Cardinals concerned Carson Palmer can't withstand onslaught of hits

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- One day last week, Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin woke up earlier than usual, thinking, like he often does first thing in the morning, about how to keep Carson Palmer upright and clean. Goodwin was in the office by 4:30 a.m., working on ways for his offensive line to protect Palmer better.

Whatever the line tried in last week's win against the San Francisco 49ers didn't work.

Palmer was sacked six times Sunday for the second straight week. He's been sacked 17 times this season, which leads the NFL. He’s also been hit 29 times, which is tied for seventh-most in the league.

"He can't be hit like this continuously," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald told ESPN. "That's just not possible. He's not going to be able to withstand it. Nobody would be able to withstand that kind of punishment.

"He's so tough to stand in there and hanging in there, and delivering the ball and still throw for 350 or whatever he threw for under that kind of duress. It's remarkable."

Palmer, himself, doesn’t get hung up on the number of hits he takes as opposed to the types of hits.

But his wife, Shaelyn, counts them all.

"Yeah, the wife always focuses on every one, but like I said before, it's those awkward ones, for every position," Palmer said. "Whether you are getting tackled as a running back or a wide receiver, those odd injuries come from when you hit the ground oddly and the way you get landed on top of oddly. That's where those injuries seem to come from."

It's the potential of one of those injuries that has right tackle Jared Veldheer most concerned.

Veldheer doesn't want to see Palmer take any hits, not just because they'll add up over time on Palmer's aging 37-year-old body, because one wrong hit could mean a disaster for Palmer and the Cardinals.

"You don't ever want to get the quarterback hit," Veldheer said. "Your guy gets past you, you see him running to the quarterback, that's a bad feeling because you never know.

"We just need to eliminate guys getting back there and keep him healthy."

But Veldheer knows his words can only go so far.

"I think more than saying anything, it's just showing him that we're going to keep working to fix it," Veldheer said. "We're not going to quit. We're going to take everything to heart. We take a lot of pride in protecting him."

The offensive line's most glaring issue isn't effort, Veldheer said. It's "technique stuff," positioning and the intangibles.

Even taking a career high of sacks through Week 4, Palmer has gotten off to the best start of his career through four games.

By Wednesdays, Palmer is typically close to normal. He credits his quick recoveries to a "good routine." But there's no secret: Getting hit fewer times would do his body good.

"As far as a secret to getting hit, the secret is to not get hit," Palmer said. "I don't know any secrets about getting hit."

Though it doesn't keep Goodwin up at night -- he just wakes up thinking about Palmer getting pummeled -- it's been a major focal point for him and the offensive this season.

To a large degree, Goodwin is helpless standing on the sideline. Even more so when two starters are out, one for the long term and one for the short term. Left tackle D.J. Humphries, the man charged with protecting Palmer's blind side, has been out since Week 1 with an MCL injury, which he aggravated in his comeback attempt last Thursday. Left guard Mike Iupati was placed on injured reserve with an elbow injury that will require surgery to repair.

John Wetzel has replaced Humphries and will continue to start in his place as he recovers. Alex Boone replaced Iupati in Weeks 2 and 3 but suffered a pectoral injury that kept him out of Sunday's win against the 49ers. Rookie Will Holden -- the backup's backup -- started his first career game in place of Boone, who's expected to return Sunday in Philadelphia.

With a patchwork offensive line, Goodwin still expects it to keep Palmer as protected as he would be with the starters.

"I don't want to see him get hit," Goodwin said. "That's the last thing I want to see. (Cardinals president) Mr. (Michael) Bidwill is paying that guy a lot of money and we know, as far as we're going to go as a team, that guy's a part of it.

"We've got to keep him upright and do a better job."