Carson Palmer

Written by Craig Morgan Category: Spotlight Issue: September 2013
Group Mid-Level
Character count 2500

The merry-go-round of mediocrity that was the Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback position mercifully ground to a halt in the offseason. Out: Kevin Kolb, Max Hall, John Skelton and three years of failed leadership at the game’s most important position. In: a Heisman Trophy winner with a proven track record of pro success.

Like Kurt Warner before him, Carson Palmer arrives in the desert as a phoenix of sorts: He came this close to retirement before forcing a trade from the somewhat hapless Cincinnati Bengals to the truly hapless Oakland Raiders two seasons ago, then was acquired by the Cardinals in April for the bargain price of two mid-round draft picks. With first-year coach Bruce Arians also in the fold, fans hope Palmer’s strong arm and deft touch on deep throws will open up an offense left stagnant by Warner’s retirement three years ago.

Restoring the Cardinals to playoff contention won’t be easy – the NFC West, once the doormat of the NFL, is now where swarming Seahawks and flexing 49ers abound. But a resurgent Palmer bodes well.

You’ve played for three teams that haven’t had much recent success. Did you ever think, “Boy, it would have been nice to get drafted by the Patriots”?
When you get drafted, you go where you’re taken. You’ve got to roll with the punches and learn as much as you can, try to grow as a player or person no matter what the circumstances are. In my time playing for the Bengals and playing for Oakland, I learned a lot. I proved a lot. Everybody has different career paths. Some people catch some momentum at the end of their careers, and that’s what I’m hoping to do here.

What keeps you busy when the game isn’t?
I have three young kids (Fletch, 4; Elle, 4; and Brees, 2). They take up a lot of time, but it’s good. My two main hobbies I really enjoy are playing golf and hunting. I learned to hunt in Ohio and almost became addicted to it. I hunted whitetail deer and turkey, and I’ve gotten into some duck hunting in the offseason.

You lost troubled former Bengals teammate Chris Henry in an auto accident in 2009. How did that alter your perspective?
Losing teammates is not something you know how to handle or really learn how to handle. For Chris to go the way he did, it was tough. He had been through so much. Everything in his life was great and then boom, like that, he’s gone. Selfishly, you look inside. You look at how you grow from that and the things you learn from that. I think everybody on our team kind of took a step back and realized that football is just football.

Do you believe changing teams can revitalize a player?
For sure. It happens with lots of guys, and it happens in every sport. This is a great time to be here. I couldn’t have timed it any better with (Cardinals president) Michael Bidwill taking over and (head coach) Bruce (Arians) coming in and some of the veterans that are here and have played in a Super Bowl – guys that have been so close and are so hungry.

How do you feel about the comparisons to Kurt Warner, who revitalized his career in Arizona when it looked like he might be done?
There’s definitely some similarities, but that’s all they are. We’re two different people on two different teams at a different time. It’s a totally different situation. He was coming off Super Bowl MVPs. At the same time, I can’t help but think about it, and I understand why people think about it and talk about it. When I’m asked about it I can’t help but think, “Man, I hope that happens.”

Do you think/hope this will be your last stop?
I hope it is and I think it is. I want to play at least two more years, and then I think every two years, once you get into your 30s, you sit back and look. But I still love the game. I love OTAs (offseason practices) and training camp and practices, meetings, watching film, interaction with [the] guys, working out, lifting weights. I love all that stuff. When I don’t, then it’s time to make a decision.