Quar­ter­back Palmer feels strong af­ter lim­it­ing off­sea­son throws

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - TENNIS/FOOTBALL/HOCKEY -

GLEN­DALE, Ariz. — For the first time in his ca­reer, Carson Palmer aban­doned his usual pat­tern and didn’t throw at all for sev­eral months.

The 37-year-old quar­ter­back says the re­sults are ob­vi­ous as he be­gins his fifth train­ing camp with the Ari­zona Car­di­nals.

“It’s hard to ex­plain. You just feel bet­ter,” Palmer said be­fore the team went through its first train­ing camp prac­tice Satur­day. “You feel like you have more zip, more ve­loc­ity. ... I feel like I can go out and throw 150 balls in prac­tice (which he said he won’t do). I don’t think I felt that way com­ing into camp last year.”

Af­ter their dis­ap­point­ing 2016 sea­son, the Car­di­nals aren’t get­ting much na­tional at­ten­tion this year. Ex­perts point to Palmer’s age and the fact his play di­min­ished a year ago af­ter his out­stand­ing 2015 cam­paign.

Palmer is en­ter­ing his 15th NFL sea­son and said when he was younger he never dreamed he would play so long.

“In foot­ball years, I think it’s per­ceived once you get to 35 you’re old,” he said, “but if you can still put it on ev­ery day and play and work out and train and pre­pare men­tally, I look at is as be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced and ma­ture.”

Coach Bruce Ari­ans ac­knowl­edged that a team’s suc­cess is usu­ally tied to the play of its quar­ter­back.

“I’ve been for­tu­nate to be around some re­ally, re­ally good ones,” he said. ‘It’s al­ways fun go­ing to prac­tices and go­ing to the sta­dium on Sun­day when you have a good one. When you don’t have one, it’s rough.”

So, much of any suc­cess Ari­zona has this sea­son will de­pend on Palmer, who is used to that kind of scru­tiny.

“You get prob­a­bly a lit­tle ner­vous at first as you’re com­ing up,” he said, “but you get kind of ad­dicted to it and en­joy it and en­joy the pres­sure that comes with the po­si­tion.”

Palmer had his best sea­son as a pro­fes­sional in 2015, throw­ing for 4,671 yards and 35 touch­downs, both ca­reer highs, with 11 in­ter­cep­tions. He guided the team to a 13-3 record and an ap­pear­ance in the NFC cham­pi­onship game, a loss at Carolina.

The team had vir­tu­ally ev­ery­body back last year, but stag­gered to a 1-3 start and fin­ished 7-8-1.

Palmer had his sixth ca­reer 4,000-yard pass­ing sea­son (4,233), but his TD to­tal dropped to 24 with 16 in­ter­cep­tions. He was bet­ter the last half of the sea­son, af­ter Ari­ans started giv­ing him off for Wed­nes­day’s prac­tice.

That led to the de­ci­sion to se­verely limit his throw­ing in the off­sea­son. Palmer said he fol­lowed or­ders.

“I’ve been play­ing so long you get so in­grained in throw­ing in March, April and June,” he said, “and then to not do it is just odd. It just feels like some­thing’s wrong. But I lis­tened to ex­perts, like coach Ari­ans. ... I lis­tened to their ap­proach and I’m all in.”

It re­mains to be seen how elim­i­nat­ing those off­sea­son throws will help Palmer as the sea­son goes on. But Ari­ans liked what he saw when Palmer re­sumed throw­ing in the fi­nal OTAs and mini­camp.

“He’s stronger than he’s been in a while,” Ari­ans said. “He worked out the whole time. It was ob­vi­ous when he did prac­tice in mini­camp it was a re­ally, re­ally high ve­loc­ity. So just main­tain that.”

Much is be­ing made of that “win­dow of op­por­tu­nity” nearly clos­ing for this group of Car­di­nals. This could be the fi­nal go-round for the trio of Ari­ans, Palmer and Larry Fitzger­ald. One or more of them might re­tire af­ter this sea­son.

Palmer said he doesn’t know how much longer he will play.

“I still love it,” he said. “I’m ex­cited to be here. I’m ex­cited for train­ing camp. Maybe when you re­ally start dread­ing train­ing camp that’s a good first sign, but we’ll see.”

Palmer of­ten has team­mates come to San Diego for in­for­mal work­outs in the sum­mer. He did so with David John­son and wound up cut­ting John­son’s hand with a hard throw a month ago.

“I felt pretty bad, but he wasn’t wear­ing gloves, so I can put a lit­tle bit of blame on him,” Palmer said. “But I felt bad be­cause we washed it with the hose and then I started think­ing ‘man, that’s prob­a­bly not the clean­est water in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia out of a hose to be wash­ing all the blood off your hands.’ “

Ari­ans said he had a few words of ad­vice when he heard about it.

“Don’t throw so damn hard to him,” Ari­ans said, “and David, wear your damn gloves.”

AP/BOB LEVERONE

Ari­zona Car­di­nals’ Carson Palmer is sacked by Carolina Pan­thers’ Kawann Short on Oct. 30 in Char­lotte, N.C.

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