Carson Palmer is grateful that the Arizona Cardinals and his new teammates have embraced him following the quarterback’s offseason arrival.
But making friends isn’t atop Palmer’s priority list. Winning is – even if he has to ruffle some red feathers along the way.
That became obvious when Palmer downplayed praise Sunday from new head coach Bruce Arians about the leadership he has provided since being acquired in an April trade with Oakland.
“I haven’t really worried about whether guys are buying in,” Palmer told me and co-host Gil Brandt on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I’m going to lead by example and vocally. I’m going to run the offense and do what I have to do. I’m not going to worry about maybe making people uncomfortable or stepping on toes.
“That’s not my job to worry about that. My job is to worry about making sure we’re in the best circumstance possible on each play, make sure I’m doing things right, and the young guys are watching me and seeing me do things right.”
Plenty has gone wrong for Palmer and the Cardinals over the past three seasons. Palmer went 13-37 as a starter with Cincinnati (2010) and Oakland (2011 and 2012). Arizona is 18-30 during that span largely because of poor quarterbacking.
Arians believes he solved the problem for both parties when swinging a deal with the Raiders for Palmer, who reportedly forced his departure by refusing to accept a restructured contract. Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie also had said he was planning to open competition for the starting quarterback spot between Palmer and third-year passer Terrelle Pryor.
Palmer had a solid 2012 season statistically, throwing for 4,018 yards with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The Raiders, though, finished 4-12 with five losses by at least a three-touchdown margin.
He also was no longer paired with confidant Hue Jackson, who, as Oakland’s head coach, had acquired Palmer in a blockbuster 2011 midseason trade with Cincinnati. Jackson was fired at the end of that season. Palmer was left to work with a new head coach (Dennis Allen) and offensive coordinator (Greg Knapp), with the latter being fired following the 2012 campaign.
“It was a long year, kind of a year of transition really,” Palmer said of last season with the Raiders. “The Oakland franchise has gone through a lot in the past 12 to 18 months. They’re headed in the right direction now. I enjoyed my time there. Obviously, you don’t get to plan things out. But I think everything happens for a reason. I’m here now, and I believe it’s for a reason.”
Palmer said the Cardinals helped him get off on the right foot from the get-go.
“Sometimes going into a new organization, there’s a little bit of uncomfortableness,” he said. “You’ve got to get a feel for the city and the ins and outs. Everything here is run first-class. Guys show you around. Guys get you settled. Really, it’s been a very smooth transition since Day One.”
Palmer, though, admits he’s still adjusting to a new offensive scheme with the Cardinals in their first week of training camp. Asked what was different about playing in the system that Arians also employed as a coordinator during previous stops in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, Palmer said, “Everything. Absolutely everything.”
“I don’t know who else in the NFL is running this system, but it’s less than a handful of teams,” Palmer said. “I’m sure there are guys who have seen Bruce’s offense on film and taken some different concepts and implemented them into their schemes. But you don’t see what we’re doing.
“It’s good for a number of reasons. It’s not like the West Coast (offense), where people are formulating answers for it in the offseason. This is something teams don’t see very often. They’re not used to seeing the same concepts, these route combinations. Most of the league is so heavy with West Coast offense or old-school West Coast offense or really spread-them-out empty (backfield) packages. We’re doing something that’s pretty unique and special.”
Arians has no doubt that Palmer will adjust and help his new teammates do the same.
“He’s been fantastic,” Arians said. “The biggest thing is he brought leadership. He brought a belief in the locker room that we can win. He’s a proven quarterback. He’s been here night and day. First one in, last one to leave. That’s what you want out of your quarterback.”
What Palmer wants now is the first playoff win. He’s 0-2 in previous appearances and hasn’t played in the postseason since 2009 with the Bengals. Cincinnati went 4-12 the following year, and Palmer forced his way off the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2003 by announcing his retirement in the 2011 offseason.
Asked where he’s at in his 11-year NFL career, Palmer paused a second before answering.
“That’s a good question,” said Palmer, who turns 34 in December. “I’m with a new team, new offense, new excitement level. I feel like I’m just starting. I think that’s how you have to look at every year no matter how deep into your career you are. I’m fired up about this opportunity. I’m going to grab it and go after it.”