which he has enjoyed given that he is not getting hit while getting a chance to run third-down offense and red zone plays.

“Those things are fun — that competition is enjoyable,” he said. “This time of year it’s not on Monday Night Football. It’s just your group of guys, you’re in the (practice) bubble, you’re there together, you’re competing against the defense.

“That part is the enjoyable part for, I’d think, most quarterbacks in the NFL.”

As happy as Palmer is to be back on the field, however, the fruits of his lack-of-labor are present.

“I think it’s done great things for him; plus all the strengthening he did, weight room wise, with all the trainers,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday. “I think he’s stronger than ever.

“He threw a couple deep balls today (that) were old Carson — 55 (yards), dropped them in the bucket. We didn’t catch them.”

Arians pinned the lack of completions on the deep balls on young receivers who do not know how to catch the ball with a defender draped on them, just as he attributed the QB’s relative lack of a deep passing game last year to John Brown’s poor health and Michael Floyd drops.

“It’s easy,” he said.

Maybe.

Last season, Palmer averaged 7.09 yards per pass, which was his lowest total since 2010 and a steep dip from the career-best mark of 8.70 he posted in 2015.

Palmer said he feels the benefit to the rest he has gotten will be more evident later in the season because right now everyone feels fresh. He does not plan on taking it easy once mini-camp concludes because he said this is the time when he must continue building up strength and arm endurance.

“I have a lot of throwing and a lot of work ahead of me these next six weeks getting ready for camp,” he said.

There is also plenty to be done in terms of rehabilitating his image nationally, although Palmer does not concern himself much with outside opinions.

Whereas a year ago he was coming off an MVP-caliber season in which he led the Cardinals to within one win of the Super Bowl, now he is widely viewed as a quarterback on the downside of his career who likely does not have what it takes to elevate his team to contender status.

It’s not as though Palmer was a disaster in 2016, though. In 15 games, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 4,233 yards and 26 touchdowns with 14 interceptions; it’s just that compared to what he was the season before, there was a noticeable step back toward the kind of player he was prior to his landing in Arizona.

With both the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders, Palmer was seen as a mostly average QB who had the potential to play great but also the ability to struggle. Add in that players don’t often play well in their late 30s, and it’s at least understandable why some would doubt the former No. 1 overall pick.

“I think everybody gets to mid- to late-30s and feels some losses in some areas,” Palmer admitted. “It’s a lot harder to play a defensive back position or a quick-twitch position, running back position, later on in your career.

“And I think it’s easier to play the quarterback position later on in your career because it’s all about repetition, it’s all about experience.”

Palmer said the history of the game is littered with quarterbacks who have played well at an advanced (for NFL players) age, and he mentioned Tom Brady as an example.

The 39-year-old Brady led his New England Patriots to a Super Bowl title last year and has shown no signs of slowing down as he enters his 18th NFL season.

Including Palmer and Brady, six NFL starting quarterbacks are at least 35 years of age, and half of them — Brady, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger — led their teams to the playoffs last season.

Of course, of the group, which also includes New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Los Angeles’ Philip Rivers, only Palmer and Rivers have yet to win a Super Bowl.

In fact, neither of them has ever reached the big game, and that fact no doubt impacts the perception of what they have accomplished.

“Statistically, if you put a ring on his finger he probably has a chance to be talked about for the Hall of Fame because of his statistics,” Arians said.

Heading into 2017, Palmer is 14th all-time in passing yards (44,269) and passing touchdowns (285). His career passer rating of 88.0 places him 18th, while his completion percentage of 62.5 is 20th.

Palmer said he has not thought about the idea that a Super Bowl title could vault him into the conversation for Canton, save for one detail.

“I’ve thought about a championship a lot — every day — but I haven’t thought much about that,” he said.

However, Palmer said the thought of winning a Super Bowl does not necessarily consume him.

“It’s not going to make me as a man,” he said. “I don’t want to live the rest of my life on what I did playing football.

“I want to live the rest of my life on the type of man, husband, father, son — all those things. But there’s no doubt I would love to have a Super Bowl ring.”

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