TEMPE, Ariz. -- Carson Palmer has heard this narrative before.
First, it was he couldn’t win, accruing just two winning seasons before 2013.
Then, it was he couldn’t win in the playoffs, having gone 0-2 in the postseason before last season.
Now, after the Arizona Cardinals were blown out in last year’s NFC Championship Game, it’s Palmer can’t win the big game.
“You can’t win the big game until you win it,” Palmer said after Tuesday’s opening OTA practice. “We’ll revisit that when we get back to the NFC Championship, and that will be that.
“Right now, I’m focused on what we’re doing today. What’s going in tomorrow, what’s getting coached up today in this afternoon meeting and moving on tomorrow. When we get to the NFC Championship Game, we’ll talk about that again then.”
While the questions about not winning in the NFL’s limelight are just beginning, Palmer said he embraces the expectations levied on a quarterback.
“I don’t look at it as a negative,” Palmer said. “That’s the challenge. I love this position. I love this game because there is no better challenge -- maybe having the lead on Sunday at Augusta and trying to hold on to that, so that’s an incredible challenge. Playing quarterback in the National Football League, getting to the Super Bowl is an incredible challenge.
“I enjoy the challenge; that’s why I’m still playing. I fiend for it. You get addicted to it. It’s part of playing this position. That’s why a lot of guys start playing the quarterback position. That’s why I play it. I enjoy that. I enjoy working to prove doubters wrong. I enjoy waking up every morning and trying to improve on something. That’s why I play the position.”
The lessons from playing that far into January for the first time in his career were limited for Palmer. The biggest takeaway was learning that playing football in the dead of winter was “different.”
“But knowing a lot about the game, knowing a lot about this league, how it works, there were no huge surprises like that,” Palmer said.
Palmer can’t forget that drubbing by the Panthers earlier this year. He said a season-ending loss has the ability to linger for a year or three, or maybe for a lifetime, but he won’t let it. Coach Bruce Arians said he saw Palmer move on from it in about a week -- much less time, Arians said, than it takes coaches to stop dwelling on it.
The Cardinals will have a shot at revenge -- albeit not on the same stage -- Oct. 30, when they play at Carolina. It’s one of the games Palmer already has circled on the schedule.
No matter how many points Arizona wins or loses that game by, it still won’t be the NFC Championship Game. Palmer will have to wait until late January to rewrite the latest narrative of his career. Until then, Palmer will continue to get asked the same question.
Can he win the big game?
“You got to get to the big ones first,” Arians said. “That was his first championship game and for all of us. Hopefully we’ll get back there and we’ll all have a little better experience level.”