NFL Nation: Carson Palmer

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.

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.

Larry Fitzgerald
"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.”
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Cardinals' 18-17 victory over San Diego.
  • Secret starter: Cardinals running back Andre Ellington had a good feeling starting Saturday that he’d play Monday night against the Cardinals, but he didn’t want to let on. “We kind of kept it a secret because we weren’t too sure. But I think getting that rest on it helped me out a lot.”
  • Momentous catch: Rookie receiver John Brown said he doesn’t have the football that he scored the game-winning touchdown with, but when he finds it, he’s hoping to frame it. “It’s for my brother.”
  • Rucker appears OK: Frostee Rucker, who left the game in the first quarter because of a calf injury, was standing at his locker following the game and didn’t appear to be in pain.
  • Palmer the runner: When he was informed that he had almost 30 rushing yards, Carson Palmer had a smile as wide as the end zone. He said he hasn’t run for that many yards since high school.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- At first, John Brown thought Carson Palmer was kidding.

About a week before the final preseason game, the Arizona Cardinals quarterback mentioned to the rookie wide receiver that Brown’s locker wouldn’t be near the other receivers. It was going to be in between Palmer’s and backup quarterback Drew Stanton's.

[+] EnlargeJohn Brown
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinArizona rookie WR John Brown has developed a strong working relationship with QB Carson Palmer.
It took Brown about 10 minutes to find his locker when he arrived at the Cardinals’ Tempe training facility on the first day after the preseason.

“I thought it was a joke,” Brown said, sitting in front of his locker. “When I came in and really saw it, I could see he was dead serious.

“I never checked over here. I checked over where all the receivers were and I couldn’t find my locker. I asked them, ‘Where’s my locker?’ And everybody pointed me to this direction. I never came this way.”

Palmer wanted his rookie speedster next to him to continue building the bond they developed from spending a week together at Palmer’s San Diego home this summer. Now Palmer has direct access to Brown to discuss routes, plays and practices.

“He’s over here in the suburbs with us,” Palmer said. “He’s a guy that I like to kind of be talking through certain situations as practice comes up. He and I have had a great working relationship and this gives us a chance to go over some things during practice that we can cover after practice in different situations like that.”

Brown said Palmer, whose locker is to the left of Brown’s, didn’t waste any time talking about practice and various scenarios.

But Stanton, Brown’s neighbor to the right, doesn’t want to oversaturate the rookie with plays and minutiae. He and Palmer have already discussed trying to temper themselves on the football talk but it’s easier said than done, especially with Palmer having a better understanding of the offense this year than last season.

“Hopefully it’s not sensory overload; we’re telling him too much,” Stanton said. “I think a player like John, you just have to let him go out and play. Let him use his God-given ability and natural talent to go out there and just play fast.

“I think too much, it’s paralysis by analysis of guys just overthinking and especially in this offense.”

Having Brown just inches away can be helpful to both Palmer and Stanton, especially when they devise new wrinkles in the offense. Brown will also benefit just from listening to the quarterbacks talk.

He can get a better understanding of their thinking just from sitting there and seeing how they discuss certain plays, how they see different situations.

“I think it’s great because it gives you an opportunity to just be in their ear a little bit more,” Stanton said. “I think there’s not enough credit given to this down time that we can really pick up those little pieces.”

But the quarterbacks shouldn’t expect Brown to be picking up their coffee and donuts. That role goes to rookie quarterback Logan Thomas.

“He’s in a good spot because here we have Logan Thomas who is a rookie quarterback, so he’ll be providing breakfast on Fridays, donuts on Thursdays and lunch on Saturdays on away trips,” Palmer said of Brown. “Smokey [Brown’s nickname], he’s allowed to jump in on that if he wants, but he’s not going to have any duties from me.

“You’re going to have to talk to [receiver] Larry [Fitzgerald] and see what he’s got you doing over there. You’re home free, man.”

Brown said he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out not having his locker closer to Fitzgerald, Ted Ginn, Michael Floyd and Jaron Brown -- the first time in Brown’s football career that he remembers not being near the receivers.

He’s been a go-between for the quarterbacks and receivers.

“When they talk about something I miss out on, they come back and let me know,” Brown said. “I’ll go and tell them what Carson is talking about and what he’s thinking. It’s kinda like I’m the person that is translating, talking back and forth.

“I think it helps us all out.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was going to overthrow receiver Michael Floyd in the end zone and have a miscommunication with Larry Fitzgerald lead to an interception returned for a touchdown, Sunday night in front of a national TV audience was the time for it.

That's what preseason is about, working out the kinks, figuring out what went wrong and why it happened. Arizona will spend the next few days breaking down the film of their 19-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, figuring out where its offense went.

"We had a number of things that were just off, from overthrows to missed opportunities," Palmer said. "Some funky things that happened on some routes, some drops. We didn't take advantage of some of the looks we had.

"We're just a little bit off and that's not what we wanted to do. That's not what we expected at all."

[+] EnlargeCincinnati's Terence Newman
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty ImagesTerence Newman returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown against the Cardinals.
The first-team offense's sluggish start was unexpected considering how efficient the Cardinals have looked during the first two preseason games. Arizona had scored on its two opening drives this year, but the Cards' first drive Sunday stalled at the Bengals' 37 after three straight incomplete passes, including two straight to Floyd.

The first bounced off his hands. And on the second, a miscommunication by Cincinnati's defense led to Floyd running nearly the exact same route wide open, but Palmer overthrew him.

"Every single series isn't going to go how you want it to go," Floyd said. "You got to get to the sideline and talk about it and move to the next play."

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was concerned with missing a wide-open touchdown, especially one that would've given Arizona a 7-0 lead on its opening drive.

"It's hard for a quarterback to believe they blew a coverage and that there's not somebody coming," Arians said. "So you just throw it on out there and we picked up the blitz perfectly.

"They broke the coverage and Mike was wide open and we throw an easy touchdown, which gets us off to a totally different ballgame, 7-0."

On Arizona's next series, Palmer looked to Fitzgerald on an inside route, but Fitzgerald never broke stride and didn't make his cut. It was too late by time he looked to his left and saw Bengals cornerback Terence Newman intercepting Palmer and returning it 54 yards for a touchdown.

Fitzgerald was supposed to cut in front of Newman, Arians said.

"Those things you learn from and move on, but they shouldn't happen this time in camp," Arians said.

From there, the Cardinals' first-team offense looked more like its early 2013 version than the revamped edition unveiled throughout training camp. Arizona converted just 3-of-13 third downs and ran for 82 yards. The offense mustered just three points in the first half on a Jay Feely field goal early in the second quarter. And Palmer, who finished 7-for-19 for 92 yards, nearly threw two more picks but they were dropped by the Bengals' defense.

Sunday wasn't an anomaly, but it wasn't a reason for Arians to be overly concerned. If the Cardinals had been making those mistakes and looking sluggish on offense for the past three weeks, then Arians would've been ready to worry with two weeks until the season opener.

But there were some parts of Sunday's first half that Palmer was glad happened. He wants them to be addressed in the next couple of days, fixed and put behind them so they can continue being the efficient offense that was on display against Houston and Minnesota.

"This offense has the potential of being a truly prolific offense with the dynamic weapons that we have at our disposal," Fitzgerald said. "Every single week, we have to be taking a step in the right direction and I don't know if we did that today, more of a lateral step.

"We left some plays on the field and obviously we need to get that corrected before, so to speak, the real bullets start flying."

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For much of the first half, the Arizona Cardinals' starting offense looked too familiar. It played like last year’s offense, especially quarterback Carson Palmer, who threw one interception that was returned for a touchdown in the Cardinals' 19-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and had two others go either off or through the hands of Bengals’ defenders.

With impressive protection from the offensive line, Palmer threw for just 92 yards on 7-of-19 passing while not leading the first-team offense on a scoring drive for the first time all preseason.

Here are some other thoughts on the Cardinals' third preseason game of the season:
  • Veteran kicker Jay Feely might have sealed his own fate late in the first quarter by missing a 48-yard field goal wide right. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has been clear that his first requirement for a kicker to make the team is making his field goals. If all is equal after field goals, then kickoffs will decide who stays and who goes. Feely’s two kickoffs both went 9 yards deep. Rookie Chandler Catanzaro hit a 23-yard field goal and sent one of his two kickoffs nine yards deep and the other out of the end zone.
  • Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles used a variety of formations and combinations Sunday night, but nose tackle Dan Williams had to sprint off the field every time he went from a base to the Cards’ nickel defense, which seemed like nearly every other play in first quarter. But the defense, as a whole, played well with defensive tackle Frostee Rucker in place of the injured Darnell Dockett, holding the Bengals to just 14 offensive plays for 40 yards in the first quarter.
  • Kenny Demens is finally looking like he’s coming into his own. His four first-half tackles showed off Demens' power up the middle and his newfound quickness. Demens tracked down a short pass to the right side from Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton to receiver A.J. Green in the second quarter to make the tackle. With the severity of Kevin Minter's pectoral injury unknown, Demens might be getting more reps with the first team, and coupling him with veteran Larry Foote might be to the Cardinals’ benefit. Foote started the game with two straight tackles and finished with three. The 34-year-old looked quick in the box, and the pair’s only mistakes seemed to come when Bengals tight end Jermaine Greshman got behind them for a 33-yard catch.
  • The addition of Ted Larsen as the first-team left guard was seamless. Palmer didn’t get sacked in the first half and was given plenty of time to throw. Larsen may have played well enough to keep the job through the beginning of the season.
  • Don’t read much into Jaron Brown or Ted Ginn not playing much with the first team in the first half. John Brown needed more time with the starters, but Jaron Brown and Ginn have showed throughout camp and the preseason that they’re worthy of first-team reps.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Around football, they say a player improves most between his first and second seasons.

Same can be said for a training camp.

[+] EnlargeMathieu
Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY SportsThe return of cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was one of the highlights of Arizona's training camp.
The Arizona Cardinals concluded their second training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium -- a vastly different setup than they had for their first 25 years in the desert, when camp was held in Flagstaff -- on Friday, and its rave reviews weren't as much for the location as it was the execution.

“A lot different of a camp,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “It was so much easier. Everybody knew the routine -- where to go, what to expect. [Cardinals turf manager] Andy [Levy] did another great job with the field. Fabulous. The whole thing just runs so smoothly here.”

Arizona's final training camp practice ended more than an hour early, and players were antsy to get home. Since reporting on July 25, players stayed at a neighboring hotel, enjoying the luxury of comfortable beds and housekeeping instead of sleeping at the Northern Arizona University dorms as they used to.

While the accommodations were the same for the second straight year, the practices had a different feel in 2014.

"This year, I felt like was more intense than last year just because last year we were trying to learn everything," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "But this year it was just more about repetitions and being perfect."

This year's camp had its highlights and its lowlights -- and its share of headlines.

Rookie John Brown proved he’s as fast with pads on against a live defense than he was in shorts and a jersey during offseason workouts. Receiver Jaron Brown stood out with a slew of resume-building catches in practices and in games. Cornerback Jerraud Powers proved his worth to the Cards all camp.

The offense picked up where it left off, looking efficient and quick in the Cards’ first two preseason games.

Quarterback Carson Palmer said there’s no comparison between this camp and last.

“Totally different for everybody in that offensive room,” Palmer said. “I mean, there’s no comparison.”

Overall, Arians was “very pleased” with camp but injuries to Darnell Dockett, who’s out for the season with a torn ACL, linebacker Kevin Minter -- who’s missed time with a pectoral injury -- and guard Jonathan Cooper, who’s out with turf toe, have set the Cardinals back a half-step.

"It sucks," Campbell said. "That’s the worst part of training camp, too. This is like a practice to get you ready for the regular season so when this stuff happens in practice it sucks because he’s one of our better players and one of our intense leaders. For us to lose that now, we have to overcompensate for that somewhere."

But there was some good news this camp with the return of safety Tyrann Mathieu from an ACL and LCL injury and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu from a torn ACL.

“Getting two guys back was shocking,” Arians said. “I didn’t think either of those would be back yet. Losing Darnell was just as shocking. You know they’re going to happen, it’s just a matter of overcoming them, staying positive and marching on.”

Cardinals Camp Report: Day 19

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
GLENDALE, Ariz. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Arizona Cardinals training camp:
  • Friday was the Cardinals' last training camp practice and head coach Bruce Arians ended it more than an hour earlier than its scheduled conclusion time.
  • Arizona worked on its situational offense for most of practice, most notably from inside the red zone and from its own 1. Quarterback Carson Palmer worked the Cardinals down the field, working on a variety of routes. He hit Michael Floyd on an out route, John Brown on a screen, Ted Ginn deep and Brown again deep during the drive.
  • Palmer has built his career around his arm strength but on Friday it didn’t look up to par. On two deep passes, Ginn had to stop almost dead in his tracks to keep from overrunning the ball, and then Brown had to stutter step and slow down to make the catch.
  • Parts of the situation work were deep routes, with Palmer connecting with Floyd for a 58-yard catch and running back Andre Ellington on a 28-yard pass.
  • Safety Tyrann Mathieu worked with the scout-team defense again, avoiding contact throughout practice. He almost intercepted Palmer on a pass to tight end John Carlson but Mathieu pulled away from the effort at the last second because he appeared to be a split-second behind.
  • Backup quarterback Drew Stanton threw two interceptions during practice, one by safety Tony Jefferson and another by cornerback Patrick Peterson.
  • Tackle Max Starks returned to practice.
  • Injury report: LB Kevin Minter (pectoral) and G Jonathan Cooper (toe) didn’t practice.
CINCINNATI -- Marvin Lewis had to pause for a few minutes and file through his memory bank.

"The last time I talked to Carson," the Cincinnati Bengals head coach said, his eyes drifting as he visibly scanned his mind for the exact moment when he previously corresponded with former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, "I guess probably was when we played the Raiders. After that game. I think so."

Aside from one other text-message conversation, Lewis admitted Wednesday afternoon that he hasn't exchanged many formalities with Palmer since the Bengals faced the veteran quarterback when he played for Oakland two years ago. It just hasn't been one of Lewis' top priorities to check in on the quarterback who soured on the team near the end of his tenure, and months before his October 2011 trade to the Raiders. That previous April, the Bengals drafted Andy Dalton, giving a clear sign they were preparing for life after Palmer, as he previously hinted they should.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesCarson Palmer, a former Bengal, has found a home as Arizona's starting quarterback.
So far, that life has been good for the Bengals and for Palmer, who meets his old team in a Week 3 preseason game Sunday night in Arizona.

Last season, his first with the Cardinals, Palmer set a career-high in passing yards and had his highest completion rating since 2007.

"He's gone on, we've gone on and everybody's happy," Lewis said during his Wednesday news conference. "I mean, he's impressive to watch. He's still Carson. That's why it's hard coming in here and every time we look at a quarterback we bring these guys in from the street, man, it's hard to compare."

Added Lewis about Palmer's throwing ability: "It's hard to compare anybody else to [him]. I've never seen anybody like it."

Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith spent parts of three seasons Palmer was a quarterback in Cincinnati's offense. He remembers the drama associated with Palmer's departure quite well, but he wasn't trying to discuss the inner workings of it. Three times he was asked to divulge his true feelings about Palmer's Queen City finish. All three times, Smith stuck with the same answer.

"I don't think anyone on this team has any bad blood against Carson," Smith said. "It was a situation that came up and he bettered himself in that situation and we bettered ourselves in that situation."

After reaching the playoffs in 2005 and 2009, Palmer grew tired of playing in Cincinnati when the Bengals had an abysmal 4-12 showing in 2010. The No. 1 overall 2003 draft pick told the team that selected him he either wanted out or would simply retire.

Months after Dalton's drafting, Palmer got his wish.

In the three seasons since, Dalton has started all 51 games the Bengals have played. He was handed the starter's role entering the 2011 season and hasn't looked back, leading the organization to three straight playoff appearances, and anchoring a top-10 unit last season. This month, the Bengals committed to Dalton long term, signing him to a six-year extension worth up to $115 million.

"Andy's been doing a great job here leading," said safety Reggie Nelson, who was on the roster when Palmer played for the team. "That's just it. I don't think nobody thinks any different, whether Carson was here or not. Andy's doing a great job leading this team and Carson's doing a great job leading Arizona."

Besides, Nelson added: "It's a business. Things happen."

Aside from exchanging greetings with Palmer, the business the Bengals really hope to concern themselves with Sunday involves winning. They are, after all, 0-2 this preseason.

"Whether [Palmer] is out there or not, we've still got a job to do," Nelson said. "Losing is not something we want to become used to."

Cardinals Camp Report: Day 13

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Arizona Cardinals training camp:
  • On the day that Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said safety Tyrann Mathieu was "pretty close" to being taken off the preseason physically unable to perform list, one of his replacements continued to make an impact. Free safety Rashad Johnson intercepted Carson Palmer about midway through practice. That makes three interceptions in two days by the players who have filled in for Mathieu during training camp. Jerraud Powers, who Arians called the defensive MVP of camp earlier Tuesday, picked off two passes Monday.
  • During a 7-on-7 drill later in camp, Palmer threw an interception right into the hands of safety Anthony Walters during a busted play.
  • It seems like it's becoming a daily habit for Jaron Brown to impress with his speed. He had another good catch-and-run through traffic and down the sideline. With the battle for the fifth receiver not sorting itself out yet, he's looking like the best candidate for that job.
  • Playing with the first team in place of Jonathan Cooper at left guard, Earl Watford has been holding his own and he brings a dynamic that Cooper still needs to improve on. Watford showed off his wheels getting downfield to block for running back Andre Ellington.
  • Tuesday was Jay Feely's day to kick and he took advantage of it. Feely went 7-for-8 on field goals, hitting 33 yards, 29, 39, 44, 47 and 50 twice. He missed wide left from 43.
  • Injury report: T Max Starks (ankle), OL Anthony Steen (neck), G Jonathan Cooper (toe), T Nate Potter(back), LB Kevin Minter (pec), WR Michael Floyd (groin), WR Ted Ginn(knee) and C Lyle Sendlein (calf) did not practice.
  • The Cardinals practice from 2-4:30 p.m. Wednesday local time at University of Phoenix Stadium. Admission and parking are free.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- All that talk about the Arizona Cardinals' offense being light years ahead of where it was a year ago at this time wasn't a bunch of hyperbole.

The Cardinals' passing game was perfect through two series as Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton combined to start 9-for-9 for 121 yards and two touchdowns Saturday in a 32-0 win over the Houston Texans. The offense looked like a well-oiled machine even without two of its top three receivers.

Here are some other thoughts on the Cardinals' first preseason game of the year:
  • The passing game looked nearly spotless between all three quarterbacks. As a trio, Palmer, Stanton and Logan Thomas went 27-for-34 combined, with Thomas going 11-for-12 in his NFL debut. The Cardinals totaled 409 yards, although 326 of them came in the air. If the offense can find a way for the running game to keep improving like the passing attack did, it can be a dangerous one. The key is that Arizona was able to move the ball in the air without Michael Floyd or Ted Ginn, who were out with injuries.
  • Speaking of debuts, wide receiver John Brown lived up to the hype. He had 87 yards on five catches, but it was his ability to get open and haul in the passes that really stood out. Even though it was only the first preseason game, Arizona may have found its fourth receiver.
  • Bruce Arians will have a hard time arguing with Chandler Catanzaro's performance. The rookie went 3-for-3 on field goals, hitting from 32, 28 and 35, while going 3-for-3 on extra points and nailing his kickoffs. His six kicks went, in order, for a touchback, six yards deep, six deep, seven deep, a touchback and eight deep.
  • Because of the first and second team's offensive success, Thomas was given the ball for the entire second half. He looked calm and collected in the pocket, not appearing to make any hasty decisions that plagued him in practice. He went 7-for-8 for 69 yards in the third quarter and finished 11-for-12 for 113 yards and a touchdown. His passes were crisp and direct but they didn't have the usual velocity on them. Overthrowing his receivers or them not handling his passes wasn't an issue Saturday night.
  • Call it the preseason all you want and talk about how poorly Houston's offense played, but the Cardinals' defense picked up where it left off in 2013. It limited the Texans to 132 yards in the first half, the duration of which was played by the Texans' starters. The Cardinals' secondary held Houston to 55 passing yards and the seven slowed the run to 77 yards. Arizona even picked off Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick twice, one by Marcus Benard and the other by Antonio Cromartie. To top it off, linebacker JoJo Dickson sacked Tom Savage for a safety late in the fourth quarter.