Photo by Associated Press.
TEMPE — Carson Palmer knows he has every reason to believe this season could be his best.
The 36-year-old quarterback will be at the controls of a high-octane Arizona Cardinals offense that returns every player who gained a yard for the team last season.
Palmer said he’s “blessed” to play this long and to be on such a good team at this point in his career.
“I never would have guessed I would have gotten the opportunity to play for 14 years,” he said, “when I was that kid in the backyard with his helmet on, pretending like there are guys trying to tackle me.”
Just don’t ask him about how he got over his ugly performance in last season’s NFC championship game. He threw four interceptions and fumbled the ball away twice in the Cardinals’ 49-15 loss to Carolina.
It’s not a favorite subject.
He said he never thinks about it “until I get asked about it.”
“Last year is last year,” Palmer said after Tuesday’s practice. “This is a different team. There’s no lingering. I’m focused on today.”
How did he get over it?
“Just do it. You just move on,” Palmer said. “You start working on what you need to improve on, and preparing for what’s ahead, not what’s behind.”
Coach Bruce Arians said he knew Palmer was over it “the first time I saw him, about five days later.”
“There was never a doubt in my mind,” Arians said. “He throws a pick in the fourth quarter, he just comes right back. So it’s not a big deal for him.”
Palmer set franchise records last season for yards passing (4,671), touchdown passes (35) and passer rating (104.6) while directing the Cardinals to a 13-3 record and the NFC West title.
So expectations are sky high as the team prepares for its season opener Sunday night against the New England Patriots.
“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.”
It’s been an up-and-down journey since he was drafted No. 1 overall by Cincinnati so long ago.
“There’s no doubt I’m extremely blessed to be here,” Palmer said, “to be in this situation with this team because I know how hard it is, and how difficult it is, to find the right situation. ... It’s very rare, and getting to play this game so long is rare. I think that’s why I’ve enjoyed the end so much more than every part of the career.”
He hasn’t talked about how much longer he will play. He signed an extension that puts him under contract through the 2017 season and shows no sign of losing interest.
“He’s always been a junkie, a workaholic,” Arians said, “even more so now because I think he’s excited about the team he has. With two days off, he texted me about 30 times, so that’s a good thing.”
Palmer said it’s too early to say whether this team is better than the 2015 Cardinals, who led the league averaging 408.3 yards per game. But he knows it could be, maybe should be.
“It’s just exciting, knowing week in and week out, that if you go out and execute and play your best, you can beat anybody,” Palmer said. “It’s a very unique group of guys, guys are great to come to work with, guys that aren’t just going through the motions. We don’t have that.”
Two of the team’s best young players, running back David Johnson and wide receiver John Brown, have special praise for their veteran quarterback.
Johnson said Palmer had to tell him who to block before plays last season.
“He knows exactly what every player has, the route that each player has,” Johnson said. “He knows exactly how to control the O-line in picking up the blitzes, helping them out that way. He just knows how to lead us.”
Palmer took Brown under his wing early, taking him to the quarterback’s San Diego home to work out after Brown was drafted out of a small school, Pittsburg State.
“I can’t thank him enough,” Brown said. “He’s just a great guy overall. I’m willing to do anything for him, that’s how much I love him and have respect for him.”