The Arizona Cardinals started 9-1 last season. They were the best team in the NFL and looked like a legitimate threat to unseat the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC and win a Super Bowl.
Then Carson Palmer tore his ACL and was lost for the season.
The Cardinals went 2-5 down the stretch, including a first-round playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers in which Ryan Lindley threw for just 82 yards.
That was a tough pill to swallow.
“Yeah, that was a season that, at the end, you could what-if yourself to death,” Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Right after the season, I looked at all those names that were on the IR and I put them back on the depth chart and I said, ‘Damn, this is going to be a pretty good team.’ And I got real anxious to start (the) season right away. We’ve had a really good camp. Already had some of those freak injuries that everybody else is having, but it’s just part of the business right now. I really like where our team’s at mentally.”
Palmer, 35, is slated to be the team’s starter in Week 1 against New Orleans, but how does he look? Does he seem healthy? Does he seem confident? Is he ready to lead?
“Oh, I think he’s all of the above,” Arians said. “He’s in great shape. He’s worked so hard on his body. He’s throwing the ball with so much more velocity and down the field. I think it’s because he works so hard on his core and his legs. You don’t really strengthen your arm, but if you strengthen your core and your legs, it’s like hitting a golf ball: you’re going to hit it further.”
Palmer, for whatever consolation it’s worth, was at least injured during the season. The same cannot be said for Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin, who have already been lost for the year with torn ACLs.
Is there a solution that can prepare players for the season while also preserving the bodies of highly paid players who are paramount to their team’s success?
“I think the two that you mentioned could have happened at any point in time because they’re non-contact injuries,” Arians said. “Like us, Corey Peters was just running to the ball and tore his Achilles. Those things are just kind of freaky things. You can blame fate, whatever it is. There’s no contact. Jordy could have been pitching and catching. No one touched him. He caught a hitch route and probably put the same move he’s put a thousand times on and his ACL goes like Carson last year. He wasn’t hit. He was just shuffled up in the pocket and there it goes. So I don’t know. I don’t think that preseason games have a damn thing to do with it. There are some injuries that occur (in those games), but you still have to have them. I always say if you got a rookie quarterback, you want four (preseason games). If you got a 10-year vet, you want two.”