With Carson Palmer healthy, Cardinals optimistic

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It’s not hard to figure the air of optimism at the Arizona Cardinals' training camp is at least somewhat tied to the return of quarterback Carson Palmer from a torn ACL.

Palmer, 35, played six games last season before the knee injury put him on injured reserve. The Cardinals won all six.

Training camp got underway with the first practice Saturday afternoon, and Palmer was cleared for all team activities and will take the typical amount of snaps with the first-team offense. Before the first practice, he said he never doubted he’d be back on the field.

“Not even a hint of doubt,” Palmer said. “I was cognizant of all the work ahead of me. But never for a second did I have a doubt.”

Palmer has dealt with a torn ACL before, getting injured in a 2006 playoff game against Pittsburgh. He also missed three games earlier in the 2014 season with a shoulder injury and rehabilitated both the shoulder and knee simultaneously so he can throw with more velocity.

“My arm has gotten stronger just from all those workouts I’ve been doing,” Palmer said. “It’s definitely stronger than it was last season.

“My past experience coming back from this injury is going to help me a lot. Just knowing how to feel, how I might feel after a couple of days in a row, the typical sorenesses that come along with the recovery from this surgery and all that,” Palmer said. “Having that history, I have a pretty good feeling about not worrying about it, not thinking about it, just going out there and practicing like it was any other year.”

Palmer looked strong in offseason workouts and after a confidence-building June minicamp, he convinced some of his receivers to come to California and work with him on timing and rebuilding the QB-receiver rapport.

Michael Floyd, John Brown and tight end Troy Niklas were among those who made the trip.

“His arm’s a lot stronger,” Floyd said. “He’s ready and I think we’re ready, too.”

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald also took notice of Palmer’s arm.

“He’ll overthrow John Brown a couple of times, overthrow [rookie] J.J. Nelson,” Fitzgerald said. “When you overthrow those guys, you know your arm is strong.”

So what else did Palmer do to help the Cardinals in the offseason? He helped recruit veteran tight end Jermaine Gresham to sign with Arizona. The two were teammates in Cincinnati in 2010.

“It’s big. He’s a mismatch against linebackers. He can be a mismatch against a safety,” Palmer said of the signing of Gresham. “He’s just such a big, physical presence on the field.

“I’ve talked to him over the years. I think he was looking for the right fit, and for a number of reasons we were the right fit. I’m always texting or recruiting when I can."

When the Cardinals suit up in pads for preseason games, Palmer will get his first hit from an opposing pass-rusher.

“I wouldn’t say looking forward, but you just kind of wait to get the first couple out of the way and move on,” he said.

Coach Bruce Arians said he’s not overly concerned with contact. He was also asked about the Cardinals’ window of Super Bowl opportunity and how open it is with Palmer under center.

“You can’t press it like that. You know that the window’s there and you’re on a damn good football team,” Arians said. “That’s the anxiousness; let’s get going. I think it would be totally different for him if he was on a very poor team. This locker room, it feels like we have a chance; let’s get the job done.”