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Re-energized Carson Palmer ready to carry weight of Cardinals’ world

Arizona Cardinals Carson Palmer (3) runs drills during an NFL football organized team activity, Tuesday, May 30, 2017, at the Cardinals' training facility in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

 

GLENDALE — When Carson Palmer arrived in Arizona four seasons ago, he was hoping for the same career renaissance Kurt Warner enjoyed with the Cardinals.

While Warner will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 5, Palmer is still trying to cement his NFL legacy, and it all comes down to one simple standard. Warner won a Super Bowl with the Rams and played in three; one with the Cardinals. Palmer has one playoff win in four playoff games.

“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,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said this offseason.

A statistical comparison of the two players’ Arizona tenures offers little differentiation. In 61 games with Arizona, Warner averaged 259.7 yards per game and a 65.1 completion percentage with 100 touchdowns and 59 interceptions. In 53 games with Arizona, Palmer has averaged 279.3 yards per game with a 62.6 completion percentage, 96 TDs and 50 interceptions.

But as the 2017 season begins, Palmer knows there are skeptics who wonder if he’s too old, there are critics who wonder if he is good enough and there are hopefuls piling the lion’s share of pressure upon his shoulders as the guy who will dictate this team’s fortunes.

“That’s been the majority of my life,” Palmer said Saturday. “I’ve been playing quarterback as long as I can remember and that’s how you kind of grow up in the position. You get probably a little nervous at first as you’re coming up but you get kind of addicted to it and enjoy the pressure that comes with the position.”

There is no denying Palmer’s days are numbered. He is 37. Not many quarterbacks lead productive careers past that age. But the talk of closing windows and last hurrahs has ceased internally and the Cardinals hope their new plan of managing Palmer’s offseason and in-season throwing habits will help prevent some of the injuries that have slowed him while prolonging his career, as the approach has done for others.

“Oh heck yeah, it has,” Arians said. “You look at Drew Brees and Tom Brady, all these guys. I think Peyton (Manning) would still be playing if it wasn’t for the neck injury because sports science is so good.”

While Palmer has cut back his throwing and will continue to rest on Wednesdays during the season, he has ramped up his workout habits and developed an addiction to virtual reality reps.

“I listened to people around me that were pulling back the reins and listened to the number of throws, the overworking — I heard all that,” he said. “I absorbed it and I implemented it into my plan for July and June.

“I’ve been playing for so long and you get so ingrained into throwing in March and April and May and June and then not to do it is just odd. It just feels like something wrong, but like I said, I listened to the experts like coach Arians. I listened to their approach, their reasons and I’m all in.”

Palmer insists he can already feel the difference.

“You just feel better,” he said. “You feel like you have more zip, more velocity. You feel like you can go out and throw 150 balls in practice, which I’m not going to do. I don’t think I felt that way coming into camp last year so I think, just confidence wise, there is a little bit of a mental advantage coming into camp, just feeling like ‘man, let’s go.’ I feel like I can practice every single day. I feel like I can throw every single route all day long.”

Palmer is also enjoying the Cardinals’ under-the-radar status after years of lofty expectations, hype and life in the all-or-nothing limelight.

“I don’t listen or think much about all that stuff,” he said. “I just focus on trying to get better. This is Day 1 of camp. Focus on today and not about statistically or wins and losses.”

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