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Jul 29, 2016 8:01 PM

Palmer feeling 'as good as ever' as Cardinals open camp

The Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Carson Palmer will turn 37 before the coming football season is over and he sure doesn't look or act like someone closing in on the end of his career.

Speaking before the Cardinals' first training camp workout on Friday, Palmer said he feels "as good as I've felt ever."

It helps that he's surrounded by talent on a team he believes should be better than the one that went 13-3, won the NFC West and made it to the NFC championship game last season.

"I love what I see, absolutely," he said. "There's a lot of good football players in that locker room and guys recognize it and I think that's really important because a lot of times you can have young guys that don't quite realize the opportunity. But we have guys that realize that we have something special going on."

Coach Bruce Arians said that when he and Palmer joined the Cardinals in 2013, he figured the quarterback's window of opportunity was five years.

"But now I don't know if there is a window," Arians said. "... What he does physically training-wise is amazing. I've seen him get younger just since his knee injury. All what he did, his core, his entire body, the way he eats and all those things now. He's adding longevity to his career."

Palmer said that, from people he's talked to, quarterbacks know when the end of a career is coming when the mental grind starts getting to them.

"I still love that stuff," he said. "I love Mondays and Tuesdays, getting game plans and breaking down other teams and watching other quarterbacks. All that stuff is still not work to me."

And there's no sign of a hangover from that awful performance in the blowout loss to Carolina in the NFC title game.

Arians said Palmer dealt with that "just the same way he does from any other adversity, any other interception."

"His preparation from day one after the Carolina game has never changed," Arians said. "If anything, it's stronger. And the guys, they gravitate to him because of his resolve."

Besides, Arians said, Palmer had plenty of company in that ugly loss.

"It was coaches, it was everybody on the field," he said. "He threw an interception, but the fumbles were because somebody didn't block somebody. There were 53 guys that stunk that night, and 25 coaches."

Palmer doesn't think that game will set the tone for what's to come.

"We don't need motivation," he said. "This is a group that loves football. You talk about the group of guys in the locker room being special. It's a group that loves to work. It's a group that enjoys the game. It's not pulling teeth."

He must get accustomed to a rebuilt offensive line, with a new center (A.Q. Shipley), right guard (Evan Mathis) and right tackle (D.J. Humphries). But every player at the skill positions — wide receivers, tight ends, running backs — is back.

After an offseason of work, they return better than ever, Palmer said.

"We've grown leaps and bounds," he said. "We've taken big steps and strides. It's the same guys and, yeah, a bunch of guys have caught touchdowns and run touchdowns and all those things, but we're a totally different unit just because of our knowledge within the system."

Palmer is entering his 14th NFL season. The former No. 1 draft pick spent a lot of those years on mediocre teams, racking up big numbers but not victories. Last season, coming back from major knee surgery, he set personal bests in yards passing (4,671), touchdown passes (35) and passer rating (104.6), breaking the Cardinals franchise record in all three categories.

"It doesn't matter how good you play individually, if you lose it makes for a long week," he said. "But winning 13 games and being on streaks and being in a locker room after a win, coming into work on a Monday after a win, showing up on Sunday at an opposing team's stadium when you've won a bunch of games in a row and you know you've got them kind of in a mental pace that's to your advantage, is fun."

"... Being on a winning team makes you feel younger, for sure."

Arians, who used to talk about he and Palmer riding off into the sunset together, was asked about how long his window will be open.

"That's up to God. I don't know," the 63-year-old coach said in typical fashion. "The way I treat myself, not long."


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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