GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s been a while since Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer met the media on day one of training camp without big questions to answer, and the veteran understandably fely good about that Saturday.
"It’s awesome," Palmer said, provoking laughter.
Palmer enters camp with job security and stability around him he hasn’t experienced in quite some time as he spent the past few seasons changing teams, learning new offenses and dealing with general upheaval around him.
"It’s been a while since it’s been so stable around me," Palmer said. "It’s been five or six years. It’s nice to just focus on you and focus on your improvements."
That is not to say Palmer is worry-free as he begins his second training camp with the Cardinals, but with a season of coach Bruce Arians’ intricate offense under his belt, Palmer feels much more comfortable under center.
Palmer last year called the offense the most difficult he’d ever run, and it was apparent in his early season struggles. A strong second half in which Palmer cut down his interceptions inspired high expectations for him to make a leap this season after passing for more than 4,000 yards last year and throwing 24 touchdowns.
The stability of his position and the Cardinals’ offense as a whole — save some uncertainty on the offensive line — has allowed Palmer to focus on his own improvement rather than figuring out a whole system or worrying about others around him.
"Just being a very stable, even-keel mood coming out of July and OTAs and all that and now that camp’s here, I feel just different than I’ve ever felt," Palmer said. "It lets you play with a certain level of confidence, but it also just lets you play with some comfort knowing it’s not experimental this year."
The stability at quarterback and Palmer’s comfort level could allow the Cardinals to use more no-huddle offense this season, which it hardly did at all last year as everyone learned the offense. Palmer, who ran the no-huddle in Cincinnati, mentioned Saturday it has been discussed but only preliminarily.
As much as Palmer is enjoying the stability, he’s perhaps more excited about the wealth of talent around him, something he didn’t always have in Cincinnati or Oakland.
"This is by far the most talented team I’ve ever been on, top to bottom," Palmer said.
With the exception of two players on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list — safety Tyrann Mathieu and nose tackle Alamedia Ta’amu — the Cardinals opened camp with an exceedingly healthy roster.
"We’re injury free," Arians said. "Other than the two guys on PUP, we’re as healthy as I’ve ever seen."
Tight end Troy Niklas will spend about a week and a half in a soft cast but will participate. Linebacker John Abraham remained the only Cardinal absent Saturday as he tends to a personal matter.
The Cardinals won’t practice in pads until Monday, but Arians knows well after a long NFL career injuries can happen any time. He felt horrible hearing Friday’s news Vick Ballard, whom he coached with the Colts, will miss the season with an Achilles injury. Arians also knows teams cannot afford to take it easy in training camp, especially with just one practice per day.
"You’ve got to practice and hope the gods are smiling on you," Arians said. "You (cross) your fingers every day, but you have to practice and you have to get after it."
— Arians said it "remains to be seen" how much the Cardinals will use Patrick Peterson in the return game after the addition of speedster Ted Ginn, Jr. He said the team plans to utilize a combination of Peterson and Mathieu at times once Mathieu returns from a knee injury.
— With the NFL likely leaning on referees more this season to enforce rules on abusive language on the field, Arians feels such officiating is going a bit far.
"To me it’s a very touchy subject," Arians said. "Things will be said out there. There’s no place for derogatory or demeaning (comments). You have to watch what you’re saying now because there’s so many microphones involved. But for officials to try to officiate language, I think we’re stepping out of bounds."
— With position battles expected at both spots on the right side of the offensive line, Bobby Massie on Saturday worked with the first team at tackle and Paul Fanaika handled guard.
— Other personnel notes: With Abraham absent, Alex Okafor ran with the first team defense at outside linebacker. … Stepfan Taylor worked as the offense’s second-team running back. … Rookie safety Deone Bucannon worked as a linebacker in the nickel defense.