Cardinals' Arians, Palmer team up for 'last rodeo'
Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has worked with some pretty good quarterbacks in his coaching career - Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck.
Now, with Arians at age 60 in his first full season as an NFL head coach, his quarterback is 33-year-old Carson Palmer.
''Like I told him,'' Arians said on Saturday, Day 2 of the Cardinals' training camp, ''this is a cowboy movie with two old guys, this is our last rodeo in the desert.''
Palmer has arrived highly motivated. At this stage of his career, he's not interested in a long rebuilding project. It's about winning now, he said. No matter what it will have to come in the NFC West, arguably the toughest division in the league.
While there is much work to do, he said, he senses the same sentiment among his teammates.
''The one good thing you look at is that guys are flying around, guys are excited to be out there, guys are excited to get going,'' Palmer said. ''There's not the attitude of `Let's get through camp,' there's an attitude of `Let's get better.'''
Palmer is entering his 13th NFL season, his 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame battered in his years with the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders. The Cardinals, in dire need of a quarterback after a disastrous 2012 season, sent only a sixth-round draft pick to Oakland to get Palmer, then signed him to a two-year, $16 million contract.
Last year, Palmer had the third 4,000-yard passing season of his career, but the Raiders were usually trying to come from behind, limping to a 4-12 record. It was clear Palmer's two-year stay there was over. Arizona loomed as probably the final destination in a career with big numbers not a lot of success in terms of wins and losses. In 122 career starts, Palmer is 54-68.
In yet another training camp, Palmer said it's back to basics for him.
''Early stages one of the things I'm always focused on is mechanics and footwork,'' he said. ''That's something you can't get enough work on. You can't get coached enough on it. You can't get enough reps. It's something I'm consistently looking at.''
He's also keeping up his work on the playbook, even though he's been studying it all offseason, through a series of formal and informal workouts.
He wants to ''feel better about the play as it's coming into my head and I'm going through my reads and going through my decisions before I make the call in the huddle,''' Palmer said. ''And a whole bunch of other things. There's a ton of work to do by everybody in that locker room.''
Timing with the receivers is less of a problem. The quarterbacks and their targets had an informal workout last month just to stay sharp. Palmer throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd, among others.
''There really wasn't a big lapse in timing where we have to get back on the same page,'' Palmer said. ''I think that's one really good thing about getting together in the month of July is you keep that rhythm and you keep improving it.''
There is always a bit of dread for veterans going into camp. Palmer said he feels that less so this year than in any other. Such is the rejuvenating nature of a fresh start.
''We need to keep the attitude we have right now in week two, week three, week four,'' Palmer said, ''because we have an attitude now where we're just trying to get better.''
After a severe knee injury and the inevitable consequences of age, Palmer is not a mobile quarterback. Keeping him upright will be the main task on an offensive line still in the making.
There is competition at both tackles and the projected starter at left guard, first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper, is absent in a contract dispute.
Palmer said it's ''a fine line'' between the benefits of having tough competition and the rewards of having good, experienced chemistry on the line.
Arians said that the blocking scheme will take into account Palmer's lack of mobility.
''You build it around the abilities of the guy,'' Arians said. ''He's still athletic but he's not going to be the scrambler that say Ben or Andrew were, more in Peyton's mode - move yourself within the pocket, get the ball out, don't take sacks.''
As Palmer noted, there's always optimism at this point.
''It's a great feeling in the locker room,'' he said. ''It's only Day One.''
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