Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Forget Larry Fitzgerald for a moment, this week has been full of Carson Palmer updates.

And Thursday brought another one from the NFL combine in Indianapolis, this time from Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.

Palmer is “at least three to four weeks” ahead of schedule, Arians said.

“He’s doing extremely well,” Arians said. “He’s working his tail off.

“He keeps talking about minicamp, being ready to go, and we’ll see how he progresses (to determine) whether or not we allow him to do anything this spring.”

After speaking to the media at the podium Thursday, Arians said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that the Cardinals would be “guarding” Palmer “real close” during organized team activities (OTAs). Thursday marked three months and 10 days since the Arizona Cardinals quarterback tore his left ACL against the St. Louis Rams in Week 10.

“He wants to get out there for that,” Arians said.

“I think minicamp at the end of OTAs is a better shooting point for him.”
While his combine news conference was dominated by Larry Fitzgerald's new two-year contract, Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said the man throwing to Fitzgerald may be back sooner than expected.

Keim said at the combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday that quarterback Carson Palmer could return from ACL surgery as soon as this spring.

“We anticipate that not only is Carson ahead of schedule, we think there’s a good chance he could potentially be ready for OTAs even,” Keim said.

Palmer expressed a similar sentiment to ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder on Tuesday, saying he’ll “definitely” be prepared for training camp. But that won’t keep Keim and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians from evaluating this year’s crop of 15 quarterbacks.

Outside of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, who are widely projected to go first and second, in any order, in this year’s draft, the quarterback crop isn’t as deep as in past years.

“We’re always going to evaluate quarterbacks in the draft,” Keim said. “That is a position that we have talked over and over about -- supply and demand. When you get your starting quarterback injured, and then you go through your second quarterback … we have talked a lot about there’s not 32 good ones, let alone to go to 64 to play with your backup, to play with your third-string quarterback.

“So, it was a unique situation this year.”
TEMPE, Ariz. – Carson Palmer's recovery from ACL surgery appears to be going smoothly.

Palmer told ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder that he’s “feeling great” more than three months after suffering the injury in Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams.

Palmer also told Werder that he expects to be cleared for on-field work and running in the next few weeks. The 35-year-old feels he’ll be ready to participate in minicamp and said he’ll “definitely” be prepared for training camp.

But that’s only if the Cardinals will allow Palmer to take the field for minicamp and OTAs.

Palmer missed 10 games last season – three for a nerve injury in his right throwing shoulder and seven games after his ACL injury. Palmer suffered the knee injury just two days after signing three-year extension worth $50 million extension.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Teams have less than a month to get their top 51 salaries under the 2015 salary cap, which has yet to be determined, by March 10, when the new league year begins.

The Arizona Cardinals top 51 salaries are currently worth $148.9 million, with four players -- Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell and Carson Palmer -- eating up 45.4 percent of that sum.

Over the next 11 days, the Cardinals’ salary-cap situation will be broken down here by position.

First up, quarterbacks:

Carson Palmer

Cap hit: $14.5 million

Final season under contract: 2017

Cash value: $10.5 million

Notes: Palmer is due a $9.5 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year.

Drew Stanton

Cap hit: $3.9 million

Final season under contract: 2015

Cash value: $3.2 million

Notes: Stanton is entering the final year of his contract.

Logan Thomas

Cap hit: $618,023

Final season under contract: 2017

Cash value: $510,000

Notes: Thomas will earn his lowest salary this season of his four-year rookie contract.

Currently no tsigned for 2015: Ryan Lindley
TEMPE, Ariz. -- In the four days since the Seattle Seahawks' threw on second-and-goal from the 1-yard-line with 26 seconds left in Super Bowl XLIX instead of running, that decision has been dissected and discussed every which way.

After breaking down the Arizona Cardinals' play calling from their opponents’ 1, it’s unlikely that Arizona coach Bruce Arians would’ve called a pass in that situation.

The Cardinals were on the 1-yard line seven times in 2014 and ran five times, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They scored four times, but just once on a pass, when Carson Palmer hit running back Andre Ellington in the right flat at Dallas.

The other three touchdowns were on the ground:
  • Jonathan Dwyer scored in Week 2 at the New York Giants to put the Cardinals up 7-0.
  • Ellington scored on a run against Philadelphia in Week 8 that tied the game at 7.
  • Rookie Marion Grice pounded it in at Dallas to extend Arizona's lead 28-10.

Before both of Arizona’s touchdowns from the 1 in Dallas, the Cardinals were 0-for-3. Palmer’s touchdown throw came after a run and a pass came up short. Grice was stuffed on his first run.

Compared to the rest of NFL from the 1-yard line, the Cardinals were just about in line.

There were 318 snaps from the 1 this year and 103 passes were attempted (32.4 percent) compared to 212 runs (66.7 percent), with three sacks. Teams made all nine field goals they attempted from the 1. Teams scored 61 touchdowns in the air and 122 on the ground.

During the regular season, the Seahawks were at the 1 eight times and ran six, threw once and were sacked once. They scored on three of those plays -- on runs by Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson, and another on a pass by Wilson to Tony Moeaki.
PHOENIX -- Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is two months removed from surgery to repair his left ACL and is already “so far” ahead of schedule, coach Bruce Arians said.

Palmer
Arians said on SiriusXM NFL Radio from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, that Palmer could return to the field by spring.

“He’s hoping to be back for the mandatory minicamp,” Arians said Tuesday. “I wouldn’t put it past him to be to be out there in some of the OTAs.”

A typical recovery from an ACL surgery can take anywhere from six to nine months, depending on a few factors including age and severity of the injury. Palmer was initially expected to return in June or July.

Arians also said backup quarterback Drew Stanton “should be ready to go” after a right knee injury caused him to miss the last three games of the season, including Arizona’s wild card loss.
With the Arizona Cardinals' loss in the playoffs still fresh in their memories, it’s time to review the 2014 season, while previewing 2015. Over the next 11 installments, I’ll look back, and then ahead, at every position for the Cardinals.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsCarson Palmer was undefeated as a starting quarterback this season. Problem is, he only started six games.
2014 Review: This past season will be one that Bruce Arians won’t soon forget -- and it won’t be because he led the Cardinals to the playoffs. Injuries decimated the position all year, forcing him to play four quarterbacks -- even turning to backup Drew Stanton twice. The end result was starter Carson Palmer's value to the Cardinals increasing without him playing a down in 10 games. In two stints as the starter in place of Palmer, Stanton went 5-3 but kept the Cardinals' ship steered toward the playoffs. He finished the season as the Cardinals’ leading passer with 1,711 yards but Palmer was better when he was healthy. He went 6-0, threw for 1,626 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 62.9 percent of his passes. A nerve injury in his right throwing shoulder sidelined him for four weeks after the Monday night season opener. After returning to win five straight, he tore his left ACL and had season-ending surgery.

But if it wasn’t one injury, it was another. Stanton's injuries gave two quarterbacks an opportunity to play this season. Rookie Logan Thomas was baptized in Week 5 against Denver after Stanton left the game with a concussion. His only completion of the season was an 81-yard touchdown pass to running back Andre Ellington. After Stanton went down with a knee injury in Week 15 at St. Louis on Thursday Night Football, Ryan Lindley was inserted ahead of Thomas. Lindley struggled in his first start against Seattle, his streak of consecutive passes without a touchdown continued, setting an NFL record, which prompted Arians to declare Thomas as the Week 17 starter. Two days later, he changed course, going back to Lindley, who snapped his streak of passes without a touchdown on his 229th attempt. Lindley had one of the best first halves of the season for any Arizona quarterback in Week 17, but led the Cardinals offense to the fewest yards in playoff history the next week against Carolina in the wild-card game.

2015 Preview: With Palmer set to return in either June or July from ACL surgery and Stanton’s status for offseason workouts unknown, Thomas is expected to get enough reps during OTAs, minicamp and the start of training camp to help him learn Arians' complex offense. How he responds during the next seven months will determine will help the Cardinals determine whether Thomas is actually the franchise's future quarterback or if it’s time to move on before investing too much time and money into him. Another question the Cardinals will face this offseason will be whether or not to keep Lindley. He could be a solid training camp quarterback, but are there better options in May’s draft and in free agency? The Cardinals faced a unique situation last season: They saw how important a third -- and even fourth -- string quarterback can be. Will that influence their decision to keep Lindley? It might be close to the season by time Palmer is back to 100 percent, which could be an issue for the 35-year-old. And with Drew Stanton, who’ll be 31 by time training camp starts, recovering from his own knee injury, Arizona will need to figure out if Lindley's the future at backup. The Cardinals invested enough money into Palmer to keep him the starter for another season, should he return to form.
TEMPE, Ariz. – The Cardinals’ offseason is less than three days old but there are enough topics to discuss for the next few months.

Here are the top 5 storylines heading into the Arizona Cardinals offseason:

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald's future: It doesn’t matter what else happens to the Cardinals this offseason, what they decide to do with Fitzgerald will trump it. As has been discussed all year, Fitzgerald is due $16 million next season with $8 million of that coming as a roster bonus in March. With that salary, however, comes a $23.6 million cap hit, which is the point of contention for the team and Fitzgerald. During the next two months, one of the following will likely happen: Fitzgerald will either restructure his contract, renegotiate a new one, get released or get traded.

Carson Palmer's progress: All hopes of a deep run in the playoffs went out the door when Palmer went down with the second ACL injury of his career. Palmer will return, that's as close to a certainty as the Cardinals can get this offseason, but when and at what level are the main questions. Having gone through the rehab process once before, Palmer understands what to expect and is prepared to go through it again. But if he returns either just before or into training camp, how will that impact the Cardinals’ offense?

Getting healthy: With 21 players – including eight on injured reserve – missing a combined 109 games during the regular season, the Cardinals spent the entire season trying to overcome injuries. Arizona’s locker room looked more like a MASH unit than anything else. With a few months before offseason workouts begin, the Cardinals have time to get the likes of quarterback Drew Stanton, running back Andre Ellington, punter Dave Zastudil, defensive tackle Ed Stinson and tight end Troy Niklas healthy before preparation for next season begins.

Bowles
Todd Bowles’ future: Of the five storylines, this one will be resolved quickest. Bowles will make a decision whether to take a head coaching job one way or the other in the next couple weeks. He has four interviews this week and potentially two more down the road. If he leaves, the Cardinals will be on their third defensive coordinator in four years, but the basic tenets of the 3-4 scheme likely won’t change. Whoever Bruce Arians chooses to replace Bowles will be someone he trusts more than the average coach. Arians doesn’t tinker with the defense, leaving Bowles to do his thing the past two years and with the exception of the last six games of this season, what Bowles did worked as Arizona was a top 10 defense both seasons.

In-house free agent priorities: Two months from Wednesday, teams can start legally pursuing free agents but can’t sign them until March 10. The Cardinals have 10 unrestricted free agents, but how many will they re-sign? Six of the 10 are part of Arizona’s front seven – linebackers John Abraham, Larry Foote, Sam Acho and Marcus Benard, and nose tackle Dan Williams and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. The others are tight end Rob Housler, right guard Paul Fanaika, cornerback Antonio Cromartie and long snapper Mike Leach. Ranking them in priority from No. 1 to 10: 1. Foote, 2. Cromartie, 3. Kelly, 4. Williams, 5. Abraham (a healthy and wanting to play Abraham), 6. Leach, 7. Fanaika, 8. Acho, 9. Benard, 10. Housler.
In hindsight, it's easy to look at the Arizona Cardinals' 27-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Saturday in the NFC wild-card game and say quarterback Ryan Lindley was a major reason the Cardinals lost the game.

Lindley
Palmer
But how much did having Lindley behind center cost Arizona? The incredibly smart folks at FiveThirtyEight decided to find out.

Using advanced analytics, FiveThirtyEight broke down the differences between Lindley and Carson Palmer.

Here are a few takeaways:
  • With Palmer's career adjusted net yards per attempt index of 104, which would've been adjusted to an expected plus +0.23 above Carolina's Cam Newton's performance Saturday, a difference that would've given the Cardinals a 53 percent chance of winning.
  • Lindley's ANY/A of -0.59 in Saturday's game was 6.44 below Newton's.
  • For his career, Lindley's ANY/A index was 58 -- which would've given the Cardinals a 20 percent chance to "steal" a win over Carolina.

Read more about FiveThirtyEight's breakdown of how much Lindley cost the Cardinals.
 
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With every incomplete pass, with every interception, with every empty run, the minutes ticked away, bringing the Arizona Cardinals closer to next season.

And next season couldn’t come soon enough.

The Cardinals entered Saturday’s wild-card game against the Carolina Panthers with their third-string quarterback, two former practice-squad running backs and a former college basketball player turned tight end on offense.

And it showed.

[+] EnlargeRyan Lindley
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonRyan Lindley and the Cardinals had just 13 total yards in the second half against Carolina.
 The Cardinals walked out of the rain at Bank of America Stadium with the fewest offensive yards (78) in NFL postseason history and a 27-16 loss to the Panthers. Even though -- in a weird twist of fate only the playoff gods could come up with -- quarterback Ryan Lindley, on a pass to Darren Fells, and running back Marion Grice, who both started the year on San Diego’s practice squad, scored both of Arizona’s touchdowns in the first half.

The misfits led Arizona to a 14-13 lead at the intermission. In the end, however, Lindley showed he wasn’t Carson Palmer, and neither Grice nor Kerwynn Williams, another practice-squad running back, were Andre Ellington. The Cardinals gained 13 yards in the second half.

Yet, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he didn’t believe his team ran out of players.

“We have to make game plans to win games and ask players to do things we think they are capable of doing to win games,” Arians said. “I never buy into injuries losing games.”

But they did. And they lost a season.

The Cardinals started 9-1, winning a game after Palmer was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. But they limped to the finish at 2-4 and hobbled into the playoffs. The hot start, however, got them to the wild-card round Saturday afternoon.

And those few hours, under a bit of rain and a misting fog, could be the best thing to happen to this team when they get their injured teammates back.

“Everyone [will] remember the feeling, right now, to make it and come up short in the first game,” left tackle Jared Veldheer said. “It’s tough. Especially, you’re in here and hear hooting and hollering outside.

“Just feels like a bunch of salt in the wound. It’s tough. I think if we know what we need to do and come back strong and have that experience to be able to make that run and not fall short.”

Veldheer said it didn’t matter who started in Palmer’s place, losing him was tough.

Arizona has eight players on injured reserve, including it starting quarterback, tailback, defensive end, defensive tackle and punter. There’s also a tight end (Troy Niklas), whose role in the offense would have grown, and a defensive tackle (Ed Stinson) who would be Darnell Dockett’s replacement if he’s not brought back next year.

But the offseason will be among the most critical in the franchise’s history.

A decision will be made on Larry Fitzgerald’s future. He is due an $8 million roster bonus in March and carries a $23.5 million cap hit next season. Dockett’s future will also be decided because the 33-year-old will be earning $6.8 million with a $9.8 million cap number. Arizona will also await the future of suspended linebacker Daryl Washington, who could receive another four- to six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy in 2013.

Give Arians and general manager Steve Keim another draft to continue to mold the roster and stock the positions they need to win, and the playoffs -- and another 9-1 start or better -- will be expected.

“We definitely have a lot to build on,” Fitzgerald said. “We were decimated by injuries this year, losing a lot of our key components to make our team go, and we didn’t ever make that an excuse.

“But, obviously, it’d have been great to have those guys on our team. And coming out to the offseason, we’re going to be able to get some guys healthy and be able to hopefully make a good run again next year.”
Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Ryan Lindley Getty ImagesRyan Lindley, right, will start his third game after the Cardinals lost Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton to injuries.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- What Bruce Arians has done this season -- playing four quarterbacks and making it to the playoffs -- has been impressive, daunting and worthy of his second coach of the year award in three seasons.

It isn’t new to the Arizona Cardinals' head coach. But it’s not exactly old hat, either.

After years of working with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, Arians has been forced to play four different quarterbacks in one season twice in the past few seasons.

The other time was in 2010, when he was the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The circumstances this season have been different, though.

The Steelers, coming off a 9-7 season, headed into 2010 knowing Roethlisberger would be suspended six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. (His ban was later reduced to four games.) Arians spent training camp that year pulling double duty. He was preparing Roethlisberger for the long haul while also getting Byron Leftwich ready to be the starter in Roethlisberger’s absence. The two split first-team reps while Dennis Dixon, then a third-year quarterback out of Oregon, was the third-stringer.

Veteran Charlie Batch was also in camp but wasn't getting many reps. Batch had been a Steeler since 2002, watching Arians move from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator. He knew Arians’ offense as well as anyone else on the roster, including Roethlisberger. Batch wanted a chance to show he was worthy of being considered for a roster spot.

“I kind of took it as, maybe since I know the offense, he has enough confidence in me. If something were to happen, I don’t need the reps,” Batch remembered. “I’m like, I need the reps to make sure I have an opportunity to make the team.”

He was given six reps in the Steelers’ first preseason game, didn’t play in the second and then played in the final 10 minutes of the all-important third preseason game, throwing a 7-yard touchdown to Antonio Brown with 7:11 left. Batch thought that touchdown was his last of the preseason -- that Leftwich, Roethlisberger’s replacement, would get the majority of reps in the preseason finale, followed by Dixon, his backup.

That plan changed early in the second quarter in the last preseason game when Leftwich sprained his left knee and left the game. With that, Dixon became the Steelers’ starter, and Batch, who had been the fourth-string quarterback all training camp, became the backup. Dixon finished the drive on which Leftwich got hurt, and Batch took over and finished the game.

[+] EnlargeBruce Arians and Ben Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene PuskarBruce Arians had to work with four quarterbacks in the starting lineup as offensive coordinator of the Steelers during their Super Bowl season in 2010.
Dixon’s starting role lasted about two weeks. At the beginning of the second quarter against Tennessee in Week 2, Dixon injured his left knee and left the game, sending Batch into the game without time to warm up, he remembered, and into the starting lineup for the next two games.

He went 2-1 before handing the Steelers back to Roethlisberger, who took them to the Super Bowl, which they lost to Green Bay.

When Batch took over, the offense had not changed much from when Roethlisberger was the starter.

“One thing about Bruce is the fact that what you get in training camp is the same thing you’re going to see in the course of a game,” Batch said. “He’s going to be aggressive in his play calling. You have to know the system. If he doesn’t trust that you know the system, you won’t be around.”

But if Arians does trust a quarterback, he’ll turn to him in a time of need. And there have been plenty of those in Arizona this season.

This season's Cardinals lost Palmer for three games after he suffered a nerve injury in his right shoulder during Week 1. He returned in Week 6, only to tear his ACL in Week 10. Drew Stanton, who was Palmer's backup, went down with a knee injury in Week 15.

Enter Ryan Lindley, who started the last two games of the regular season and will start Saturday’s wild-card game at Carolina. Thrown into the mix was rookie Logan Thomas, who played the final quarter and a half in Week 5 at Denver when Stanton suffered a concussion.

“The biggest thing with that situation is kind of the same thing here,” said Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who was an offensive assistant in Pittsburgh in 2010. “BA doesn’t change his philosophy. He wants to run it some, and he’s going to put the ball down the field. I think the biggest thing there, we had a great defense, kind of like we have here. Guys just bought into what we were doing. Everybody believed in the defense.

“That was a magical season because when you get situations like that, you got to have some things go your way. We’ve had that this season.”

The two major differences between 2010 and 2014? Pittsburgh got its starter back for the bulk of the season (Arizona did not), and Pittsburgh’s injuries all happened in the beginning of the season and Roethlisberger returned in Week 5.

“It’s sort of the same mindset here: It was just, we don’t care,” said Cardinals linebacker Larry Foote, who played for Pittsburgh from 2002 to 2008 and then from 2010 to '13. “With Drew, when he came in and went to New York and won, and we saw him beat San Francisco, we didn’t mind.

“With Lindley, we know he can throw the ball.”

Getting his backup quarterbacks ready to play has been as simple as Arians just keeping them prepared, Batch said. During practice, Arians has been known to begin quizzing his quarterbacks, asking them to recite progressions and identify protections.

With the exception of Thomas, whom Arians named the starter before he changed his mind a couple of days later leading into Week 17, Arizona’s backups have been ready to take the field at a moment’s notice.

“It’s been crazy,” Lindley said. “There is no way to think of it, just to be thankful, not only with this game but with the opportunity I find myself in right now. It’s such a blessing from God. Starting off, not really knowing how much longer I get to be in the National Football League in September, to be honest. It’s been a journey, but I’m excited to be here.

“Going through these valleys and these peaks is what makes you really appreciate not only life but the game itself.”

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ryan Lindley is in one of those unique positions that can define a career.

If he leads the Arizona Cardinals to a win in their wild-card game Saturday against the Carolina Panthers, the third-year quarterback who has a 1-5 career record as a starter will join a rare, but not-so-distinguished club: He would become the third quarterback since the NFL merger in 1970 to win a playoff game with one or fewer regular-season wins, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I think it would be a great story, obviously, if they could win a playoff game with their third-team quarterback,” said ESPN “Monday Night Football” commentator Jon Gruden, who will be calling Saturday’s game in Charlotte, N.C.

Cue the dramatic music.

A victory would put Lindley in football lore. It would allow him to write a storybook ending to a season that started with him on the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad.

He could also convince the Cardinals to write a check.

If Lindley leads Arizona to a win Saturday, the Cardinals could have a backup quarterback controversy. Drew Stanton has been more than effective as Arizona’s replacement for Carson Palmer this season, going 5-3 before his own knee injury caused him to miss the last two regular-season games and Saturday's playoff game.

But with $3.2 million scheduled to come Stanton’s way in 2015, is he worth it as a backup? Especially because Lindley has shown marked signs of improvement the last three weeks?

Stanton is due a $500,000 roster bonus and a $250,000 workout bonus on top of his $2.45 million base salary.

Lindley made $234,706 for seven weeks of regular-season work, which would have equaled $570,000 for the entire season. That’s an increase from the $480,000 he earned in 2013 as the third-string quarterback who didn’t get a snap.

Trading or cutting Stanton at the end of training camp would cost Arizona just about $750,000 and would save Arizona $3.2 million against the cap, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

With Palmer scheduled to earn $10.5 million next season, will a $3 million backup be worth it?

Not if Lindley wins Saturday and gives Arizona a date with either Seattle or Green Bay in the divisional round. The vitriol toward Lindley when he was named the starter before Arizona’s Week 16 game against Seattle came from all directions. It continued after a dismal performance against the Seahawks -- the No. 1-ranked defense in the league -- but subsided after he played the best half of his career against the 49ers.

There are areas in which Lindley needs to improve, such as his decision-making and deep passes, but that comes with experience and reps. He showed off his arm strength and touch last Sunday against San Francisco. His poise has also been lauded all week.

But if he beats the Panthers, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians might want to take a step back and evaluate his quarterback room aside from Palmer. Stanton will be 31 by Week 1 next season. Lindley will be 26 and Logan Thomas will be 24.

As much as he’s progressed in a few weeks getting the first-team reps, the upside is with Lindley.

During Stanton’s second stint, the offense slowed to a crawl after he threw two touchdowns in the first quarter against Detroit in Week 11. He didn’t throw another for the next 10 quarters. With Lindley’s NFL-record streak of passes without a touchdown over, it’s not weighing on him anymore.

Neither Lindley nor Stanton were effective against Seattle, as was to be expected. But Lindley and the offense showed enough progress against the Niners to earn some confidence. Put Lindley against the defenses Stanton faced against New York and San Francisco (in the first meeting) and he'd win as well.

If Lindley wins Saturday and puts a playoff victory on his resume, there should be no question about his status heading into the offseason.
Carson PalmerTim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsCoach Bruce Arians hopes to have Carson Palmer back from his second torn ACL by July 1.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The recovery and rehabilitation Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer remembers after tearing his ACL in 2006 isn't the same as what he's about to embark on for the next eight or nine months.

Orthopedic philosophies and rehab techniques have changed in the past eight years, but the toughest part of Palmer's process, experts say, may be dealing with a second ACL injury at age 34.

“There's no question that our ability to recondition after an ACL reconstruction will change as we get older,” said Brian Cole, team physician for the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox.

Recovery, Cole said, is inversely related to age. But since Palmer's first ACL injury, doctors have become more aggressive during rehab to get athletes back on the field or court, he added. That's been obvious with Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu's return and defensive end Darnell Dockett's ahead-of-schedule recovery.

ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell said success and return-to-activity rates for a second ACL are still high but it may take longer than the typical eight months to get back. She said Palmer may need as much as nine to 12 months to be cleared for everything. Palmer hopes to be back by organized team activities but Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said July 1 may be more realistic -- putting his recovery at less than eight months.

Palmer's road back to the field began Tuesday, when he had surgery to repair the ACL using his patellar tendon. Cole said 75 to 85 percent of team physicians opt to use patellar tendons if they're sturdy enough. In 2006, Palmer's ACL was replaced with a cadaver ligament.

By using a patellar tendon, Palmer will likely face a more strenuous recovery early in the process, Bell said. One significant part of his rehab will be getting his kneecap moving as soon after surgery as possible so he doesn't develop scar tissue and “unusual stiffness” around the kneecap.

“It's a strong graft,” she said. “That will be something that will be different for him because he wasn't concerned with that when he did the other type of graft before. But other than that, it's probably more straightforward for him.”

While he's trying to get his range of motion back, Palmer will be looking at a series of mental hurdles, said former Carolina Panthers and New York Giants receiver Domenik Hixon, who tore his right ACL twice within 14 months.

Soon after the second injury, which he suffered in September 2011, Hixon said he began to doubt whether he was going to get another chance to play. He also was worried about defenders around his knees and going across the middle.

But recovering from the second surgery was easier than the first, he said.

“The unknown is gone, you've done it once before, you know what's expected,” Hixon said. “I knew the timetable where I'm supposed to be at and why they were measuring certain things and you're not going into it blind.

“I think that helped out a lot from the mental aspect.”

One significant change in rehab philosophy since 2006 is not using a clock to determine when an athlete will return to action, Cole said.

Since 1998, there have been 1,254 NFL players with knee-related injuries that were placed on injured reserve, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of those, 249 were identified to have ACL injuries. And just nine injured -- before Palmer -- the same one at least twice.

Palmer's tearing the same ACL -- or a revision, as it's called in the medical community -- almost nine years after the first tear is rare, Cole said. Retear rates range between 2 to 7 percent depending on the sport and graft, Cole said.

“This is a little unusual in that it's a later failure,” Cole said. “In some respects you can argue this is an entirely new injury.”

His surgery Tuesday went “great” and “very, very small cartilage” was repaired, Arians said. Cole said retorn ACLs tend to have more cartilage damage than initial injuries.

Since the last time Palmer had his ACL replaced, doctors have an increased understanding of tunnel placement in the knee because, Cole said, they've become more educated in the “normal anatomy” of a knee with an original ACL.

With Day 1 of Palmer's recovery over, he already has benefited from the improvements and advancements of philosophy. He's on the verge of finding out how different his recovery and rehabilitation will be eight years after his first ACL.

“I'm mentally prepared,” Palmer said last week. “I'm mentally strong and I'm going to grind this thing out. I know the mindset you need to take, and that's the one-day-at-a-time thing, and it's baby steps and it's doing calf raises and small, little incremental movements and all these little tedious things that you don't feel like are doing anything but you have to do them.

“But you have to do what they tell you to do.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals announced they re-signed quarterback Ryan Lindley, filling out their quarterback room a day after Carson Palmer was diagnosed with a season-ending ACL injury.

Lindley, who was cut by the Cardinals in August, had spent the season on the San Diego Chargers' practice squad. He was one of two quarterbacks who made sense for the Cardinals to sign in the wake of the team placing Palmer on injured reserve Tuesday.

He spent all of 2013 and nearly the entire 2014 offseason and preseason with the Cardinals before being released in the next-to-last cut. Lindley returns with an intimate understanding of Bruce Arians' scheme. Throughout the offseason, he and Logan Thomas talked openly about how well they worked together.

Thomas is expected to remain the backup.

Lindley was drafted by the Cardinals in 2012, and played in six games with four starts that year. In 2013, he was the third-string quarterback for Arians behind Palmer and Drew Stanton, but didn't see the field. Lindley's job was safe until the Cardinals drafted Thomas in the fourth round of May's draft, and he ultimately lost the third-string job to Thomas during training camp.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Soon after Arizona Cardinals backup Drew Stanton scrambled for four yards on a second down in the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon, coach Bruce Arians had some choice words for him.

The message was clear, however he chose to relay it: Slide. Arizona couldn't afford for Stanton to get hurt, and not just because starting quarterback Carson Palmer was already out of the game with what ended up being a season-ending knee injury and third-string Logan Thomas was inactive. With Palmer out of the equation for the rest of the season, the Cardinals are left with two quarterbacks on the roster.

Thomas
One is a rookie.

Asked Monday, after announcing Palmer's injury, if Arizona will sign a third quarterback, Arians was non-committal.

"We're going to examine those possibilities, yeah," he said.

When Arizona was in a similar position earlier this season after Palmer went down with an axillary nerve contusion in his right shoulder, the Cardinals signed Dennis Dixon for a week.

But with Palmer out for the rest of the season, the Cardinals will have to look at finding a third-string quarterback for the long haul. Dixon is an option again, maybe the Cardinals' best choice at this point in the season. He played for Arians in Pittsburgh from 2008-11, and understands the offense as well as anyone.

Another choice would be former Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley, who spent all of 2013 and the 2014 offseason with the Cards until being cut in August.

With seven games left, home-field advantage on the line and the NFC West heating up, those are the Cardinals' two best options at this point. Their familiarity with Arians' offense can help in the time of a crisis -- but if Arizona is down to their third-string quarterback at any point from here on out, crisis may be an understatement.

Another reason Lindley or Dixon are Arians' best choices is because they can continue to mentor Thomas with their knowledge of the scheme. And since he's worked with both of them, Thomas is familiar and comfortable leaning on them for advice.

Arizona can't afford to keep just two quarterbacks on its roster, especially with how much Stanton likes to run.

And with NFC North leading Detroit coming to town Sunday, the Cardinals need to solidify their quarterback corps, and Dixon or Lindley are the best fits.

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