With high expectations, Carson Palmer looks to re-prove himself

Sep 7, 2016, 3:00 PM | Updated: Sep 13, 2016, 8:35 am
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3), Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian (13) and...
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3), Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian (13) and Broncos' Mark Sanchez (6) meet after an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 38-17. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Carson Palmer’s storybook 2015 came to a dreadful end at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The veteran QB who posted an MVP-caliber season with 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns was intercepted four times and lost two fumbles as the Cardinals were crushed 49-15 in the NFC Championship Game.

It was a bitter defeat, no doubt, especially with a trip to Super Bowl 50 on the line, but the 36-year-old has moved on.

“Nothing,” Palmer said Tuesday when asked about what part of last season still lingers for him. “Until I get asked about it, (I’m) talking about the Patriots. Last year is last year. This is a different team. There’s no lingering. I’m focused on today.”

Pressed on how he was able to get over last season, Palmer said it comes down to working on what needs to be improved on and preparing for what’s ahead of him. As for whether it’s easy to do that, he answered, “There’s no other choice.”

Some people may find all that difficult to believe, but anyone who has been around Palmer for any part of his tenure with the Cardinals has a decent understanding of how Palmer is able to turn the page, away from both the good and the bad.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he could tell Palmer was over the season-ending defeat when he saw the QB about five days after the game.

“There was never a doubt in my mind,” he said of his passer’s ability to get over disappointment. “He throws a pick in the fourth quarter, he just comes right back. So, it’s not a big deal for him.”

Indeed, the only times Palmer has even discussed any part of last season has been when he has been prompted by reporters, and while he has acknowledged the doubts some have over his ability to win in big games and understands the only way to quiet them is to play well in such situations, it does not seem to be a topic that consumes him.

“He’s such a great leader in that way and stuff, getting ready for the next deal that’s coming up, and that’s next season,” running back David Johnson said. “He’s definitely been able to motivate us, and especially get me ready for our first game.”

All offseason and training camp Palmer appeared to be the same player he’s always been, a hard-working, calm leader who the team very much believes in. It probably helps, though, that the QB who has also played for the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders sees this season as another chance to do something special.

“It’s just exciting,” Palmer said. “Knowing week in and week out, that if you go out and execute and play your best, you can beat anybody, because it’s not that way on every team.

“It’s, like I’ve said, a very unique group of guys. Guys that are great to come to work with, guys that aren’t just going through the motions. We don’t have that. We don’t have guys that are just happy to be on the team. We have guys who are fighting for a spot and want the guy in front of them’s job. We’ve got vets that are trying to prove themselves over and over again, even though they’ve already proved themselves. We’ve got a really good collection of the right-minded guys.”

Arians said Palmer’s level of enthusiasm has been evident, with a big factor likely being just how pumped Palmer is to be part of this team.

The Cardinals enter the season as not only Super Bowl contenders, but perhaps even the favorite. Top to bottom the roster appears to be as loaded as any in the league, and the offense returning every key skill player from last year has done nothing to dampen expectations.

“It’s great, because people are right,” Palmer said. “We are pretty good. Now we’ve got to go out and play it and prove it and back that up.

“But to be on a team that you know has a shot, that people are putting a circle around you on their schedule and a bull’s-eye on you — everybody in our division is just because we won it last year. So, it’s a good thing.”

While the knock on Palmer has to do with his ability — or inability, if you will — to handle high-pressure situations, he does not seem to be shying away from anything entering 2016. As a team, and this comes from Arians on down, the Cardinals have readily acknowledged just how good they can be, but have always noted none of it matters if they don’t go out and win football games.

Everyone knows, though, the Cardinals’ chances of reaching their potential rests on Palmer not only repeating what he did last season, but performing well in the playoffs.

So for all the doubt there may be, the truth is Arizona will only go as far as No. 3 takes them. And despite how last season finished, there does not seem to be any lack of confidence or belief in the former top overall pick.

“His leadership skills are tremendous,” Johnson said. “The way he helps out not just me, but he knows exactly — it’s so hard, I’d be watching — he knows exactly what every player has, every route that each player has; he knows exactly how to control the O-line and picking up the blitzes, helping them out that way.

“He just knows how to lead us, knowing exactly what to say to us in team meetings and break down huddles to keep us motivated, keep us ready for the game.”

He is not the only one with kind things to say about the QB.

“I can’t thank him enough,” receiver John Brown said. “He’s just a great guy overall and I’m willing to do anything for him. That’s how much I love him and have respect for him.”

Entering his 14th NFL season and with more than 40,000 passing yards, 259 touchdown passes and three Pro Bowl appearances already under his belt, Palmer is admittedly and obviously closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Last month, he signed a contract extension that runs through the 2018 season, but at his age playing is more of a season-by-season proposition.

He has accomplished plenty since entering the league in 2003, and could be on the precipice of reaching his ultimate goal. If he does, all remaining questions about him and his career will be answered.

Does he feel like he has something to prove? You bet.

“Every year. Absolutely. Absolutely,” he said. “You have to. You have to re-prove yourself every year as a quarterback, or any position, in this league.”

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