TEMPE, Ariz. -- Developing chemistry can be the difference between winning a championship and watching the playoffs from the couch.
It's the hardest thing to develop in team sports, regardless of the level. It can take a matter of days or months or a season to develop. Even longer. There's no formula. It just happens. But when it does, it's sports magic -- just watch the NCAA tournament.
The Arizona Cardinals tried to speed that process up March 11 when they signed left tackle Jared Veldheer. Veldheer spent two seasons protecting the blind side of Carson Palmer when the two played for the Oakland Raiders. Reunited in Arizona, Palmer and Veldheer already have a bond that's tough to break, one that Palmer called "extremely comfortable."
"With experience playing together, you know what you're getting," Palmer said. "You know you don't have to worry about that and when you do, you just step up because it's a wide rush and he knows where the quarterback's going to be in the pocket. He plays to the whistle. There's nothing you can say negative about him."
Their friendship is still strong, according to Palmer.
After Veldheer told Palmer he was going to be a free agent, all Palmer asked was that Veldheer consider Arizona. Apparently, that's all he needed to say.
In the days leading up to free agency, Palmer helped reassure Cardinals general manager Steve Keim that Veldheer was a good fit in Arizona by answering Keim's questions he already seemed to know the answer to. Even though they were separated for a year, the memory of playing with Palmer is still strong in Veldheer's mind.
"He's a great quarterback, great leader in the huddle, very smart," Veldheer said. "The tempo which he can play at is great to be part of. It's tough for other teams to kind of react and play with it."
But reuniting isn't going to be all birthday cake and daisies.
"Maybe some familiarity with me in the huddle, as far as calling plays and demeaor as the game goes on," Palmer said. "Maybe that'll be a little bit comforting but he's got to learn a new offense, a new system.
"There's a lot of new things to learn. It's not going to be real comfortable. I know BA's [Cardinals coach Bruce Arians] not a real comfortable [guy to] give you a hug, slap you on the butt, tell you 'good job.' He's going to demand a lot from Jared. We're going to put a lot of expectations on him and Jared was more than capable of those expectations."
There'll be small things that will click for Veldheer and Palmer right away -- movements, thoughts, looks.
When chemistry is there for the taking, it needs to be capitalized on. That's one reason the Cardinals signed Veldheer.
"I think it gives Carson a lot of satisfaction and relief that he knows this guy can play for him and has played for him," Arians said. "Like Steve said earlier, when Carson came to me, he said, ‘We've got to get this guy.' I trust him totally. He's a hard-working, tough hombre that likes to practice hard and play hard. He fit what we were looking for so it was easy.
"It was a no-brainer."