TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — For the third time in his 11 NFL seasons, Carson Palmer is about to make his debut with a new team.
The former No. 1 draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals has racked up some impressive statistics in his decade of pro football, but the losses have outnumbered the wins.
Now, at 33, he has another new beginning as quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals. Expectations outside the organization aren’t high, given the fact that the team was 5-11 a year ago and plays in a division that includes NFL powerhouses San Francisco and Seattle.
But Palmer and his 60-year-old coach Bruce Arians are conceding nothing.
Rebuilding? Forget it.
“There’s no patience,” Arians said. “I have no patience.”
At their age, Palmer and Arians are aiming to win now, skeptics be darned.
“It means a great, great deal to him,” Arians said of the coming season for Palmer. “This is his last hurrah, as it is mine, so he wants to go out as a winner and I do, too.”
Arizona’s quarterback situation was a mess when Arians was hired to replace the fired Ken Whisenhunt after the Cardinals lost 11 of their last 12 a year ago. First, the Cardinals signed Drew Stanton, who had been Andrew Luck’s backup when Arians served as interim head coach with Indianapolis last season.
For the longest time, Arians insisted he was comfortable with Stanton as his starter, even though the quarterback hadn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2010. But then came the news that Oakland was looking to trade Palmer, and Arizona picked him up for a mere sixth-round draft choice. Signed to a two-year, $16 million contract — with $10 million guaranteed — Palmer came to town knowing he would be the quarterback the Cardinals sorely needed.
Palmer enters the season seventh among active quarterbacks in yards passing with 29,465. The list of those ahead of them is interesting — Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matt Hasselbeck, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger. All have had playoff success. All but Hasselbeck have Super Bowl victories.
Palmer, though, has toiled for bad teams much of his career. As a starter for Cincinnati and Oakland, he has 54 victories and 68 losses. He made two postseason appearances with Cincinnati in 2005 and 2009. They are the only winning seasons in his pro career. In 2005, he was knocked out of the first playoff game with a severe knee injury on his second snap. He came back the following season to make the Pro Bowl and was that game’s MVP.
An elbow injury limited him to four games in 2008, but the following year he had the Bengals back in the playoffs, but lost to the New York Jets in the first round.
He threw for 3,970 yards in his final season with Cincinnati in 2010 but the team went 4-12. He asked to be traded and, in a dispute with Bengals ownership, failed to report to training camp. Three months later, the Bengals relented and sent the disgruntled QB to Oakland for a first- and second-round draft pick.
He was 4-5 as a starter with Oakland in 2011 and had his third 4,000-yard passing season in 2012, but the Raiders were 3-13 and Palmer did not figure in the rebuilding plans of that long-suffering franchise. The Raiders virtually gave him to the Cardinals.
The losing has worn on Palmer.
“Winning is so important, and the stats aren’t,” he said before Wednesday’s practice. “You get to the point where you don’t enjoy the wins as much as you hate the losses.”
He has called Arians’ offense the most challenging he’s ever learned, but he loves the coach’s philosophy of throwing far downfield at every opportunity.
In his 21 years as an NFL coach, Arians has worked with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Luck. He says Palmer compares well with those stars.
“He’s right there because he has got that fire to win,” Arians said. “The great ones have that passion for the game, the intensity. `No matter if you’re playing golf, tiddlywinks, cards in the locker room — I’m winning. He is a classic drop-back quarterback. He’s still very athletic enough to move between the tackles, like Peyton, like Tom Brady. He’s smart enough to get the ball out of his hands, so he’s more than capable.”
The biggest question is whether the Cardinals can keep him upright. Arizona gave up a league-worst 58 sacks last season, and the retooled offensive line took a major blow when first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper, the starting left guard, was lost for the season when he broke his left leg in the third preseason game.
Palmer, meanwhile, doesn’t buy into Arians’ “last hurrah” description.
“I don’t’ want to feel like that,” he said. “I want to play this year, and then hopefully a bunch more years. I’m also a realist, and I understand that’s not possible, but I don’t want to think anything is coming to an end.
“I’m excited that this is starting, the season is starting, this new era for this organization is starting with Bruce and all the coaches and players they have brought in. I’m excited about a start, not about seeing an end.”
Arizona opens its season Sunday at St. Louis.
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