Carson Palmer’s selflessness shines as Cardinals put him in Ring of Honor

Sep 29, 2019, 7:49 PM | Updated: 10:02 pm
Former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer watches as his names is added to the Cardinals' ...
Former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer watches as his names is added to the Cardinals' ring of honor at half time an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Peek at Carson Palmer’s feed on Instagram, and it’s clear that once he drove out of the desert, away from his NFL life, he wouldn’t be itching to get back.

There are images of camping trips and fishing success stories. Lots of the pictures are of his children.

Two years ago, the Arizona Cardinals quarterback called it quits, a decision about spending time with his family as much as the toll the game took on his body. But if he were to ever be up close to an NFL game again, the man revered for his toughness and competitiveness no doubt would feel as attached as ever.

Palmer couldn’t avoid attending the Cardinals-Seahawks game on Sunday.

Arizona inducted him into its Ring of Honor at State Farm Stadium, and before and after, the gameday emotions came spilling back.

“Just making the drive, making the right off the highway and the cones and the lights, I had done it so many times with guys in my car,” Palmer said before the game. “… We’d go to breakfast in the morning and then head in — just talking about the game and getting ready for the game.

“It’s a really weird feeling and a great feeling to be back. As you’re at home watching on TV, you forget all the emotions you have as you enter the stadium. The emotions haven’t changed for me.”

Arizona’s loss to Seattle on Sunday was just Palmer’s second NFL game he’s attended as a fan, he said. The last was the 1994 NFC Championship Game between Troy Aikman’s Dallas Cowboys and Steve Young’s San Francisco 49ers, when Palmer was in high school.

Palmer called the Cardinals’ decision to induct him into their Ring of Honor “a shock and an honor.”

The former quarterback thanked the fans and spoke of cherished Arizona memories that included everyone from Cardinals president Michael Bidwill to the parking lot attendant.

Palmer glossed over the fact that he oversaw one of the most successful runs in franchise history. The Cardinals went 38-21-1 with him at quarterback from 2013-17, making the 2015 NFC Championship Game.

“It wasn’t about statistics — not everything was about statistics,” Palmer said of his time with Arizona. “It was the most fun I’ve had playing football.”

Palmer likely found his way into the Ring of Honor so quickly following his retirement because of how he carried himself.

He didn’t act like USC’s golden boy or Heisman winner or the No. 1 pick or the successful NFL quarterback.

Palmer did know when to hold his teammates accountable. But he was also willing to dress as a flamingo after losing a quarterback bucket challenge. In other words, he’s never taken himself too seriously.

Asked where he keeps his Heisman Trophy these days, Palmer looked toward his son for help.

“Um … I have a garage-office. It’s in my garage,” he said. “We pulled it out a little while ago. It’s kind of up on a shelf — it’s actually behind some Yeti coolers that we’ve been using to go camping.

“Elle, my oldest daughter, the other day asked me, ‘What is that?’ I got halfway through the explanation and her mind was on something else so she just totally disrespected (me) and walked away.”

Palmer retired to improve his livelihood and that of his children. He also went about his NFL business trying to bring the best out of others, who, judging by his ex-teammates’ comments, he treated as family.

After the Cardinals’ 27-10 loss to the Seahawks, Palmer’s emotions again called back to his playing days.

As usual, it wasn’t about him. It was about the Cardinals team that he’s now forever attached to.

“Carson only cares about winning,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “When I talked to him after the game, he said, ‘Man, you guys need to win that game.’ That’s what he stood for, and that’s the reason we won 50 games in five years with him as our starting quarterback, because he believed in that. He worked like that every single day, and that was his mindset.”

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Carson Palmer’s selflessness shines as Cardinals put him in Ring of Honor