Arizona Cardinals’ Carson Palmer: ‘I’m mentally prepared, I’m mentally strong and I’m going to grind this thing out’
TEMPE, Ariz. — Carson Palmer said he knew what happened the moment it happened.
“I didn’t need an MRI or an X-Ray; I felt a pop,” he said. “So I knew that that was my last time on the field this year.”
Palmer, the quarterback who guided the Cardinals to a 10-6 record last year and was undefeated in five starts this season, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. The injury hurt more emotionally than it did physically.
Palmer will be placed on injured reserve, meaning his season is now done. He suffered no damage to his MCL or cartilage, and is looking at a return sometime around June or July of next season.
The quarterback missed three games earlier this season with a dead nerve in his shoulder, and that was a frustrating time for the 34-year-old signal caller. But while that injury had an uncertain timetable, it was always believed he was going to return this season.
But there is no expectation of a return this time. Not with this injury.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “You know…it’s…I’m not going to lie, I cried like a baby [Sunday] night and I’m not an emotional guy. I don’t cry.
“The last time I cried like that was when I lost my friend and teammate Chris Henry back in ’09.”
That isn’t meant to trivialize losing a friend or anything; it just goes to show how crushing this is to Palmer, a player who seemed to have finally found the perfect situation after what had been a fairly tumultuous handful of years in his career.
He was finally on a team he felt could win a Super Bowl.
“As you could tell all season long, I’ve been deflecting those questions because you can’t start thinking about that now,” he said of the belief the team was a contender. The QB pointed to how how the team responded after he got hurt Sunday, with 21 unanswered points — including 14 from the defense — as exactly what a Super Bowl team does.
“You don’t see that,” he said. “There’s something special about this group, and like I said before, one thing I’ll miss most is this opportunity that does not come along often. It does not come along very often.”
And to think, he had just signed a three-year contract extension on Friday.
Palmer said his emotions have been on a roller coaster the last few days; having gone from being honored and excited about the contract to crushed by the fact that what has been such a fun season to be a part of has come to a close, at least for him.
“That’s probably the toughest part is I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had in my entire career,” he said. “I’m on the best team I’ve ever been on, a phenomenal group of guys from the top down.
“From the guys in the locker room, the guys in the training room, the guys in the weight room, the equipment room; the owner’s phenomenal, the GM’s phenomenal, the coaches, everybody. It’s such a great place that I hope this is my place next year.”
Though conventional wisdom would say while Palmer’s season may be done his career in Arizona is not, the veteran said he understands that the NFL is a business and no matter what, the team will do what is best for its own interests — as it should. But chances are that means keeping Palmer, who has accumulated a 16-6 record as a Cardinal while completing 63.2 percent of his passes for 5,900 yards with 35 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.
“Me, personally, it’s hard,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said of his feelings about Palmer’s injury. “I knew walking out on the field what I was going to find. You’re pulling for a guy because he put so much into it to get into the playoffs and win some games and maybe go all the way because you know what it means to him at this point of his career, and you don’t know what next year brings as far as the team.
“This team is special. We’ll miss him on the field, but his leadership will still be there.”
If there is a silver lining to any of this, besides the fact that the team has confidence in backup Drew Stanton after he guided the team to a pair of wins earlier this season while Palmer was out, it’s that the quarterback has gone through this before. In 2006, while a member of the Bengals, Palmer suffered a similar injury to the same knee when Pittsburgh’s Kimo von Oelhoffen tackled him low and late after a pass.
Palmer returned to play all 16 games the following season, and that was following what Palmer said was a more intense injury. Back then, Palmer said his knee had to remain locked for six weeks following the operation to repair the ACL. With this injury, he said, range of motion is supposed to return right away.
“I’m mentally prepared, I’m mentally strong and I’m going to grind this thing out,” he said. “I know the mindset you need to take, and that’s the one day at a time thing and it’s baby steps and it’s doing calf raises and small, little incremental movements and all these little tedious things that you don’t feel like are doing anything, but you have to do them and you have to do what they tell you to do.”
Palmer said there has been no decision made yet on who will perform the surgery, but that when it happens the doctor will use part of his patellar tendon to fix the ACL. Arians said the operation is likely a couple weeks off as they want to wait for the swelling to go down first.
Once it’s done –assuming Palmer can get around on crutches — Arians said he’s hopeful the QB will be around the team and on the sidelines, a la Darnell Dockett (who is also out with a torn ACL). That seems to jive with Palmer’s plan, who noted that just because he will not play anymore does not mean he can’t contribute.
“I’ve already started figuring out ways of when I can present kind of my coverage stuff and my blitz stuff and how I can help, because you want to help, but you don’t want to be in the way, and I don’t know how to deal with that,” he said. “But I’m not going to stop leading and stop being vocal and stop doing the things I do, whether I’m the starter or I’m the I.R. quarterback.
“I get a feeling from my teammates that my opinion and my voice are valued. I’ll lead any way I can. It’s going to be obviously different, because I’m not going to be out on the field and in the middle of it, but I’m going to do everything I can to help anybody I can out.”