NFL Nation: Carson Palmer

OAKLAND, Calif. -- When Arizona Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer woke up Sunday morning, he knew his return to the O.co Coliseum wouldn’t be just another game.

“It was kind of nostalgic -- more than I thought would even hit me being back,” the former Raiders third-round draft pick said. “Coming out pregame and running around back on the field, being back in the Coliseum and all the familiar things coming back from the last four years, it’s a lot of emotion.

“I knew it was going to be a special game.”

Leaving Oakland with a 24-13 win made it even more special.

Veldheer was one of three former Raiders on the field for Arizona. A lot was made last week about quarterback Carson Palmer’s return, but defensive tackle Tommy Kelly played the first nine years of his career with the Raiders.

He said he wanted to get a win for Palmer, who played half of 2011 and all of 2012 with Oakland before a trade landed him in Arizona, but Kelly wanted the win for himself.

“As a football player, I learned a lot,” he said. “I have a lot of love for this city and I wish the team nothing but the best. But on the football field, it’s not anything personal. It’s business. We just wanted to go out there, execute and win.”

While Kelly didn’t talk to any of his former Raiders teammates on the field -- “They kind of leave me alone. They know how I am,” he said -- he discussed playing a former team with his new head coach, Bruce Arians.

“You can see the smiles on their faces all week and [the] energy they brought to practice and meetings,” Arians said. “It was special for them, especially Tommy Kelly.”

Palmer and Kelly left the Raiders in 2013, and Veldheer in 2014. Veldheer, who was drafted by Oakland in 2010, returned with a chip on his shoulder because of how his departure went down.

“It was a big win for both of us,” Veldheer said.

“It meant a ton,” he added.

Palmer, who completed 70.9 percent of his passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and his first interception of the season, downplayed having a chip on his shoulder. He did, however, make sure to get a box of favorite sandwiches delivered to the locker room after the game. He also talked about seeing his former Oakland teammates still on the roster.

“It was a great environment to play in,” Palmer said. “This place is awesome. It was great to play [here] when you’re wearing silver and black and it’s a fun place to play as an opponent. Great to get a win.”
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."

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer & Jared Veldheer
AP Photo/Tom HauckCarson Palmer said that he "loved" his time with the Raiders but also that it was "just an odd time" for the franchise.
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."
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Sunday wasn’t the true barometer of how Carson Palmer's shoulder was feeling.

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That came when Palmer woke up Monday morning, after the pain subsided and Palmer had a chance to sleep on it. But according to Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, the axillary nerve in Palmer’s right throwing shoulder did not regress after Sunday’s 30-20 win over the Washington Redskins.

“I was concerned until I saw him today,” Arians said. “And then now he feels great, so we should just get better and better and just get stronger.”

Arians said his 34-year-old starting quarterback will hopefully be doing everything in practice this week. Also from the coach:
  • There’s a chance defensive end Calais Campbell can return from his MCL injury but Arians said it’s “very slim.”
  • Right tackle Bobby Massie played “by far his best game.”
  • Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker left the game after re-injuring his left calf. On Monday, Arians compared the injury to Andre Ellington’s foot. “It’s going to be there all year and [he’ll have to] play through it and gut it out,” Arians said. “It was a great performance by him coming back out and giving his presence because he’s a great leader.”
  • Arians said Palmer’s 44 pass attempts was the “norm.” “When we have it that many times and they stack the box like that to stop the run, then we’re going to throw the football. When he says he’s OK, we’re going to go with it.”
  • Arians said he feels the reason defensive backs Jerraud Powers and Rashad Johnson have been playing at such a high level is because of their brains: “Two very, very smart players,” Arians said.
  • The Cardinals had 40 mental errors -- 20 offensively and 20 defensively.
videoGLENDALE, Ariz. -- Until pregame introductions Sunday, the concept of looking ahead was put on hold for the Arizona Cardinals.

It was impossible for them to predict what the next few games would bring when nobody knew who the starting quarterback was going to be Sunday afternoon. As the reports trickled out of University of Phoenix Stadium early Sunday, it became clear that Carson Palmer, who suffered an axillary nerve contusion in his right throwing shoulder in Week 1, would finally return.

But there were still a few unknowns: How close to 100 percent was Palmer? Who would play if he re-injured the shoulder? And would Arizona alter its offense?

After Palmer threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-20 win over the Washington Redskins, the questions were answered. But, most importantly, the Cardinals reaffirmed with Palmer -- even though he’s not yet 100 percent healthy -- they’re in good shape. In their final nine games, the Cardinals will play seven games against either playoff teams from last season or teams currently in first place in their division.

Even though Palmer would have preferred returning in Week 2, he came back at a good time. Facing Washington, which is now 1-5, gave him a chance to get re-acclimated against a team that’s struggling. Next week, against winless Oakland, Palmer will get another opportunity to work out any kinks without big-game pressure.

“Looking ahead, we have some winnable games and we have some dogfights in front of us -- some good teams we’re going to be playing, some great teams we’re going to be playing,” Palmer said. “We need everybody back and everybody firing on all cylinders.”

That includes Palmer.

Late in the fourth quarter on a third-and-2, Palmer convinced Cardinals coach Bruce Arians to let him call his own number. Palmer ran a bootleg to the right and lost three yards, forcing Arizona to punt. Yes, the man who missed three games after getting injured on a run, called a run for himself.

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AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinCarson Palmer threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns in his return from a shoulder injury.
“That’s one way to put it,” Palmer said.

That was Palmer’s only run Sunday and it complemented his 44 pass attempts -- his third-most with the Cardinals. Palmer knew he wasn’t going to be given a watered-down version of the game plan but said he felt “good” and was “pleased” with the way he finished the game.

Arians said he didn’t decide Palmer would start until pregame. Palmer had taken about 25 percent of the snaps in Friday’s practice, throwing at about 80-90 percent. Palmer had hoped he would be named starter Friday. Arians resisted on making the decision then because he didn’t see the type of velocity he had hoped for. But during Sunday's pregame warm-ups, Arians saw the zip he wanted, and although he knew most of it was adrenaline-fueled, it was enough to give Palmer the start.

Palmer rewarded Arians’ decision by extending Arizona’s interception-free streak to a fifth game this season, adding two touchdown passes for good measure. After the game, Palmer said the shoulder was “tired but great,” and added it’s “definitely weak.”

Palmer said he didn’t feel physically limited. If he had, Arians wouldn't have started Palmer, who said he needs more reps.

“The only way to get your arm stronger, it’s not by doing bench press, it’s not by doing curls, it’s by throwing, and that’s what I need to do now,” he said.

He’s “praying” the nerve doesn’t regress overnight. That’s what happened after the San Diego game.

If Palmer wakes up Monday with a healthy right shoulder, the 4-1 Cardinals can start looking forward. Maybe even to January.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians did not have the answer everyone was looking for Friday.

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Palmer
"Honest to God, the first time in 20 years I really don't know who's starting," Arians said. "We'll see how it goes. They're all ready."

Quarterbacks Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas all participated in practice, Arians added. Palmer and Stanton were listed as limited on the team's injury report. During the open portion of practice, Palmer was seen throwing about 35 yards. After practice, Palmer flew to Denver for another treatment with Greg Roskopf, the consultant he saw last weekend, and Stanton went through the concussion protocol.

Arians said he may not make a decision on a starter until right before kickoff against the Washington Redskins but it's a possibility that Arizona can have all three available by Sunday morning.

Palmer has shown the most improvement this week in his velocity, Arians said. As of Friday, it was at about 80 percent of Palmer's pre-injury zip. It's not enough for Palmer to play but it's "close," Arians said.

If Palmer's right shoulder is feeling better this weekend, Arians said he's not apprehensive about playing the 34-year-old.

"Mentally, he's very, very sharp," Arians said. "He stayed really on top of everything that way. If you see, he's always behind, dropping, taking his steps, getting his reads. He's mentally getting every reps. It's just the physical part of it."

And if Stanton passes the concussion protocol, then Arians plans on using him Sunday.

But if neither of Arians' top two quarterbacks can play, he's confident in Thomas, who got most of the reps in practice this week. Thomas, Arizona's fourth-round pick who was thrown into his first career game action in the third quarter Sunday in Denver, has taken the uncertainty in stride.

"I prepared like it's my game," he said. "Obviously, Carson's the starter around here. Drew's the No. 2 and I'm No. 3.

"I understand my place but for me, just handled it the way it should be."
TEMPE, Ariz. -- If it seems like the Arizona Cardinals don't know who's going to start at quarterback Sunday against Washington, it’s probably because they don’t.

Not yet at least.

With kickoff just a couple of days away, the slotted starter is Arizona’s third-string quarterback, rookie Logan Thomas. He's been taking reps with the first team this week while starter Carson Palmer continues to improve from an axillary nerve contusion in his right shoulder and backup Drew Stanton recovers from a concussion.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Dustin Bradford/Getty ImagesThird-string QB Logan Thomas could get the first start of his young NFL career on Sunday against Washington.
Depending on how the next 48 hours go, any of those three could play.

“There’s a lot of questions in our quarterback room right now,” Stanton said. "At the same time, I think we’re all trying to progress and get prepared to play. We’ll figure it out when Sunday comes.”

In the meantime, the Cardinals have been preparing for the Washington Redskins’ 10th-ranked defense with a TBD penciled in at quarterback. The offensive coaching staff hasn’t diverted from its typical week. Monday night, the red zone, running game, protections, short-yardage and goal-line packages were installed. Tuesday, the passing game was installed.

On Wednesday, Arizona began implementing the game plan in practice, led by Thomas, who said he’s comfortable with the entire playbook, although it’s unlikely the Cardinals will use the whole thing with him. They won’t simplify the playbook for him, but coach Bruce Arians may reduce it down to plays that Thomas feels comfortable with and work for him.

Throughout the week, though, the game plan was built without a specific quarterback in mind.

“We’ll formulate those plans to beat them and then trim it back down if we have to because of the volume of things they don’t see,” Arians said. “You do the same thing with Carson or Drew, so it wouldn’t be any different if [Thomas] is the starter as far as the game-planning goes.”

Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said if Arizona has to prepare a game plan for Thomas, it won’t be as complex of a strategy as Palmer or Stanton would receive.

Friday is an important day for the Cardinals’ quarterbacks. Palmer, who continues to increase his throwing every day, is expected to fly to Denver on Friday to visit with Greg Roskopf, the consultant whom he met with last weekend when Arizona played the Broncos. Stanton said he’ll go through the NFL’s concussion protocol on Friday, seeking clearance to play against Washington.

With both their statuses uncertain, the focus has been on Thomas this week.

The quarter-and-a-half he played in Denver may have helped him more than he realized. He got the jitters out of his system, getting sacked twice and throwing his first touchdown on his first completion. Thomas says the game has slowed down the more he gets reps with the starters.

“I think it’s about repetition,” Thomas said. “I don’t think you can really put a number on it. I think it’s about repetition, getting out there and learning, and that’s where the majority of the jump will come from.”

At this point, with Arizona potentially on its third quarterback by Week 6, wide receiver Ted Ginn has stopped focusing on who’s throwing the passes. But the weekly guessing game isn’t over yet.

Whether it ends up being Palmer, Stanton or Thomas on Sunday, Ginn said their passes still have to be caught and plays still have to be made.

“It’s been up in the air for us the whole season,” he said. “We've just got to go out and just play football and whoever's throwing the football just catch the football and make plays.

“It ain’t no real big difference in between all of them. They're all special in their own way. We've just got to go out and help each other out.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals didn’t wait long to sign another quarterback.

The Cardinals signed Dennis Dixon to their practice squad Tuesday, giving them another option to back up Logan Thomas should Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton not return from their respective injuries this week.

On Monday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he wanted any quarterback signed to be familiar with his offensive scheme and understand the protections. Dixon fits that. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008, Dixon spent his first four years in the NFL playing for Arians, who was Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator. Dixon learned Arians’ scheme but played in it just four times, throwing for 402 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown on 35-of-59 passing.

But as Stanton has proved this season, a quarterback doesn’t need to play in Arians’ offense to understand it.

Since spending parts of the 2012 season on the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad, he’s also spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills.

In other moves, Arizona placed punter Dave Zastudil on injured reserve, placed outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy on injured reserve/designated to return, re-signed linebacker Marcus Benard and promoted punter Drew Butler from the practice squad.
DENVER -- Injured Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer will spend Sunday night in Denver to see a doctor for a treatment that has finally worked to improve the axillary nerve contusion in his right throwing shoulder, which he suffered in Week 1.

Palmer
The team returned to Arizona following Sunday’s 41-20 loss to the Broncos.

Palmer said the treatment that worked stimulates the muscles. Palmer improved enough in the last 48 hours to throw 20 short tosses before Sunday’s game but, unlike last week when he tried throwing, the nerve hasn’t been reagitated yet.

“It felt good and I’ll continue to ramp that up each day this upcoming week,” Palmer said.

Palmer will be back in Arizona by Monday’s meetings, he added. Arizona doesn’t return to the field until Wednesday, giving Palmer a couple more days to continue testing his arm. He sounded optimistic about practicing Wednesday but Palmer was confident he was going to return after the bye.

The nerve flared up and benched him last week.

“I’ll continue to do all the treatment and do everything in my power to get it ready to go,” Palmer said.

With backup Drew Stanton leaving Sunday’s game with a concussion, Arizona only has one healthy quarterback on the roster. It’s put the spotlight back on Palmer’s return.

Even though Arizona was hosted by Denver’s Peyton Manning, who famously returned from a nerve injury in his neck, Palmer said the two quarterbacks haven’t talked. Last week, Manning even offered his advice. Palmer is opting to take the same route of treatment that former NFL safety John Lynch took after suffering from two major nerve injuries during his career.

“I think we may have found something,” Palmer said. “And I’m going to continue to do that.”
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer a question mark for Sunday's game, Denver Broncos defensive players say they don't need to know who their opponent will put behind center and that they will concern themselves with the plays they believe whomever is in the lineup will run.

[+] EnlargeDrew Stanton
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDrew Stanton's completion percentage is significantly lower than the ailing Carson Palmer's, but whichever Cardinals quarterback the Broncos face Sunday won't pose much of a running threat.
Palmer, who has missed the past two games with shoulder woes, was excused from Cardinals practice Wednesday and is set to visit with a specialist this week because of continuing issues. Should Palmer not be in the lineup -- he is doubtful to play in Sports Authority Field at Mile High at this point -- the Cardinals would start Drew Stanton for the third consecutive week.

Stanton is 2-0 this season filling in for Palmer. Before it was known Palmer was going to miss Wednesday's practice, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians described Palmer's recovery as "still waiting to see, still doing a lot of treatment with it."

"They don't care who plays quarterback," said Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, referencing the Cardinals' 3-0 start. "So we shouldn't care who plays quarterback."

The Broncos say both quarterbacks are largely pocket passers, so the Cardinals' offense has looked similar with either thus far. Palmer's 37 pass attempts in the season opener against the San Diego Chargers are still the season high, but Stanton has thrown 29 and 33 passes in the Cardinals' past two games.

Stanton's completion percentage was significantly lower -- 48.3 and 54.5 percent in the past two games -- than Palmer's 64.9 in the opener. But the Cardinals have been able to move the ball when they've needed to, and wide receiver Michael Floyd leads the league in yards per catch at 22.9 in an offense willing to take its chances down the field at times.

"They don't change their offense. They're going to run the same plays," Broncos head coach John Fox said. "It looks very familiar to the old Steeler days. They call mash, or power … they're going to establish the run. And they're going to take shots down the field; they're going to take seven or eight [deep passes] a game."

The sample size is small at just three games, but Stanton has also targeted the team's pass-catchers roughly the same as Palmer did in the opener. Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald lead the way with 22 and 21 targets, respectively, while Cardinals rookie wide receiver John Brown has been targeted five, four and six times in the team's three games.

"They're both pocket quarterbacks, so we treat them both the same way," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "… When you look at it, you see them with the same progressions. There are some throws Carson Palmer may do more, but the offense is the offense and that's how we have to approach it."

Overall, the Broncos would seem to get their first chance to rush a quarterback who, in either case, hasn't run that often this season. The Broncos have faced Andrew Luck, Alex Smith and Russell Wilson in their three games, so either Palmer or Stanton -- 12 carries combined -- would likely bring a different, more aggressive approach in the pass rush than the Broncos have shown to this point.

The Cardinals' receivers -- with Floyd, Fitzgerald to go with the rookie Brown -- have the Broncos' attention as well.

"Those three receivers, I think it's probably the toughest receivers we've played so far," Harris said. "Big, physical receiver guys. Their quarterback [Stanton], he loves to throw shots, throw deep. That's something that I've been doing extra myself, just catching a lot of deep balls getting ready for that."

"I definitely agree," Talib said. "These guys, they get vertical and they catch that ball. As a DB, that's the ball you don't want caught on you, and that's the one they're going to throw 8-10 times. Like I said, they're going to give you a whole bunch of them.”
Carson Palmer won’t be spending his bye week on a couch.

He has too much throwing to catch up on. He’ll be spending the Arizona Cardinals’ off weekend on a field throwing as part of his rehabilitation from a bruised nerve in his right shoulder, coach Bruce Arians said. Palmer said this week he wants to be ready to return by Wednesday, giving him three days of practice before Arizona heads to Denver. Arians hopes he’s back “firing on all cylinders” by Monday.

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Palmer hasn’t played since Week 1, but he believes he can play against the Broncos on Oct. 5. If he can’t, backup quarterback Drew Stanton will start his third straight game.

Palmer reportedly began throwing during Tuesday’s practice, but his passing intensified on Wednesday, two days after the nerves in his shoulder began to fire again.

Palmer woke up Monday morning and noticed his shoulder was moving better. There wasn’t a sharp pain or a soothing feeling that indicated the shoulder had improved, he said. It just started working.

"I’ve been told over and over again this is something that just turns back on when the nerve is ready and the swelling is down around the nerve, then all of a sudden the nerve starts to fire,” Palmer said. “I was hoping it’d be sooner rather than later.”

Palmer said his arm felt “great” after Wednesday’s practice, and Arians thought it was getting “better and better.” But Palmer said returning to the point he was at before Week 1 will be a slow process.

“Every day I’m going to throw a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more,” he said.

But Palmer’s return should wait a week. By the time he begins practicing on Monday, three weeks will have passed since Palmer last threw to his teammates during a game.

With Denver coming up next Sunday, his arm and the Cardinals would benefit from an extra week to rest. Playing the Broncos will be the type of measuring stick Arizona needs this early in the season.

At 3-0, the Cardinals are one of the surprises of the early season, but a win over Peyton Manning would establish them as a contender for the foreseeable future. It'll also go far for Arizona’s confidence.

But how effective will Palmer be after the next 11 days of throwing? Will his arm be at full strength? Will he get fatigued easily while working to get his arm back? Too many questions in such a big game, even if it is an interconference battle.

Palmer’s competitive edge won’t back down, that much has been established this season.

While he’ll follow the trainer’s guidelines, Palmer can’t afford to push his arm harder during the next week-and-a-half. There's too much at stake for this team in the long run.

There’s also the results that Stanton has produced. He’s had the Cardinals playing winning football, which is all every quarterback is asked to do. While he’s the established backup on this team, he’s also been productive.

Palmer will have just a few practices next week to get back on the same page with his receivers, running backs and tight ends.

But Arizona needs to look toward December and January. After Denver, the Cardinals play Washington and Oakland in consecutive weeks. Both teams sit in last place in their respective divisions.

And both teams would give Palmer the perfect opportunities to work his arm back into shape after missing three weeks.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Quarterback Carson Palmer was ruled inactive for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.

It was a largely expected decision by the Cardinals, but on Friday coach Bruce Arians left the door open for Palmer to back up Drew Stanton if his right shoulder was feeling better. Third-string quarterback Logan Thomas will back up Stanton.

Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker is active after he and tight end Rob Housler worked out with head trainer Tom Reed during warm-ups. Housler was ruled inactive because of a hip injury. He didn’t practice Thursday or Friday. Rookie Troy Niklas will get his first NFL start in Housler’s place.

Also inactive was nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu, who played just four snaps last week, and recently signed linebacker Victor Butler. He was signed by the Cards on Tuesday. Rookie inside linebacker Glenn Carson was also inactive.

As Arians announced Friday, punter Dave Zastudil and linebacker Alex Okafor were inactive, as well.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The avalanche of off-field stories continued for the Arizona Cardinals when running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested Wednesday on assault charges.

Being asked about contracts, injuries, play-calling and, now, a teammate’s legal issues, has become routine for the Cardinals.

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Larry Fitzgerald
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"We move on," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "It’s not a distraction. It will not be a distraction. Our team’s kinda gotten used to what everybody else would consider a distraction, and get ready for a huge football game this Sunday."

The Cardinals have answered a lot of questions, but not many about the 49ers, who come to University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.

The series of off-the-field stories came full circle Friday when linebacker John Abraham was put on injured reserve because of a concussion he suffered in Week 1. Abraham started the list of off-the-field stories when his June arrest on suspicion of DUI in Atlanta was reported during the first few days of training camp.

Since then:
Veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t think he has seen this many off-field stories this early in a season in the first 10 years of his career.

"Adversity, it comes in all different sizes, shapes and forms," Fitzgerald said. "You have to be able to deal with it. Everybody’s dealing with it in some way or form. We got this type of issue here. Washington’s dealing with injuries.

"It’s all different. But come Sunday, it doesn’t matter. The best team has to come out there and win."

As far as Arizona’s on-field performance goes, the Cardinals are 2-0, having won with two different starting quarterbacks. Arians said the off-field issues haven’t strayed onto the Cardinals’ practice field this week. He called Wednesday and Thursday’s practices "great."

Larry Foote, a 13-year veteran, said Arizona needs to approach Dwyer’s absence like an injury: Next man up.

"We just got to keep rolling,” he said.

Fitzgerald said Arizona’s focus hasn’t waned.

"It hasn’t changed one bit," Fitzgerald said. "If anything, it’s even sharper.

"You come in the locker room (Thursday), I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this kind of media contingency here at the Cardinals, Thursday, Week 3. It’s just like the Super Bowl a couple years ago. We understand that there’s a lot of eyes on us. We have to [home] in. We have to have that bunker mentality. We got to just rely on each other and fight for each other."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sunday started like almost every other game day for Drew Stanton.

Before the Arizona Cardinals arrived at MetLife Stadium for their game against the New York Giants, Stanton knew there was a chance he could play in place of Carson Palmer.

About two hours before kickoff, Sunday became unlike Stanton’s game days for the past three seasons. That’s when Palmer, who suffered nerve damage in Week 1 against the San Diego Chargers, tried to throw. He came to Stanton and broke the news that his right shoulder wasn’t responding.

[+] EnlargeDrew Stanton
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsQB Drew Stanton started his first game in nearly four years on Sunday.
About 30 minutes later, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told Stanton, “Hey, baby, you’re up.”

“I was like, 'All right,'" Stanton said.

And just like that, Stanton was starting his first game since Dec. 19, 2010. He led Arizona to a 25-14 win over the New York Giants on Sunday, throwing for 167 yards on 14-of-29 passing. He didn’t throw a touchdown but he also didn’t throw an interception.

“I looked at the numbers and I was shocked because he played really, really well and the numbers don’t give him justice,” Arians said. “Under pressure, (he) could have thrown some balls away and (he) took some sacks that I wish he’d have thrown balls away just so he’d stay healthy.”

Stanton admitted he was anxious leading up to Sunday’s game because of how real the possibility of him playing was. With Palmer limited in all three days of practice, Stanton played with the first team last week, getting valuable reps he’s missed as a backup.

But Arians never wavered in his support of Stanton, who’s been playing in Arians’ system since 2012 in Indianapolis. In typical Arians’ fashion, when Arizona won the kick, he opted to start on offense. Arians didn’t change the opening play of the game -- a deep pass that resulted in a 19-yard pass to Michael Floyd -- from the 15-play script he gave Stanton and Palmer on the plane en route to New York.

“When you spend as much time with him on the field and just watch him, know his craft and (see) he works extremely hard at it,” Arians said. “He’s extremely accurate. He knows where the ball is going. He worked a little too fast in the fourth quarter on some bang posts that you know he’s throwing them before the guys are turning around.

“He knows this offense inside out. He knows why we do what we do, so it’s easier for him sometimes even than Carson.”

Palmer thought his right shoulder would be strong enough to play Sunday, but the nerves never woke up, he said, the result of landing on it wrong Monday night. Arians said he saw a lot of improvement in Palmer's shoulder on Saturday and even more overnight to Sunday. He was hoping Palmer, as he did last year, would “pull the cape out” and take the field.

“It’s one of those things you just got to wait and hope it wakes up,” Palmer said. “There’s no, 'it needs 48 hours, it needs six days, it need 12 days.' You just don’t know.”

Stanton texted one person before the game to say he was playing: His wife. He may need to text her again next Sunday if Palmer can’t go. The next time he does, however, there won’t be a sense of surprise or relief.

“I think you get to a point in this league (where) you have to start betting on yourself and you have to worry about the stuff you have control over,” Stanton said. “I say that constantly, but until you start believing it, you’re not going to be any good.”
The Arizona Cardinals weren't given any help by the schedulers at the NFL's office in New York this week.

After playing the late Monday night game, the Cardinals had to fly cross country, landing late Friday, to play the New York Giants at 10 a.m. Arizona time Sunday. It won't be easy to do but it's also won't be used as an excuse.

[+] EnlargeBruce Arians
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesBruce Arians' Cardinals refuse to use a short week and a cross-country trip as an excuse this week.
"You don't quite have the recovery," Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said. "We're full pads two days after a game, which slows down that recovery time, and then you leave Friday and you have all those thing, but it is what it is.

"That's this game and that's this league, and the teams that don't use those things as excuses, those kinds of things don't come up and affect them. As the season goes on, you have to travel back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and that's just what is. That's the game and you have to be ready."

Arizona is 9-21 in East Coast games that start betwee 1 p.m. and 1:25 p.m. ET since 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Cardinals won two of three such games last season in Bruce Arians' first season.

To prepare the Cardinals for playing the early game on the East Coast, coach Bruce Arians moved up Thursday's and Friday's schedule. Players were required to be in the building at 6 a.m. Meetings started an hour later and practice began at 10 a.m. sharp.

For cornerback Patrick Peterson, the early start won't be an issue since he wakes up at 5 a.m. every day and is at the Cards' practice facility by 6 a.m. -- at the latest.

New York is one of two East Coast trips this season. The Cardinals go to Atlanta the weekend after Thanksgiving. Last year's trips to Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Philadelphia helped the team prepare procedurally how to make the cross-country trip, but Arizona benefitted from spending a week in Sarasota, Florida, in between losing to New Orleans and beating the Buccaneers.

The short week cut down on recovery time throughout the locker room. Arizona doesn't practice the Monday after a Sunday game but has meetings and players can get treatment. Players are off Tuesday and return to practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. There's typically a walk-through Saturday.

This week was diffrenent because they played Monday night. The Cardinals were at the facility Tuesday getting treatment and then practiced Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, before traveling Friday afternoon. They'll have their walk-through Saturday in New York.

Arians has stressed the importance of getting treatment Saturday at the team hotel.

"The flight itself, if you have any swelling it's going to increase it, so the treatment is huge [Saturday]," he said.

The Cardinals boast 11 players who are 30 or older, making cross-country flights even tougher on an aging body.

Veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who turned 31 in August, said making that cross-country trip is "a lot"

"All those things can be used as an excuse," he said. "We're not going to allow that to happen. We know we have in front of us we have a good football team."

And a long trip.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For 53 minutes, the hype was just that. Hype.

The Arizona Cardinals had talked all offseason about how this year's offense was leaps and bounds ahead of last season's. At one point leading up to Monday night's 18-17 win against San Diego, coach Bruce Arians compared the difference between 2013 and 2014 to an eighth grader sitting in a first-grade classroom.

But when the Cardinals unveiled their new-model offense, the engine barely revved. Until the winning drive late in the fourth quarter, when quarterback Carson Palmer finally kicked it into gear.

“It was the first game,” wide receiver Michael Floyd said. “It’s ups and downs. We knew that there’s going to be some bad series, some good series. We want more of the good and I think we stepped up great knowing that when they came out in the second half and scored, some offenses can just lay down like that.”

After San Diego’s Philip Rivers missed a snap from former Cardinal Rich Ohrnberger, forcing the Chargers to punt on fourth-and-22 from the Cardinals 43, Arizona came to life.

The Cardinals went 91 yards in 4 minutes, 25 seconds with Palmer using six different options -- in addition to his own two legs -- to orchestrate a drive that displayed the deep cache of weapons the Cardinals have been raving about for months.

“When you get into tight situations we know we got a receiving corps that can make plays,” Ted Ginn said. “That’s all that really mattered when we get into a dog fight like that. We know that one of the guys is going to come through and make a play, and it kinda happened today on that last drive. I believe everybody had some type of ball on that drive to keep it going, no matter if it’s first, second, third or fourth. That’s just our biggest thing: to be ready anytime.”

Palmer hit Ginn once for 4 yards, Floyd twice for 25 yards, Larry Fitzgerald once for 22 and then rookie John Brown for 13 yards on a screen pass that he turned into the winning touchdown.

“That’s what [Brown] does,” Palmer said. “He’s so shifty. It’s like somebody is controlling him with a joystick.”

Andre Ellington, who was questionable for Monday’s game because of a foot injury, added to the drive with an 18-yard run on second-and-1 and Jonathan Dwyer had one run for a yard. Palmer had the most critical run of the drive -- and maybe the game -- when he scrambled for 12 yards to convert a third down and keep the drive alive.

Despite the struggles that encompassed the first 53 minutes, the drive showed off how many options the Cardinals have added since last season.

“We’re capable of that, yes,” Arians said. “We were struggling to hear some at home, which has become a problem sometimes. We had some false starts. But that last drive was something we’re capable of doing.”

One reason it worked was because it included Palmer’s four primary receiving options -- one of which wasn’t targeted until the fourth quarter. For the first time in his career, Fitzgerald wasn’t targeted for the first three quarters of a game. Fitzgerald’s first recorded target was a running play gone wrong that led to a throw-away pass in his direction. Palmer went to Fitzgerald again to start the winning drive and again two plays after he caught the 22-yarder.

Those were all the yards Fitzgerald finished with, but they put the Cardinals inside San Diego territory. Through it all, Fitzgerald didn’t complain, Palmer said. He actually told Palmer to start running behind him.

“It was just kind of one of those games where he just doesn’t get a bunch of touches but has one of the biggest plays of the game,” Palmer said.

“Larry just comes up with big plays when we need them, like he did on that one.”

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