Dealing Cards: Carson Palmer’s hamstring apparently still an issue

Oct 20, 2016, 5:27 PM | Updated: 10:22 pm

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws during the first half of an NFL football gam...

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — When Carson Palmer left in the fourth quarter of Monday’s 28-3 win over the New York Jets, there was some concern.

When it was announced that night that he had a hamstring strain — an injury which was later described by both he and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians as cramps due to some longer drives — people breathed easier.

Palmer was held out of Wednesday’s practice, but both he and Arians downplayed it, saying it was a scheduled veteran’s day off. That’s understandable.

Palmer was listed as a “limited” participant in Thursday’s practice, though just how much he actually did is anyone’s guess. Based on post-practice comments, it did not sound like he did a whole lot.

Arians did not speak to the media Thursday, and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin is never one to divulge much in the way of injury information. Goodwin did, however, say it’s not unusual for players to miss practice but be ready for the game.

“I’ve seen guys in the past not practice at all until Friday, Saturday — it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “I don’t worry about Carson. I don’t worry about anybody that’s nursing a minor boo boo here or there, but it is what it is. Carson is mentally always prepared. He was out there today, so we’ll be fine.”

The Cardinals have already played one game without Palmer this season — beating the 49ers 34-22 in Santa Clara as he sat out with a concussion — but no doubt would prefer to have their starter on the field with the Seattle Seahawks coming to town Sunday night.

In five games this season, the 36-year-old has completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 1,363 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Against the Jets on Monday, he completed 23-of-34 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown.

It was a promising effort after a couple of sub-par games, and even though he has missed some practice time this week, there is confidence that Palmer will be ready play Sunday so long as he’s physically capable.

“He’s fine,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He’s mentally into everything; he’s in the meetings, he’s talking, he’s communicating exactly what he wants to be done on Sunday.

“We’re all professionals; there’s guys who are going to be able to practice some days, sometimes they’re not going to be able to practice. But you have to be in tuned to what’s going on on mental, so he’s taking all the reps mentally and if he’s able to go on Sunday, we know he’ll be able to play at a high level.”

And if Palmer cannot go, Drew Stanton will get the nod. In place of Palmer against the 49ers, he completed 11-of-28 passes for 124 yards with two touchdowns, both of which went to Fitzgerald.

“Drew’s good,” Goodwin said. “Everybody trusts Drew. We’ve won games with Drew. No matter who’s playing — Drew, Carson, myself, you guys (the media) — it starts up front. As long as we do a good job and get the run going, it makes everything else easier. You can’t get get in this game and stink it up on first and second down and end up in third-and-long, it’s not a situation we want to be in.

“But Carson will be fine, Drew will be fine, I will be fine, we all will be fine. We’ve just got to play well as a team.”

Injury update

The biggest story in this regard was, of course, Palmer, but the entire injury report can be found here. For a second straight day, neither of receivers John Brown (hamstring) nor Jaron Brown (knee) practiced, though defensive lineman Ed Stinson (toe) returned in a limited capacity. Linebacker Gabe Martin was added to the injury report with a knee injury.

Jimmy Graham is a focus

When the Seahawks acquired tight end Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints before the 2015 season, it was a move many thought would take an already excellent team to even greater heights.

It did not work out that way, though, as Graham caught just 48 passes for 605 yards and two touchdowns before tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee in a Week 12 win over the Steelers.

The 29-year-old has bounced back this season, with 22 receptions for 355 yards and one touchdown in five games, and over the last three weeks has been targeted nine, eight and nine times. His reemergence is a big reason for why Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher believes the Seahawks have taken to the air a bit more this season.

“Jimmy’s healthy, finally, I think,” Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “That was a pretty tough injury to come back, from, and he’s a threat. We all know what he’s done when he was in New Orleans, and it’s vertical threats, it’s intermediate throws — it’s all that kind of stuff.”

In five seasons with the Saints, Graham was named to the Pro Bowl three times and was a first team All-Pro once. He nabbed double-digit touchdowns three times, and had nine in another season. He was the focal point of a dynamic offense, a unique threat from the tight end position, the likes of which the Cardinals have not really faced this season.

“He’s an exceptional tight end, there’s no doubt about it,” Bettcher said. “You’ve got to know where he’s at on first and second down, and on third down you’ve got to know where he’s at. Every down and distance, any field position.

“When you look at field position targets, he’s a key target with (Doug) Baldwin and situational football he’s a key target, just like Baldwin is.”

Of the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham’s 22 catches this season, 16 have gone for first downs.

“Jimmy is definitely becoming a huge focal point in the Seattle offense this year,” Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “You can tell he was a little bit behind last year, wasn’t getting as many targets as he was when he was in New Orleans, although it is a different offense. But when you bring that caliber of athlete over there into your offense you want to find a way to get him the ball, and I think last year, I don’t know if because he was hurt or if he was behind the 8-ball, but you can tell this year they are definitely getting him the ball.

“They have plays designed for him, getting him more involved early, so I guess that can give him confidence throughout the game. But he’s definitely involved in the gameplan a little bit more than last year.”

Cardinals $ LB Deone Bucannon noted how Graham is a big tight end who has great hands and makes plays, but noted they have played him before so this is not exactly a new experience for them.

The Cardinals faced off with Graham one time last year, and he was held to 41 yards on three catches in a 39-32 Arizona victory. In 2013, while he was still with the Saints and Bucannon was not yet in the NFL, Graham caught 10 passes for 179 yards and one touchdown in a 31-7 New Orleans victory.

Slowing him Sunday night will be key, and in preparing for him, Bettcher is planning on throwing a variety of defenders at the tight end.

“You’ll see some different guys on Jimmy, certainly,” he said. “By field position, by situation of the game, you’ll see some different matchups.  As you start watching you’ll see how those matchups unfold.”

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