LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Matt Barkley's tenure in Arizona looks like a throwaway line in the quarterback’s official NFL biography.
After appearing in four games for Philadelphia, Barkley – the Eagles' fourth-round pick in 2013 – was traded to the Cardinals on Sept. 4, 2015, but never played in a game for Arizona.
Still, Barkley, who will make his third consecutive start for the Chicago Bears in Detroit, said on Wednesday that he made the most of his one-year spent in the desert observing Arizona's Carson Palmer -- a fellow former USC quarterback.
“I think it made me hungry,” Barkley said. “Seeing Carson work gave me a new perspective on what it means to be an NFL quarterback. Coming from a veteran with his experience and how he still works his butt off every day, harder than anyone else on the team, gave me a new perspective on the position and made me hungry to want to play.”
Barkley has been a pleasant surprise in Chicago. Except for a pair of red-zone turnovers against Tennessee, Barkley has played winning football the last two weeks. The 26-year-old quarterback did an excellent job navigating through sloppy conditions versus the 49ers – completing 11-of-18 passes for 192 yards and no turnovers in the Bears’ 26-6 victory.
“Our quarterback coach, Dave Ragone, has helped me tremendously, staying after practice, going through pretty much every script after every day,” Barkley said. “Getting the little things down with me when I wasn't playing. He's helped a ton. Learning from Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer, how they prepare, how they study has helped me grow as an NFL quarterback.”
However, Barkley faces a step up in competition on Sunday. The Lions (8-4) have won seven of eight and desperately need a victory over the Bears to maintain their lead in the NFC North. The last time Barkley played on the road, he went 6-of-15 for 81 yards and two interceptions in emergency duty after Hoyer suffered a season-ending injury at Lambeau Field on Oct. 20.
Barkley has grown considerably since his Bears’ debut, but questions remain about how he’ll fare in a hostile environment versus a playoff-caliber team.
“They have some different guys back that have definitely made their defense better,” Barkley said. “Some guys are out. But I’m confident in what we have prepared for them. It will be a challenge, no doubt about that. But I think if we’re consistent and we stick to what we do and move the ball just like we have been then we’ll have things open.”