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Carson Palmer stable with Cardinals after 'chaos' in Oakland

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's easy for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer to look back on his 18 months in Oakland and talk about the good parts of being a Raider.

He loved living in the Bay Area. He raves about Raider Nation's commitment. He admires the shield.

He can say those things because he's in a better place now.

"I loved it," Palmer said. "There's something special about being a Raider. There's just something different and it's different than any other team and every guy that plays for the Raiders says that. So, it was an awesome experience, just timing didn't work out with everything that was going on with the salary cap and all the crazy turnover and all that.

"There was so much chaos. There were so many things with the roster that needed to change. It was just bad timing."

When Palmer was traded to Arizona in April 2013, he entered a stable environment for the first time since his early years in Cincinnati. But his arrival in the desert came with questions. The Cardinals, after all, were also a franchise notorious for losing and were coming off a five-win season. And, a few months earlier, they had hired a new coach in Bruce Arians.

"Then you see the way the GM [Steve Keim] and the head coach work and you see how the owner is super hands-on but not really," Palmer said. "He just wants to win and he wants to make sure he's got the right guys in the right spots, and he's done that."

The Cardinals, in all their losing, weren't the Raiders -- especially the Raiders of the past dozen years, the ones who recently fired their seventh head coach since their last trip to the Super Bowl in 2002.

When Palmer was traded from Cincinnati to Oakland at the trade deadline in 2011, he wasn't ready to give up football, despite telling the Bengals he'd rather retire than play for them. And, five days after being traded, Palmer was playing for the Raiders. He replaced Kyle Boller in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs -- two weeks before what the team had targeted for his first start. It was like being handed the keys to a car he didn't know how to drive.

"It was weird because we were getting beat pretty good at that point in the second half, this guy's going in and taking control of something with such an upbeat and positive attitude and getting everybody on the same page," said Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer, who played with Palmer in Oakland in 2011 and 2012. "And not being a part of the offense the entire season, he was still making sure he knew what routes receivers were running.

"It was just a step above literally going out there and having to draw some stuff up in the dirt, but it was awesome because he went out there and did it and there were no hitches in it."

Palmer lost his Raiders debut, but he finished 4-5 in his first, shortened season. Oakland barely missed the playoffs.

Despite Palmer's relative success, the Raiders asked him to restructure his contract in the offseason, and he obliged. Then coach Hue Jackson was fired by general manager Reggie McKenzie, who brought in his guy, Dennis Allen, to coach. Allen was fired this season after the Raiders started 0-4.

The losing continued in 2012, when Oakland went 4-12 and Palmer threw for 4,018 yards. After the season, the Raiders asked Palmer to take another pay cut. This time, he declined. About a week later, he was traded to the Cardinals.

By Week 14 of Palmer's first season in Arizona, he had already won eight games -- his total during his time in Oakland.

"It ended abruptly," Palmer said. "They obviously wanted to go in a different direction, and they expressed that to me when they wanted to, obviously, tear up my contract and they wanted to, obviously, move on and go with Terrelle Pryor and draft a young guy, and that's what they did. I have no hard feelings at all. I loved my time there."

If the stress of losing with the Raiders ever got to him, Palmer never let it affect him on the field.

"I think he handled it well," Veldheer said. "He never really let it show. Never let on if he was feeling any certain way about it. He never let it show up in practice and in the locker room. Really professional."

Almost three years to the date he was traded to Oakland, Palmer stood in front of his Cardinals locker and said his days in Oakland were a "difficult, difficult time to be successful."

"It was just an odd time," Palmer said. "There's no word. It was odd. One year, everybody had to get cut that was making anything over vet minimum because of the way all those contracts were front-loaded or back-loaded, whatever it was. New coach, new GM, it was just a weird time. Owner had died, the face of the organization. It was just an odd time and unfortunate. Selfishly, it was unfortunate."

Getting traded from one perennial bottom-feeder to another wasn't supposed to be how Palmer returned to the playoffs, but Arizona laid a blueprint last season for how to turn a franchise around. Palmer was one win from the postseason in 2013 and has the Cardinals off to a 4-1 start this season.

"We're just getting started," he said. "I'm getting started here.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. I think we're getting ready to define, hopefully, my time here and our time as a team."