TEMPE, Ariz. — Carson Palmer has worked with plenty of top-end receivers in his 10-year NFL career. He had Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens and T.J. Houshmandzadeh at various stages of his seven-year run in Cincinnati.
Despite that lengthy brush with greatness, Palmer is at a loss for words when trying to describe what he sees in Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
“I’ve been around him long enough to get a good feel for him, so that’s not the problem, but I still can’t put my finger on it,” the Cardinals quarterback said. “There’s not just one thing that separates him. He can do it all and he’s done it all, and yet he’s not finished. He’s just special.”
Fitzgerald’s special talents have been on display for nine seasons in Arizona, and he has topped 1,000 yards five times in the last six seasons. But those impressive stats are precisely why the presence of Palmer is so tantalizing in its possibilities.
Fitzgerald dropped to 798 yards, four TDs and a career-low 11.2 yards per catch last season when the Cardinals’ quarterback play was mostly abysmal. But what might he do with a more accomplished quarterback, even if that quarterback is not Kurt Warner?
“He can throw the ball,” Fitzgerald said emphatically of Palmer. “He’s got great touch on intermediate passes, he can put zip on them, or he can feather it in there. He’s got a tremendous arm, and then he’s got the intelligence and the experience to go out there and make plays.
“I’ve seen him do it. He threw for 4,000 yards in Oakland!”
Palmer insists that it is not too early to have already developed chemistry with Fitzgerald, even if the team just traded for Palmertwo months ago.
“You’d better have a rapport going and good chemistry by now,” Palmer said Thursday. “We’re through OTAs and we’ve been throwing all offseason.
“We could play together for 15 years and it’s never (going to be) perfect. It’s always a work in progress — something we’re trying to make better and better — but we have a good start going into vet minicamp, and that’s three more long hard practices where we get a lot of opportunities. That’s a good kickoff to training camp.”
Fitzgerald admitted that just about everybody is a bit behind the learning curve as they get familiar with coach Bruce Arians’ multi-faceted, multi-layered passing offense.
“We’re just trying to pick it up and learn all the nuances,” Fitzgerald said.
Arians is also being patient while Fitzgerald adapts to a new role in which he is playing all three receiver positions.
“It takes time … especially with Larry in multiple positions now,” Arians said. “That takes well into training camp before they’re very comfortable with where they’re headed on each play against each coverage.”
But there is one welcome change at quarterback that Fitzgerald believes has made an immediate impact.
“Just that veteran presence,” he said. “This offense is intricate, but having that veteran presence in the huddle and in the meeting rooms has been fantastic for me.”
Even in OTAs, Palmer is getting a sense of Fitzgerald’s tendencies.
“Just body language with routes,” Palmer said. “There’s a lot of reading on the run in this offense and seeing the same things and being on the same page for the right depths of routes and breaking in the right depths.”
And when Palmer makes a mistake or thinks that he and Fitzgerald are yet not on the same page, that’s when he gets occasional glimpses of Fitzgerald’s unique abilities.
“I threw him a ball today that he and maybe Megatron (Detroit’s Calvin Johnson) catch,” Palmer said. “He’s maybe not one of a kind, but one of two of a kind.